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Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Background Screening

Everyone knows pre-employment background screening can be nerve-racking, whether you’re the candidate for a job position or the employer. Unfortunately, all that is involved in conducting a background check is often overlooked until the day comes where you are involved in the process yourself. Then, of course, comes the abundance of important questions.

To help clear things up, I compiled a short list of the most frequently asked questions regarding background screening.

What type of information does a background check find?
Well, the answer to this question depends on how extensive the background check being performed is. This will vary depending on the concerns of the employer and the position the applicant is being considered for. Most companies will have a basic package consisting of a social security address verification, a county level criminal check, national criminal database check, and sex offender registry check.
Those that wish to explore more have the option of conducting drug screenings, credit checks, federal criminal database searches, gathering motor vehicle driving records, past employment and education verifications, and even professional reference interviews.
A candidate can, and should, clarify with the company what specific searches the background check they are requesting will consist of.

How far back does a background check look into?
When conducting a background check, all previously recorded history (criminal records, home addresses, etc.) will show. However, the employer is usually not the one who will see all of that.
Only a consumer reporting agency (CRA) can legally conduct background checks. Therefore, the company the applicant is interested in will have a selected CRA which processes background screenings for them. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a CRA can only report history within the last seven years to an employer.

How long does a background check take?
This is a more complicated question. If you’re lucky enough to have the Risk Assessment Group as your employment background screening service provider, the average time is about three days.

However, there are a few reasons a background check may take longer:
- If the CRA has trouble getting in contact with someone when trying to obtain an employment or education verification
- When trying to check criminal records, courts may be either backlogged or closed for odd reasons depending on their location
- Background history containing information outside of the United States can make the search more complicated
- If there is a drug screen involved and positive results are returned, a Medical Review Officer will then have to contact the applicant for a prescription verification

All of the mentioned scenarios listed above are out of the CRA’s control and may lengthen the process.

Do errors occur in background checks?
Yes, absolutely. Although the information is handled very carefully and attentively, humans can still make mistakes and computer systems can still fail. Typos, identity theft, misreading handwriting, and file corruption are some of the possible errors that can occur in a background screening.
If incomplete or inaccurate information is reported back to an employer, an applicant can and should dispute it. In response, the CRA will conduct a re-investigation.

What do employers look for in background checks?
This depends on the concerns and needs of the employer for the job position at hand. For example, a senior living facility would most likely prioritize verifications of health care certifications rather than clean motor vehicle driving records, but a food delivery service would do the opposite.
However, no matter what the position is, there is one thing in common that all employers look for – differences between the information the applicant provided and the information reported back from the consumer reporting agency. This is why it is important to always be honest when interviewing and applying for positions. If you have a criminal record, it's in your best interest to let your employer know before he/she finds out through the background check.

I hope these answers to the most frequently asked questions clarified the fundamentals of background screening for you. There is, of course, plenty more involved in the process. If you have any additional questions that weren’t covered here, feel free to call us today at (866) 477-1114.
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