You aced the interview — congrats! But wait, what about the employment background check?

It takes, on average, about six weeks to secure a job from the time you apply until you receive the offer letter. The last hurdle to jump, however — after a successful interview — is the employment background check. 

Having a company run a background check is a pretty good indication they're interested in offering you the position. Since employment background checks cost money, most companies will not go through with one without cause.

What is looked at in an employment background check?

According to Glassdoor, employers can check into your employment background, credit history, driving records, and criminal history.

Employment History: You must be completely honest on your job application, avoiding even the smallest fib on a resume. 

One of the most common white lies is stretching employment dates to cover a gap. If you can't remember the exact dates, it is best to perform some research instead of guessing. Be sure to use the mm/yyyy format for dates on your resume, as that is what an applicant tracking system (ATS) scan will look for. A company that checks your employment history can find out employment dates, the title of the roles you've held, and possibly why you left previous jobs.

Credit History: There are a plethora of reasons a company may check your credit. The most common reason is that your credit history can demonstrate how responsible you are. These credit checks do not include your credit scores; however, they do show whether you've paid things on time and will reflect past addresses and employers. If you're applying to a job that requires handling money, the credit report will inform the company about whether or not hiring you would be a financial risk.

Driving Records: Employers are liable for you if you're on the road for business purposes. As such, they will review your driving record if it is one of the duties involved. They want to ensure you have a good driving record so they know that they're putting a responsible person in one of their vehicles. Also, an employee with a poor driving record can negatively affect the company's insurance rates.

Criminal History: Companies must provide safe work environments for their staff. Simply having something negative in your criminal history doesn't automatically mean that you won't get the job. Again, honesty is the best policy

The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has several rules businesses must follow when searching and using criminal background checks. For example, if two people from different ethnicities have the same criminal record, a company can't deny employment to one ethnicity while offering employment to the other. This type of discrimination goes against EEOC guidelines.

Why do employers use background checks?

Simply speaking, companies want to verify that you're the right person for the job. They don't go into a background check expecting to find something — quite the opposite. Employers only want to verify the information you've already provided.

How long does an employment background check take?

It depends. If you're applying to a non-federal job, the background check will take about a week. If you're applying to a federal position, the background check can take a couple of months. Of course, these timeframes are for the background check itself. You are not likely to hear from the company the same day they get the results. They have to review the results before they reach out to you.

The most likely reason for a background check to be delayed is a discrepancy with the information, so provide complete and accurate information to speed up the process.

What happens after a background check for a job?

Once the company receives your completed background check, it will take a few days for the hiring manager to review it. If you've passed the employment background check, you'll likely receive an email with the job offer.

Give the employer ample time to perform the background check and then follow up with them. It is possible that the hiring manager has the completed background check but hasn't had time to review it. Your email could be the thing that reminds them to check over it.

Does the employer have to disclose if I fail the background check?

There are federal laws which protect your rights concerning background checks:

1. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) dictates that employers must get your permission to run a credit check. They must also provide a copy of the report and a “Summary of Rights” if they decide not to hire you based on the credit report.

2. If an employer decides not to hire you based on information in your background check, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires employers to provide you with a copy of the consumer report that was used. This gives you a chance to review the report and explain any negative information. You also have the right to dispute incorrect information and get a new report within 60 days.

Your job is your livelihood. Staying informed of (and exercising) your federally protected rights may mean the difference between employment and unemployment. By being thorough and honest, you ensure a faster turnaround for your background check. 

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