Though they’re now almost standard, background checks still catch many job hunters by surprise. Since 96% of employers conduct at least one type of background screening, you want to head into what’s often the last step of the hiring process knowing what to expect.
The truth is, you have more control over your background check information than you probably realize, thanks to new technology developments and a federal law called the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) that gives you certain rights regarding your information.
As with any other step in the job search process, it makes sense to prepare for your background check. That way, you won’t need to sweat the results.
Here are three little-known facts about background checks to set your mind at ease.
1. You can see your results the way employers do.
The FCRA gives people the right to see their own background check information. Traditionally, job seekers ask for a copy of the results after a potential employer runs the check.
Seeing the report after an employer does puts job seekers at a disadvantage, though, because they have no idea whether the information returned is accurate or even belongs to them (a particular problem for people with common names).
Although it’s possible to search your own records, the most relevant view of your results is the same one an employer would see. That’s because the background checks employers run on you have to follow not only the FCRA, but also any relevant state and local laws.
So if you really want to know how an employer will see your information, run your background check through a company that offers job seekers the same reports they offer to employers.
Note: Some companies, like GoodHire, don’t report arrests that didn’t lead to a conviction – even though it’s legal to do so in many states – because the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) discourages employers from considering non-convictions. Still, it’s possible that such arrest records will appear on background checks run through a different background check provider.
2. You can identify and correct mistakes.
Most employers conduct criminal background checks. Many also conduct employment and education verification, and some even conduct credit checks. Unfortunately, mistakes in records, often in the original courthouse documents, do happen. And sometimes, you simply misremember an old title or the date you started a previous job.
If you run your own background check before you start interviewing, you’ll have time to identify and address any mistakes (whether they’re on your resume or in the background check results). The FCRA requires companies to provide a “dispute resolution” process to help consumers correct errors in their background check results.
Finding out early gives you the opportunity to correct the information or, if it can’t be fixed before your interview, let the hiring manager know about inaccuracies you’re working to fix.
3. You can explain a criminal record.
If you know that an infraction might show up on your report, it makes sense to understand exactly what information your future employer will see. Alerting the hiring manager to any incidents before they turn up on a background report gives you the power to tell your story in person, rather than letting the documents speak for you.
If you run your background check through iHire partner GoodHire, you can even enter information directly into your background check results to explain the circumstances around the incident and any steps you’ve taken since it occurred. Once you’ve saved the information, you can share it with any employers you choose.
Studies show that hiring managers are more receptive to candidates with criminal records when they have more information to consider. So don’t try to avoid the issue; take control and tell the story in your own words.
How to Run a Pre-Employment Background Check
Not all background-checking companies allow self-background checks, but GoodHire is one of several companies that do. Whichever service you choose, make sure it emphasizes compliance with the FCRA.
Once you’ve selected a provider, decide how extensive your background check should be. For the most accurate results, pick a package that includes at least federal, state, and county records. Additionally, employment and education verification options will give you peace of mind that your résumé is accurate.
To run the report, you’ll need to fill in the same information a potential employer would ask you to provide: Your legal name, Social Security number, and (depending on the kind of report you buy) past employment and school details.
And that’s it.
Background checks are a reality of the job search process. They don’t need to be scary. By doing a little research ahead of time, you can approach every step of the hiring process with confidence.