Don't look now, but the person you just hired ________ [fill in the blank]______.

What is it about your new hire that you don't know or might never find out without first doing a background check? According to writer, Alison Doyle, an estimated 40% of resumes can contain false or tweaked information. Used to be employers relied on instincts to hire. Now, since they are liable for their staff, they cautiously take nothing for granted and seek to  protect  themselves and their businesses/practices by knowing more about their applicants by going the route of the background check.  Here is our bullet list version of what you should know about them:

  • The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) sets national standards for employment screening. Under the FCRA, a background check report is called a "consumer report." (FYI: This is the same "official" name given to a credit report;however it doesn't include a credit score or date of birth.)
  • Before one can get a consumer report for employment purposes, the applicant must be notified and give their written permission.  This gives them the opportunity to withdraw their application if they prefer not to disclose certain information.
  • If the applicant has been notified that they will not be hired due to an adverse report, a copy of the report showing the name and address of the reporting company must be disclosed to them for disputing purposes.
  • Background checks can verify social security numbers and in some instances provide a work history analysis, credit report, driving records and (depending on state law) minimal criminal history associated to the job. As an example, if a job description includes handling money, recorded misappropriation of funds documented by previous employers would be obtainable info.
  • School records, military and medical records (including worker’s comp) and bankruptcy (after 10 years) are some of the data considered confidential, although information on the latter can be obtained through public records. Others are civil suits, civil judgments, and records of arrest, (from date of entry, after seven years), paid tax liens after seven years, accounts placed for collection after seven years, any other negative information (except criminal convictions) after seven years. 
  • Not hiring someone because of a medical disability or because they filed for bankruptcy, e.g.  is considered discrimination. So are questions pertaining to age, marital status, national origin, citizenship, social or professional affiliations and some personal information.  (Click here to view or download a list of standard questions you cannot ask during an interview. )
  • State employment laws may limit the questions an employer includes on a job application, so it is recommended that an employer be familiar with the specific laws within their own state.
  • The National Association of Professional Background Screeners provides a directory of accredited firms on its Web site or search firm by state