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The Pros and Cons of Employment Background Checks for Job Seekers

Background checks have become an integral part of the job application process in recent years. These checks are conducted by employers to verify information provided by candidates, evaluate potential risks, and make informed hiring decisions. While the process may seem invasive to some, it is necessary to ensure that employers do not end up with employees who pose a risk to their company, their employees, or their customers.

So, what exactly is an employment background check, and how do employers use it? In this article, we will explore the various aspects of background checks, including the information that can be obtained and how it is used.

What is an Employment Background Check?

Simply put, an employment background check is an investigation into a candidate's history, which includes their criminal record, employment history, education, and credit history.

Employers conduct these checks to ensure that they are hiring candidates that are trustworthy and have a history of ethical conduct. The process can be conducted through a third-party screening company or done in-house by an employer. The type and depth of the check depend on the job's requirements and the employer's policies.

What Information Can Be Obtained from an Employment Background Check?

An employment background check can cover a wide range of information, including but not limited to criminal records, employment history, education, credit history, and drug screening.

Criminal Records

One crucial element of an employment background check is the criminal record investigation. This process checks for past criminal convictions, outstanding warrants, and pending criminal cases. Depending on the job position, the investigation may include misdemeanor and felony records, driving records, and sex offender records.

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The employer must ensure that a candidate's criminal history doesn't disqualify them from the position. Suppose the job position requires candidates to handle money, interact with vulnerable populations, or operate heavy machinery. In that case, employers cannot risk hiring someone with a criminal history that makes them dangerous, untrustworthy or liable to steal company assets.

Employment History

Employment history checks are used to verify a candidate's work experience, past job titles, and duties, and ensure that the candidate hasn't misrepresented their employment elsewhere. Verification of job references can either be requested from past employers or a third party verification company. Employment history checks are especially important when hiring executives, managers, and senior-level employees that have access to confidential information and the power to influence company decisions.


Education verification ensures that a candidate has the necessary credentials to perform the job they've applied for. This verification checks for diploma or degree, certificates, and even attendance records. Employers may seek education verification to determine if a candidate has committed education fraud, which may be cause for immediate dismissal if discovered after hire.

Credit History

Employers may conduct credit checks before hiring to assess an employee's financial stability, history, and responsible behavior with debt management. Individuals under investigation review their credit scores to identify any errors, pay off any late payments and makes sure their credit history reflects the truth.

Drug Screening

Drug screening is used to test for controlled substances such as marijuana, cocaine, and PCP. Employers conducting drug screening will collect a candidate's urine or blood sample, and a laboratory will perform the test. Employers use drug screening tests to ensure that they are hiring employees that are not using or promoting illegal substances and not putting other employees or customers at risk because of addiction.

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How Is the Information Used by Employers?

Employers use the information obtained in the background check to make an informed decision about hiring a candidate. Their decision mustn't be biased, but instead based on the job requirements that the employee must fulfill.

For example, if an individual is applying for a financial-based role, the company may seek a candidate who doesn't have any negative financial background, and who demonstrates good debt management skills.

If there's a significant mistake or gap in the background check report or the candidate provides false information, the employer will proceed cautiously and may decide to rescind their job offer or terminate them after hire.

It's imperative to emphasize that this process isn't used to discriminate against an individual but to encourage ethical behavior and transparency. Employers can be held liable for criminal, negligent or dishonest conduct by their employees if they neglect an adequate background check properly.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Employment Background Checks

Employment background checks provide many benefits to employers, including protecting the workplace, maintaining a reputation of a safe environment, and reducing employee turnover. Studies suggest that 85% of employers conducting background checks report that the check benefited them by weeding out unsuitable candidates.

However, some believe that background checks invasion personnel privacy, timesaving, and revenue generation reporting jobs may not even require background checks.

In the United States, the Fair Credit Reporting Act regulates employment background checks. If an employer decides not to hire a candidate because of information contained in the background check, the employer must provide the candidate with a copy of the report, the name, address and telephone number of the screening company that provided the report, and the candidate's rights under the FCRA.

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Finally, and essential to mention, candidates must understand their rights and expectations when being investigated. One may need to provide consent for a background check, provide documents that prove their identity, and dispute any inaccurate results appearing on the report.


If you are going through a background check, it's essential to remain transparent, truthful, and provide all relevant information to be investigated. While some may find the process invasive, it's merely a way for companies to protect their brand reputation, personnel, and assets. Candidates must be aware of their rights, and employers must conduct investigations fairly and without discrimination. An employment background check can lead to better hiring decisions, increases the chances of finding qualified candidates, and helps companies create a safe and secure work environment for customers and employees alike.

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