+ What is a personal background check?
Simple! A personal background check is a background check you run on yourself. With a recent survey finding that 96% of organizations conduct some kind of employment background screening
after an interview or job offer, it’s smart to make sure you’re fully informed on what they end up finding.
You can do a background check on yourself by ordering from the pre-employment background checks most commonly used by employers. You will see the same information that they will.
+ Why should I run a personal background check?
Even if you think that your background check won’t turn up any red flags, it can never hurt to review and address the information it contains. Information is power, and a personal background check gives you power over your own information so that you have better leverage as a job hunter.
A personal background check lets you:
1. Provide context for red flags
— Perhaps there’s something in your past record that won’t look great to hiring managers. Catch those red flags ahead of time and prepare to expand on them, not only to explain what happened, but also to help hiring managers understand the person you are now.
2. Find and correct mistakes
— Sometimes background checks can return false information, since they compile data from many resources, and errors do happen. The National Consumer Law Center identifies these common errors in background screenings:
- Identity mix-ups: Sometimes, the subject of the background check is mismatched to information about another individual. This is especially common for applicants with common names. For example, the check may list criminal records that belong to someone else.
- Including outdated information: Background checks can sometimes turn up records that should have been sealed or expunged. For example, listing convictions that were legally removed from public record years before.
- Omitting critical information: Some background checks may fail to include important information that adds context to the applicant’s record. For example, listing a criminal charge that was later dismissed.
- Including misleading information: For example, listing a single criminal charge multiple times.
- Misclassifying offenses: For example, listing a misdemeanor as a felony offense.
We can give you the opportunity to find mistakes ahead of time so you have the chance to fix them before they jeopardize your job offer. At 3rd Degree Screening, we strive to provide thorough and accurate information on all of our background checks, which is why we boast a 99% accuracy rate on the content of our reports!
3. Reinforce your record
— Whether there are red flags or mistakes on your record or not, knowing exactly what your potential future employers are seeing will help you set your best foot forward in an interview. Reinforce strengths, play down weaknesses, and make sure everything you say matches everything they see.
+ What shows up on a background check for a job?
Most employers run background checks to verify the information a candidate provides and to screen for any glaring red flags. Generally speaking, they are looking for a full picture of not only your background and skills, but also your character.
Some background checks may only consist of a basic credit report and social media scan; others may be more in-depth and include interviews with your references, former managers, and coworkers. It depends on the type of job you are applying for and the level of responsibility and confidentiality it entails. For example, your driving history won’t be relevant in a cashier position, but it’s critical for a commercial driving job.
Background checks for employment can include some or all of the following:
- Identity verification (Social Security Number check)
- Employment verification
- Education verification
- Reference verification
- State licensing records
- Driving records
- Court records
- Criminal history
- Sex offender status
- Drug tests
- Credit history
- Social media scan
- News reports scan
+ What information cannot be included in an employment background check?
Some types of information are off-limits in an employment background check.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the following types of information cannot be reported:
- Bankruptcies after 10 years
- Civil suits, civil judgments, and arrest records after 7 years from the date of entry
- Paid tax liens after 7 years
- Accounts placed for collection after 7 years
- Any other negative information (except for criminal convictions) after 7 years
However, these restrictions only apply for A) positions with an annual salary below $75,000, and B) when the potential employer orders a background check from a third party, rather than performing a check in-house.
Public information that is restricted for hiring decisions
Although you cannot restrict your potential employer’s access to information that is part of the public record, there are some types of records that cannot legally factor into a hiring decision:
Confidential information that requires consent for access
- Bankruptcy filings
- Worker’s compensation claims — these are public record in most states, but they cannot be checked until after a job offer has been extended.
- Arrest information — even though arrests are part of the public record, they cannot be factored into a hiring decision unless they resulted in a conviction.
Regarding criminal records
- School records — education transcripts, discipline records, and financial information are confidential and may only be obtained with the applicant’s consent. However, directory information such as the student’s name, dates of attendance, and degrees earned may be released without consent.
- Military service records — these are considered confidential under the federal Privacy Act.
- Medical records — these are always confidential, and an employer may only request a physical examination when it is directly relevant to the demands of the job.
- Credit reports — an employer must always obtain consent to get a copy of a credit report. Some states require the employer to provide proof of a credit check’s relevance to the job.
The laws regarding criminal records in background checks vary from state to state. Some states follow the seven-year rule, in which convictions more than seven years old cannot be included on a report. In other states, criminal convictions can be reported indefinitely.
To find out more about your state’s laws regarding criminal history in background checks, you can contact your state employment agency or Office of Consumer Affairs.
+ Can a potential employer run a background check on me without my permission?
No. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), an employer cannot run a background check on you without informing you that they wish to do so and obtaining your written permission first, since they plan to use this information to make important decisions about your future. This law also applies when you are applying for a loan or for housing.
However, refusing to allow a potential employer to run a background check is often a red flag. They will assume you have something to hide. Even if you do have red flags in your report that you are nervous about, it is usually better to be forthcoming and honest about them. Communicate openly and provide context when needed.
+ Will someone know if you do a background check?
Unless you tell them yourself, no one else will know if you choose to run a personal background check on yourself.
If you are concerned about a potential employer running a background check on you without you knowing, there are two things you should know to put your mind at ease:
- It is a felony violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act for a potential employer to perform a pre-employment background check without informing you and obtaining consent.
- You can always see who has run a check on your credit history by obtaining a copy of your credit report, which will show all hard and soft inquiries. You are entitled to one free annual report from each of the three national credit reporting bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
+ Will ordering a background check affect my credit score?
No. You do not need to be worried about an employment background check (or a personal background check that you order for yourself) affecting your credit score. The check may include a report from the major credit reporting bureaus, but it counts as a “soft inquiry” on your credit, and will not take points off your score.
Additionally, potential employers will not be able to see any other soft inquiries on your credit, so they won’t be able to tell if anyone else has checked on your credit during your job search. However, if you order your own credit report, you will be able to see all soft inquiries.
+ What causes a red flag on a background check?
There are a few things that employers look for when screening potential candidates.
The first red flag is refusing a background check altogether. Legally, you can refuse to consent to a pre-employment background check, but this indicates to the potential employer that you have something to hide. This is a double red flag — they will likely assume not only the worst about what you’re covering up, but also that you can’t be trusted since you are not being open and forthcoming about it.
If there’s something in your background that you are nervous about being a red flag, the best course of action is almost always to be open about it and address it head-on when asked. To many employers, your candor will mean more than your past.
Potential red flags in a background check include:
- Discrepancies in employment history
- Inconsistencies in self-reported employment history
- Long gaps between jobs
- Long strings of short-term jobs
- Leaving out relevant career experience (they may assume you either left it out because you do not understand the position, or you left the relevant position on bad terms)
- Discrepancies in education history
- Inconsistencies in self-reported attendance, degrees, academic credentials, etc
- Discrepancies in reported skills
- Inconsistencies in self-reported trade licenses, certifications, etc
- Discrepancies in criminal history
- Inconsistencies in self-reported criminal history
- Job-related convictions (for example, a poor driving record for a commercial driving position, or a fraud conviction for a position in finance)
- Poor credit history (for positions related to financial management)
- Failed drug tests
- Negative references
Pre-employment background check red flags are fairly common-sense. The employer is seeking relevant information to screen out dishonest or under-qualified candidates.