Remember the speeding ticket you received last year? The astute policeman noticed that you also weren’t wearing a seat belt, and that you were also driving without insurance? You received three traffic citations simultaneously. Despite your charm, you couldn’t talk your way out of them. And then there was the minor oversight, a $500 unpaid bill that ended up in the bottom of your sweater drawer; that incident sent you to small claims court.
You’d better start recalling those skeletons in your legal closet because your future boss will probably know those and other dirty little secrets about your past. There’s no privacy in today’s information age. You’d be prudent to live your life as if a camera’s always on you, because essentially, it is. When you’re ready to start a new job, expect to go through some pre-employment screening.
Why is there more pre-hiring screening now?
Negligent hiring lawsuits are on the rise; if an employee’s actions harm someone, the employer is liable. Consequently, employers have become increasingly careful; screening is more prevalent. Many federal or state regulations mandate screening before hiring. It can vary from state to state.
Pre-hiring screening has become more cost-effective for employers due to the decrease in screening costs. If an employee falsifies information on the job application, pertaining to health, disability or criminal history screening often detects this. Child abuse cases can be reduced by screening new employees.
Pre-hiring screening can sort out potential hires who might threaten the security or integrity of a company. Fear from September 11, 2001, and other terrorist acts have made people anxious. And, fallout from Enron and other high profile scandals involving deception and abuse of power by corporate executives has employers being more cautious.
What information is public?
Before you’re hired, you’ll sign a Release of Information Form which initiates the background checking process. But, much information about you is easily available online or in databases, such as the sex offenders list. Your county circuit clerk’s websites lists your traffic, civil, criminal, small claims and probate cases. Other public information about you includes medical and drug records, property ownership, bankruptcy, past employment records, and workman’s compensation claims, for example. The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulates the dissemination and use of consumer credit information and can make your credit report available. Though questions cannot be asked about your age, marital status, children, disabilities, or your weight, employers can easily sidestep this and still obtain this information.
What are some common background checks?
Fingerprinting is done for many jobs. It’s less messy than in the past because it’s now electronic and no longer requires ink. It’s quick and essentially error free. Sometimes there are mobile units that visit your workplace to fingerprint for pre-hiring screening.
Urine specimens are the most common method for drug testing. They detect marijuana and other drugs in the body. Testing for cocaine is often done with a saliva sample. Some drug tests are scheduled while others may be random, and on short notice. Drug users, beware!
Refuse a pre-screening drug test and you likely will not be hired. Refuse a random test and your job may be on the line. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is trying to advocate for employees’ rights to privacy on this issue. Laws regarding drug testing vary from state to state.
What are some jobs that typically do background checks?
If you’ll be working with children, elderly or people with disabilities expect a background check. Even parents who volunteer in schools can be investigated. Criminal and background records, fingerprinting, a health exam, and a tuberculosis (TB) test are often required. The National Child Protection Act allows assess to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), the FBI database. Hopefully, your name isn’t there. Employees in health care such as hospitals and nursing homes can expect similar screening.
Jobs in transportation such a driving a bus or flying a plane require screening as mandated by the Federal Department of Transportation. To drive a bus, for example you’ll need an excellent driving record, and must pass a physical and a drug test. If you get into an accident on-the-job, expect to be taken immediately to a nearby clinic for drug testing.
Many employers in the finance world do extensive screening. They’ll scrutinize your credit report to determine if you handle money responsibly. If you’ll be working for the government, you’ll undergo pre-hiring screening, too.
How can you prepare for a background check?
Make sure your background information is squeaky clean before any potential employer screens you. You can do a background check on yourself if you have concerns. Look at your credit report. Check your court records. Peruse your records at the department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), especially if your job involves driving.
Before applying for any job, make sure your legal and financial information is in good order. You don’t want to face embarrassment when a potential employer confronts you about a noteworthy problem that you neglected to expose. If you live an honorable life and make responsible decisions and you won’t have to worry about pre-hiring screening.