You’ve filled out hundreds of applications, interviewed with dozens of employers, and finally, received an offer! Celebration time! But wait – your offer is dependent on a background check and drug test? Panic sets in as you have never had to do a background screening or a drug test before, and you have no idea what to expect.
What is your new employer looking for exactly? How far back will they check? And why do you need a drug test?
Worry no more! Background checks (also called background screening, employer screening, or employment verification) are very common and, generally speaking, a piece of cake! Around 95% of employees in the U.S. are screened in some fashion before they are officially hired for a job. Today, we’ll take you through the ins –and outs of background screening, to put you at ease and get you to work.
Candidates in the US are screened in some fashion before they are officially hired for a job. We are going to take you through the ins-and-outs of background screening, to put you at ease, and get you into your dream job.
Background Screening – How It Works
At some point, most likely post-offer, your new employer will let you know that they need to do a background screening. They will provide you with a disclosure form and ask you to sign an authorization for the screening. Once signed, this permits your potential employer to request a report from a third-party Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA), like HireRight, to examine specific areas of your life.
It’s important to note that your future employer decides what kinds of background screenings will be conducted, not the CRA. In the U.S., the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) has strict guidelines about how an employer, through a CRA, can request a background screening. The FCRA and state laws provide consumers’ rights as they pertain to information contained in their background reports in general.
How do CRA’s conduct these background checks? CRA’s, like HireRight, use various means to verify your information, including digital verifications, searching public records, and calling employers and educational facilities. In some jurisdictions, a visit to a courthouse to obtain documentation may be required. Our researchers often consider themselves highly analytical, looking to complete verifications as efficiently and effectively as possible!
We know that candidates are anxious to get results from their checks. The CRA works as quickly to research all of the requested information, assemble it in a report and return it to your potential employer. Today, many CRA’s like HireRight utilize online portals for quick and convenient communications. The entire process generally takes a few days but can take up to a couple of weeks. Why? Some searches and verifications are contingent on returned phone calls and public record systems – and that access can be impacted by holidays, government shut-downs, or even pandemics.
Why Are Background Checks Needed?
Each year, HireRight surveys thousands of Human Resources professionals and shares those results in our annual Global Benchmark Report. We learn why they perform screenings and the most common types of searches and verifications requested. Such screening may seem intense and unnecessary to candidates but think of it from an employer’s point of view. They need to know that the person they are hiring is truthful about the information provided to secure the job. A quick web search can reveal some significant cases of employment fraud, demonstrating the need for background checks.
The most common types of background checks search for criminal activity, verify employment and education, including identity verification, and request driving records. Some employers also review credit, and social media, and conducted drug tests. What kind of screening will you get? It depends on the employer and the job position – if you work in finance, your credit may be checked. If you are a driver, your driving records will probably be screened.
Let’s demystify the most common background checks
With your consent, your future employer can request that we contact your past employers to verify that you were employed there. The CRA will contact your former employers to verify dates and positions held. References may also be contacted.
ProTip: Have your pay stubs or W-2’s ready to speed along the verification process. Sometimes the CRA cannot reach your former employer, or they are no longer in business, and this will help.
Similar to employment, the CRA will contact educational institutions to verify your course of study, degrees, and/or any professional licenses. Many educational institutions don’t respond directly to requests for information and instead subscribe to an education records reporting provider. These providers verify student records, transcripts, and degrees and protect against fraudulent information supplied by “diploma mills.”
ProTip: As with verifying employment, you might be asked to provide a copy of your transcript, certificate, or degree.
The CRA may search county, state, and federal courts for criminal records. How far back in history they go is determined by the employer’s requirements and the FCRA or state or local laws. The FCRA and some states restrict the reporting of convictions that occurred more than seven years ago unless certain exceptions are met.
An identity search verifies that you have a validly issued ID and that your name is assigned to that ID number. The search is performed through various sources, depending on the country where your ID was issued.
ProTip: You may be asked to provide your driver’s license or passport, so have them ready.
Motor Vehicle Record
If your role involves driving, your future employer will likely check your motor vehicle record (MVR). An MVR is often necessary for them to provide you with a work vehicle.
ProTip: It’s best to have a discussion with your prospective employer and disclose anything on your MVR that might raise a red flag, such as speeding tickets or driving-related crimes.
If your employer requires a drug test, you will be asked to go to a collection site and provide a sample which is typically urine, saliva, or hair. The types of tests performed, such as what drugs are in scope for the test, are determined by your future employer. For example, while many states have legalized marijuana (medically or for recreational adult use) not all states require that employers accommodate its use. Check with your future employer if you have questions on the drug test and their workplace drug policy.
The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth
HireRight found that 54% of employers found discrepancies in employee background checks. The most commonly found discrepancies are previous employment, criminal history, and education credentials. Not all of the discrepancies are intentional, but the employer will make hiring decisions based on the information they are provided. These inconsistencies will likely be discovered during a background screening.
At this point, you may be having some anxiety over an upcoming background screening. What if you accidentally provide incorrect information? What if you embellished or made a small fib on your resume or application? Take a deep breath, and let’s go over the next steps.
Resumes and work histories are long, and we do not always remember things like exact employment dates. Many employers will understand a faulty memory and will not hold it against you. Providing pay stubs via the application portal can verify correct dates of employment. If your inconsistencies are more profound, such as big date discrepancies, you may want to be upfront with your recruiter and explain any large gaps in employment.
However, if there are items on your resume that are complete fabrications, it’s time to come clean with your future employer. After all, they are going to find out about it. This may or may not impact your job offer – but you will never know unless you tell the truth. If you are reading this and are currently seeking a new job, now would be a good time to check out your resume and make sure that it isn’t a work of fiction.
If an employer finds misrepresentations or negative elements in your background check, it’s up to them to decide what to do with that information. – the CRA does not decide whether you are hired, nor does it make recommendations. You can always request a copy of your background report to better understand the reported information.
Suppose the negative aspects of your report do indeed impact your offer. In that case, your prospective employer has a legal obligation to inform you of the potentially adverse action and give you a reasonable opportunity to dispute the accuracy or completeness of the findings directly with the CRA. If you initiate a dispute with the CRA generally, within 30 – 45 days, the CRA will complete their investigation of the disputed information and will notify you of the results. Should you still be unsatisfied, you have the option to include a brief statement to rebut the findings. If an employer makes an adverse employment decision, such as revoking your job offer, based in whole or in part on the findings of the background report, they must send you an adverse action notice advising you of their decision.
For a complete breakdown of each party’s obligations and your rights in the background screening process, read the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
We hope that you are a little less anxious about any upcoming background checks! Next week we will take a deeper dive and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about background screening.