Rochester NY Stake Employment Center

December 3, 2011

10 Things to Know About Background Checks

Filed under: Job Search Preparation, References — Larry @ 10:20 am

You have been working long and hard on your search for a new job opportunity. Finally, you have an awesome interview and you get a great offer. The hiring manager indicates that the only thing remaining is a background check (BC).

Companies are using BCs now, more than ever before, to make certain they are hiring the right person. Unfortunately, BCs are now more common because so many job seekers have a tendency to "exaggerate" on their résumés. Companies want to identify severe problems in the candidate’s employment or personal history. But what information are they entitled to and what privacy rights do you have?

Let’s review the most common BC items:

1. Criminal History

Felony and misdemeanor searches can be conducted by county, state or throughout the nation. Each respective search costs an additional fee. Some states will only provide information for the past seven years. You need to check each state for its policy. Only information of public record is available. Juvenile records cannot be accessed. Bob Mather indicates that identity theft and false criminal reporting are on the increase and can appear on your BC. More about this later and what you can do about it.

2. Civil History

Similar to criminal history and includes whether the job candidate is/was a plaintiff or defendant. 3. National Wants and Warrants If the candidate is "wanted," it will appear through the NCIC system, but this information is not frequently requested.

4. Credit Report

This is a very common item for BCs. Companies are searching for financial stability. Bankruptcies prior to seven years will not appear.

5. Social Security Reports

This will reveal where the candidate has lived for the past seven years. Name variations are frequently used to verify addresses and locations.

6. Previous Employer Verification

This is the item that makes most job seekers nervous. Almost everyone has had some form of disagreement with his or her boss. The concern centers on what the employer will say and whether they will release employment files. In most cases, because of a dramatic upsurge in lawsuits from job seekers who received false bad references, previous employers typically only confirm dates of employment. Compensation and good or bad references are not generally provided; however, that doesn’t mean it is not done. A job seeker might want to consider hiring a "reference check" company to verify what previous employers are saying.

7. Drug Tests

Approximately 15 to 20 percent of all BCs include a drug test. BC companies typically contract with local medical clinics to conduct the test. It can be expensive, so it is not done in all cases. In most cases, the job requirements determine if a drug test is necessary, particularly for anyone operating machinery or a motor vehicle. Executives are also frequently screened for drugs.

8. Reference Verification

The employer or BC firm will contact references provided by the job candidate. Typically, the questions are very specific regarding job performance as opposed to personal or private information. They rarely contact anyone other than the designated references provided by the candidate.

9. Education

The BC will verify attendance, majors, degrees, certifications and dates earned. This has become a common BC item as a result of overwhelming falsification by job candidates. Here is a tip: Job candidates without a formal degree should not waste their money on the phony degree or certification programs where you pay a fee to get a degree based on experience. Be honest about your education. If you believe you need additional education, enroll in an accredited school. Your efforts to complete or enhance your education will definitely be viewed positively.

10. Driving History

A common and almost mandatory BC item for people required to operate a motor vehicle. They are checking for license status, holder, dates of issuance and expiration, violations, suspensions, or other actions.

"Errors in criminal history frequently occur as the darker side of identity theft," Mather says. "Most people quickly become aware of problems on credit history as a result of identity theft. But you should also be aware that false reporting of crimes may be reflected on your BC because someone has stolen your identity."

If you have any concern about identity theft, or if you wish to learn what a BC will reveal about your background, you may wish to conduct a BC on yourself for a nominal fee using This site also has great free resources regarding background checks and how to clean up your report if you find any errors — use the "Consumer Resources" link.

Finally: Relax. Too often job candidates worry too much about a BC. In the overwhelming number of cases, minor problems on your BC will not be an issue. Problems that occurred in the distant past will be overlooked based on your current history and ability to perform your job with talent and integrity. If a company is going to do a BC, be straightforward with them about any problem that might be discovered. Offer evidence that this is no longer an issue. Your hard work and honesty will help overcome any mistakes from the past.

– MONROE COUNTY DHS Weekly Employment Bulletin September 12, 2011


October 24, 2011

Afraid To List Your Former Boss As A Reference?

Filed under: References — Larry @ 9:56 am

If you didn’t have the best working relationship with your previous manager, deciding whether to list him as a job reference can be tough. It’s especially difficult because "former bosses are generally the first reference employers look for from job applicants," says Chris Posti, president of outplacement firm Posti & Associates. "If you don’t provide your former boss as a reference, it will cause concern, unless you can give a solid explanation." Since reference checks are often one of the last steps to getting hired, it’s even more important to not raise any red flags.

Not sure whether to list your former boss? Here, human resources experts weigh in on what to do if you think you’ll get a less than stellar reference:

Check it out

Knowing your company’s policy about the kind of things a reference can include is important. There’s a chance that your boss or the human resources department will only be able to verify your title and dates of employment, but won’t be able to speak to the quality of your work, says Ann Dunkin, the operations manager at Attorney Resource Inc. On the other hand, if you’ve heard your boss give a negative reference before, it’s definitely a good idea to skip him as a reference. Whatever your hunch, it may be worth digging deeper into the kind of reference you’ll actually get. "Listing your former boss as a reference gives you points right off the bat, even before anyone makes a single reference call," Posti says.

Have a ‘closure’ conversation

Even if you didn’t see eye to eye, speaking to your ex-boss ahead of time can help you get favorable results, Posti says. "Start the conversation by saying that you realize that you two did not always agree, but that it was business, nothing personal, and you hope you can both put it behind you," he says. "Having a closure conversation like that frees you up to ask your former boss what he or she plans to say about you in reference checks." Casually using this time to hint at the kinds of questions he may be asked about your candidacy is important. Remember, even if you weren’t a fit for your former position, you can still be a fit for your future position.

Find a replacement

Some companies require a reference from your most recent employer. And even at companies that don’t have this requirement, having someone from your last job can create a sense of transparency that could set you apart from the competition. You can circumvent your former boss by asking a peer or another manager to weigh in on your behalf, Dunkin says. Check to see "if there is someone else in your former employer’s organization who observed you and your work product; perhaps they would be willing to serve as a reference," says Dunkin, who often deals with personnel issues. A peer who observed you on the job can also provide a reference.

Provide other high-quality references

If you really can’t use your boss as a reference, be sure that the other references provided are of high caliber and can speak about you as an outstanding candidate. "Provide several other notable references, which would make it less apparent you have skipped over your last boss," Posti says. Since many companies ask for two or three references, this can be a simple solution and help you avoid listing your previous manager.

– MONROE COUNTY DHS Weekly Employment Bulletin – 22Aug2011

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