What Do Hiring Managers See in a Background Check? 

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Posted by: David Garcia March 14, 2024

Background checks protect companies against bad hires by reducing the likelihood of selecting the wrong candidate. Most employers use background checks before they hire, but they can take many different forms. 

Background checks can be in-house or performed by an external organization. Some of them you may not know about, but others require written consent. It all depends on the data an employer wants to see.

In this quick read, find out what recruiters and hiring managers can see in your background check, which also offers tips on preparing for a check if you’re looking for a new job.

What Is an Employment Background Check?

An employment background check is a formal process that verifies the data you supply to a company when you apply for a job. The check can also delve into official records so the information is personal and official. Some employers run their own background checks, while other companies contract this job out to a specialist.

Employers are within their rights to conduct background checks. However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has parameters and restrictions. Individual states also have regulations limiting access to protect privacy. An employer cannot base a pre-employment check on citizenship, race, or disability, for example.

Employment background checks occur at a pre-determined time during the hiring process, varying from one company to another. Some employers only run a background check when they make an offer, which is contingent on a satisfactory result.

Do Employers Actually Do Background Checks?

Professional background checks scrutinize your data, like past jobs and education, and whether you have a criminal record. This checking process saves employers time and effort and can avoid a hiring disaster. 

Not every employer will run a background check; there’s no legal requirement to do so in most cases. What shows up on a check depends on the information requested. If an employer wants to do an in-house check, they won’t need your permission. So, they could look at your work history, education, and social media, and you won’t necessarily know. 

External checks with specialist companies always require applicants’ consent. If you refuse, an employer will likely think you have something to hide. It’s best to assume a prospective employer will run a check and prepare yourself accordingly.

What Can Employers See on a Background Check?

Identity Verification 

Verifying identity is one of the most common elements of a background check, but applicants don’t have to agree to this if it’s unnecessary for the job. Identity fraud and theft are increasingly common in the US. Despite this, identity checks often don’t happen until the point of hiring, when it becomes part of the formal induction process.

Education Verification

Most employers want to know that your academic achievements and qualifications are real, even if they don’t directly relate to the job you’re applying for. However, finding records, especially for older candidates, is time and resource-consuming. ScoutLogic has a success rate of more than 97% for education verifications as one of the field’s leading employee background check providers. 

Employment History Verification

Background checks verify past employment records. Your prospective employer may take up references, but these usually only relate to your two most recent posts. If an employer trawls back further on a background check, they’re usually looking to see that your stated employment history tallies with the records provided by past employers.

Anomalies may include a mismatch in dates, job titles, or stated skills and experience. It’s not unheard of for a candidate to stretch the truth a little to create a better impression or alter dates to cover a period when they weren’t working. Gaps in employment history are another red flag to recruiters, as are frequent job changes over a short period.

Employment record checks are laborious, especially with a long career record. Professional employment verification providers like ScoutLogic reduce this workload with an impressive success rate.

Criminal Record

If you have a criminal record, it might not be enough to fail the check. However, an employer can legitimately decline to hire you if the crime is severe and/or specifically relevant to the role you’re applying for.

Financial History

An employer may check your credit history for a job with financial content or in the finance sector. Poor credit history can be a marker against your competency to handle money or make strategic financial decisions. However, some states limit credit checks under municipal and state laws.

Social Media 

Social media background screening reveals a surprising amount of detail about an individual. A background check looks for your work or educational data to see if it aligns with your application form. Background checks also look for undesirable behavioral traits like derogatory comments or posts about past employers.

Driving Record

Employers only tend to check driving records if they relate to the role. Your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) verifies your driving record but needs your written consent first.

6 Tips To Prepare for a Background Check

  • Get ahead of the curve – ask the recruiter what kind of check they’ll run
  • Access your credit report and ensure the details are accurate. Errors can be corrected before your employer requests the data
  • Check with your references and make sure they know they might be contacted -it’s only polite, and you want them to be prepared
  • Check your social media channels and clean them up if necessary. If those holiday photos are not fit to be seen, then change the settings on your account to private
  • If anything in your data, like a criminal record, is likely to cause a problem, address it with the hiring manager. It’s much better to be open and honest. Plus, you can prepare a response about what’s changed since that event and show yourself in a better light

How Can You Fail a Background Check

You can fail a background check if some data elements are inaccurate or false. It could be because you wrote down the wrong dates on the form, so always double-check your information is correct. Inconsistent information is a red flag on a background check as it goes against the merit of your honesty and integrity.

You can’t fail a background check because you have a criminal record. However, you may not be offered the job if the record is sufficiently serious relative to the position. Every organization will draw its line in the sand slightly differently from the next one. However, the law protects you from invasive or discriminatory background checks.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Matters Most in a Background Check?

Criminal records are usually one of the biggest red flags for employers. However, generally, it boils down to the specific nature of the job. A driving offense could be a marker on one job but not another. Accurate information is necessary to prove an employee’s integrity, so honesty is always the best policy.

Final Thoughts

As you’re probably aware, the average recruiter is exceptionally busy, often receiving up to hundreds of applicants for any one job posting. Despite high applicant volume and the rigorous process, recruiters take great care to properly vet each applicant, so you should always be aware of what a background check consists of and how to prepare appropriately.

ScoutLogic offers comprehensive background checks that our experienced staff tailor to company and role requirements. We simplify background screening for recruiters and candidates thanks to our Scout service model, fantastic customer support, and quick background checks. Depend on us to deliver thorough and expedient results every time. 

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