Background Checks – Myth vs. Fact

Background checks are commonly used by employers, landlords, and various organizations to verify the history and integrity of individuals. However, several myths and misconceptions persist about how these checks work and what they reveal. Here are some common myths about background checks:


 

Myth 1: Background Checks Reveal Everything About a Person

Fact: Background checks are limited to the information that is legally accessible and that organization’s have a permissible purpose to know. They commonly include criminal records, employment history, education verification, and credit reports, but they do not reveal every detail of a person’s private life.


Myth 2: Only Criminal Records Are Included in Background Checks

Fact: Background checks can include a wide range of information beyond criminal records, such as driving records, credit reports, employment history, educational background, professional license verifications, and professional reference checks.


Myth 3: All Background Checks Are the Same

Fact: Background checks can vary widely in scope and depth. A 7-year lookback is common, but others include but are not limited to 10 year and lifetime searches. Additionally, some states prohibit anything past 7 years from being reported. Some might focus solely on criminal records, while others include comprehensive checks covering employment, education, credit history, and more. The specific requirements depend on the purpose of the check and the organization conducting it.


Myth 4: Employers Conduct Background Checks on All Job Applicants

Fact: While many employers conduct background checks, not all do. The necessity and extent of a background check can depend on the industry, the specific job role, and the organization’s policies.


Myth 5: Background Checks Only Occur Before Employment

Fact: Some employers conduct ongoing or periodic background checks even after hiring to ensure continued compliance with company policies or industry regulations. Additionally, background checks can be part of the promotion or reassignment processes.


Myth 6: Background Checks Are 100% Accurate

Fact: Errors can occur in background checks due to incorrect data entry, outdated information, or identity mix-ups. It’s crucial for individuals to verify their own records and dispute any inaccuracies.


Myth 7: Background Checks Infringe on Privacy Rights

Fact: Background checks are conducted within legal boundaries and require the individual’s consent. Employers and other entities must comply with laws like the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which protects individuals’ privacy and ensures fair and accurate reporting.


Myth 8: A Bad Credit Report Will Automatically Disqualify You from a Job

Fact: While some employers consider credit reports as part of the hiring process, a poor credit history alone is not typically the sole reason for disqualification. Employers often weigh this information alongside other factors and consider the nature of the job. Additionally, background checks don’t always include credit reports and thus having a bad credit report would not be considered in the employment process.


Myth 9: Expunged Records Will Still Appear on Background Checks

Fact: Once a record is expunged, it is usually removed from public access immediately and should not appear in most standard background checks. However, certain government positions might still have access to expunged records.

 


Understanding the facts about background checks can help individuals better prepare for the process and address any potential issues proactively. It also helps employers and other entities to conduct checks in a fair and legally compliant manner. It’s important to remember that when you’re having a background check conducted on yourself that you have rights.

 


Visit https://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201504_cfpb_summary_your-rights-under-fcra.pdf to read a summary of your rights per the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). 

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