You’ve applied for an open position, passed the initial telephone interview, and several interviews after that, and it feels like the home stretch. Pass the background check, and you’re on your way. Easy peasy lemon squeezy – not exactly.
Let’s begin with some statistics.
- 70% of college students surveyed would lie on a résumé (SHRM)
- 85% of employers have caught applicants lying on their résumés or job applications (Workforce June 2019)
- Over 45% of résumés contain falsifications (Robert Half)
- Bust in Pakistan running 370 education websites (2018)
- 3,300 unrecognized universities nationwide (2015)
- Over 500,000 Americans hold fake degrees (2017)
- More than 50,000 Ph.D.’s “purchased” every year (2005)
- 1 in 6 education doctorates are fraudulent (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Ed)
Employers conduct background checks on job applicants ensuring they choose the best candidate by looking at criminal and civil records, credit reports, driving records, salary verification in individual states and cities. They also check references and certify that they can do what they claim through education and employment verification. Employers might also ask for an “investigative report,” concerning a person’s character, general reputation, and lifestyle based on personal interviews.
Employers aren’t bound by law to conduct background checks, nor are they shielded by law if they have legal exposure, yet it’s common practice from small companies to multi-million-dollar organizations. As a job applicant, you have rights when an employer begins the process.
First, and foremost, an employer needs your written authorization to begin a background check, which is generally with your job application papers or it might be buried somewhere in the application itself. Read all the documents carefully. You don’t need to sign anything because you have the right to say no, but it may potentially take you out of the running for the desired position. With an investigative report, an employer must inform the applicant or employee to the nature and scope of the investigation.
However, an employer does not need your permission to look online through social media accounts and other potentially harmful information. According to Career Builder in June 2017, social media plays a pivotal role in getting hired because:
- 70%+ of employers screen candidates by using social media
- 57% are less likely to interview candidates who are not on social media
- 54% of employers decided not to hire candidates based on social media
- 22% of employers admit to rejecting candidates due to innocuous reasons such as an unprofessional screen name
Know that employers must be careful to not discriminate against a protected class of people, violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) or Americans with Disability Act (ADA). Cleaning up your social media accounts before you begin an application process will save you time and headaches of removing unwanted information. A better solution – If you don’t want something to be a part of your digital footprint, then don’t post it.
Depending on the position, some employers also require a credit report, which indicates if you pay your bills on time or late paying them, how much money you owe, and if you are in the process of being sued. FCRA ensures fairness, accuracy, and privacy of the personal information contained in the files of the reporting agencies. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces the procedures as required by the FCRA. If you know you are applying to financially related positions, it’s best to get a copy of your credit report beforehand and correct any mistakes you find. You will see what a potential employer will see. Be prepared to explain events that might not look so good to an employer.
Some employers say if you have a criminal record, don’t bother applying for the job, but that could be discrimination. Yes, for specific positions, you can have a disqualification, but an employer cannot rule out everyone that has been arrested or convicted. If this does happen, you can report it to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) quickly because there are time limits. The EEOC ensures that employers are treating everyone equally. It’s illegal for any employer to check the background of potential applicants or employees when decisions rest on any of the protected classes: race, national origin, color, sex, religion, disability, medical including genetic and family history, and age 40 or older.
An employer should not ask medical questions before a conditional job offer is made. If the applicant has already begun the job, an employer cannot ask medical questions unless they have unbiased evidence that he or she is unable to do the job or poses a safety risk because of a medical condition. If an employer discovers problems during a background check caused by a disability, they can make exceptions. They should allow you to demonstrate the ability to do the job – despite the negative background information unless doing so would cause significant or operational difficulty.
Adverse Action Notice
Because employers rely on third-party companies to conduct background checks, they need to follow specific requirements before giving an Adverse Action Notice (not hire, terminate, deny promotion or transfer). An applicant or employee must receive a copy of the consumer report, the employer relied on to make their decision, and a copy of “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.” It gives he or she an opportunity to review the report and the right to dispute or explain any inaccurate information.
If you do correct any information, you have the right to ask the company to send a corrected copy to the employer. You also should be given the name of the name, address, and phone number of the reporting company that wrote the report. You must ask within 60 days of the credit report after getting turned down for the job because you don’t have to pay for it. The employer usually gives you a reasonable amount of time (5-10 business days) to receive the notice, review the report, and initiate a dispute. If the candidate or employee does not dispute within the reasonable time frame, the final Adverse Action Notice is sent out with all of the above, and the employer will rescind their offer.
Be prepared to show a W-2, 1099, or check stub if an employer needs verification of wages. There are now counties, cities, and states which cannot ask for a candidate’s salary history. The list has increased as more and more join in, so you will need to check if the law applies in your area. Preparation before your background check is the best advice. To order your Free Annual Credit Report call 877-322-8228. If you believe an employer has not followed the rules, report it to the FTC 877-382-4357. And all the best!