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Background Screening FAQ

Why do I want to give a background check?
There are several reasons an employer would want to do a a background check on a potential employee. The reasons may vary depending on the nature of the job the employee will perform. If an employee's actions hurt someone, the employer can be sued due to not looking into the employee's past. Employers should no longer rely on intuition or instinct to assess the nature of their employees.

What is included in a background check?
Much of the information will come from government generated records. Depending on the nature of the job, the information may be more in-depth. The information researched includes driving records, vehicle registration, credit records, criminal records, court records, neighbor interviews, past employers, personal references, military records, drug test records, sex offender lists, etc.

What is not included in a background check?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act sets national standards for screening. The law only applies to third party sources; it does not apply to employers conducting research in-house. Some information that cannot be disclosed includes: bankruptcies over ten-years old, civil suits and records of arrest after seven years after filed, paid tax liens after seven years, and any other negative information (except criminal convictions) after seven years. Employers must use caution when employing outside sources to obtain information. Some web-based information is not fully detailed. For instance, it may show an arrest of someone but not show that the person was later acquitted of the offense.

Can an employer ask things on an application that should not be reported?
There are ways to get around the restrictions set out by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. For instance, you can ask a question of "have you ever been arrested." The person filling out the application is protected from answering those questions, but they may answer it truthfully all the same (if they do not know of their rights). Interestingly, any job that has an annual salary of $75,000 or more is exempt from the restrictions.

Are some personal records confidential?
Though the information may be useful to them, there is some information that employers cannot obtain without the permission of the applicant. This information includes educational records, medical records (psychological included), military service records, age, and marital status.

What can my former employer say about me?
It is not uncommon for a potential employer to contact a past employer about an applicant. A prior boss can say anything about a past employee that is truthful. However, it is common that only dates of employment, final salary, and other topical information serves as the basis of discussion.

Who does the background checks?
Background screening can be performed by private investigators, businesses that specialize in background screening, and online data brokers. Many companies keep an on-going relationship with businesses that conduct background screenings. There are databases available online that have a good deal of information available.

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