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Get Your Facts Straight: The Truth About Background Checks

Get Your Facts Straight: The Truth About Background Checks
Credit: RawPixel/Shutterstock

For job seekers and employers alike, one of the most confusing (and tricky) areas of the hiring process is pre-employment screening. From not knowing if background checks are really necessary to being unclear what employers actually look for during pre-employment screenings, Ben Goldberg, CEO of Aurico, a CareerBuilder company, said there are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings surrounding background checks.

"In essence, a background check is what an employer uses to help protect against false advertising on a resume and reduce employer risk," Goldberg said in a statement. "After all, a good business is built on people who fulfill their duties responsibly."

One of the most common myths employees have is that the company they are applying for a job with doesn't have a pre-employment screening process. In reality, CareerBuilder research has found that nearly three-quarters of employers today do conduct background checks at some point in the hiring process, with more than half also conducting a drug test. [See Related Story: Best Background Check Services 2017]

Many professionals are also unclear on what employers look for during a background check. The study found that 46 percent of workers don't know what information employers are checking for during a pre-employment screening, which CareerBuilder says can put them at a disadvantage.

In addition to looking at past employers, employers should check where potential hires went to school, where they have lived and if they have any type of criminal record, according to CareerBuilder. The exact scope of a background check often depends on the position the person is being considered for.

Another misconception among employees is that they can estimate when and for long they worked for a previous employer. The study found that 13 percent of professionals have approximate employment dates on their current resumes.

The problem, according to CareerBuilder, is that this often considered inaccurate information, which raises a red flag during a background check. This will not only cause delays in the hiring process, but it could also end up disqualifying the candidate.

Some professionals also don't think it is necessary to alert those whom they list on their resume as references. A problem can arise when someone doesn't know they were listed as a reference is contacted by a potential employer. They often act surprised and confused, which can give an impression that the candidate isn't professional or organized.

CareerBuilder advises job candidates to always ask people's permission to use them as a reference. This way, they know that they may be contacted in the future.

The biggest myth employers have about background checks is believing they aren't really necessary.

CareerBuilder research found that 18 percent of employers have made a bad hire because they didn't conduct a background check. Making a mistake in the hiring process can be quite costly. The study shows that the average cost of a bad hire is $17,000.

Many employers also believe also background-screening providers all offer the same level of service. The study discovered that nearly 30 percent of employers made a bad hire because they received bad information about the candidate. In addition 15 percent have been forced into litigation for not hiring someone because of what was found in a background check.

CareerBuilder advises employers to use a background-screening firm that keeps up with compliance standards, is accredited by National Association of Professional Background Screeners and makes it a priority to keep candidates informed during every step of the process.

A number of employers are also confused on how long the screening process should take. Instead of one to two weeks, CareerBuilder says a provider should be able to return results in 24 to 72 hours.

According to CareerBuilder, the longer the background check process takes, the greater risk employers have of losing out on a candidate who gets tired of waiting for an answer.

Despite not knowing for sure, many employers are under the belief that their background-check process provides a good experience for candidates. However, the study shows that 65 percent of employers have never tested out their system themselves to see what the candidate experience is like.

CareerBuilder suggests that not only should employers test out their system first hand, they should also interview candidates on their thoughts of the process.

The study was based on surveys of 2,391 hiring and human resource managers and 3,411 employees over the age of 18.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.