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Do Employers Run Background Checks Before an Interview?

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The biggest challenge for felons after returning home is finding a job. Even companies known to hire felons typically do a background check.

This blog post will cover whether or not employers run background checks before an interview.

  • What is in a Background Check?
  • Ban the Box
  • Can You Run a Background Check on Yourself?
  • Tips for Getting a Job


What is in a Background Check?

As many as 10% of all job candidates have some type of criminal record. Many employers won’t hire felons, believing they are dishonest and likely to commit a crime on the job. Or, employers fear the public finding out they hire felons, which could damage the company’s reputation and lead to a loss of business.

There are employers who will hire felons, but it will still take persistence in completing a number of applications in order to find that job.

The main reason for doing a background check is to assist employers in hiring the best candidate for a job and because:

  • Negligent hiring practices may lead to employers being held liable
  • Terrorism has caused increased security caution in hiring
  • False information on applications can hurt the hiring process
  • Federal and state laws require background checks for those working with children, the elderly, and the disabled
  • Background checks are becoming easier and cheaper to perform

In conducting a background check, basic information from applicants includes full name, date of birth, and Social Security Number.

Among the types of information typically included in a background check are:

  • Driving records
  • Credit records, including bankruptcy
  • Criminal records
  • Education records
  • Court records
  • Military Records
  • Drug test records
  • Past employers
  • Personal references

The criminal records portion of the background check involves a search of criminal history files for any criminal activity.

A criminal background check typically reveals the following information:

  • Convictions of felonies, misdemeanors, and sex crimes
  • All addresses within the past ten years
  • Arrests and court records
  • Warrants
  • Incarceration records

Non-convictions are reportable for seven years. Convictions can be reported without any limitation. The exception is when felons have had their records expunged or sealed at the time of the background check.

Ban the Box

Ban-the-box laws require employers to remove any question from a job application regarding whether or not an applicant has been convicted of a crime. Ban-the-box laws seek to prevent discrimination against individuals with criminal records.

Ban-the-box laws typically do not prevent employers from running background checks on applicants, but some require a delay in obtaining a criminal background check until after the first interview or until after a conditional offer of employment is made.

Some ban-the-box laws require employers to consider criminal histories on a case-by-case basis, rather than rejecting all applicants who have specific types of criminal offenses.

A total of 21 states have adopted ban-the-box policies. These states are:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Typically, ban-the-box laws do not require employers to hire felons. They still permit employers to conduct background checks later in the hiring process.

It is common for employers to ask for all personal information upfront. It’s not because they’re going to use it initially as it would be a waste of time and money for them to do background checks on all candidates before an interview. They ask for it early because it makes their process easier later.

After an interview, if they want to move forward with a background check, it’s easier for them if they already have the information. It’s similar to companies that ask for references upfront; it’s rare that they’ll use them until later in the process, but they ask for them early so that they have them when they need them.

According to recent studies, the times when an employer will run a background check are:

  • Before the offer – 43%
  • After the offer – 39%
  • After pre-qualifying a candidate – 14%
  • Before the job start date – 5%

Can You Run a Background Check on Yourself?

Doing a background check on him or herself before applying for a job will allow a felon to know exactly what will be discovered when the employer does a review. A felon with any questions can contact an attorney. It is essential to take action and not take a chance on the results.

There are different kinds of personal background checks that a felon can run:

  • From the court in which he or she was charged
  • A credit report which will help determine how financially responsible an individual is
  • Driving records for any job involving driving, such as a truck driver
  • An educational report through the National Student Clearing House

For someone wanting to do a background check on themselves, there are places that can help. A felon would have the best chance at getting a job by having his or her record expunged

Tips for Getting a Job

A felon should never hide the fact that he or she has a felony conviction if it comes up. Instead, explain the facts about that conviction without getting overly emotional.

It is never a good idea to lie about one’s past on an application. This could result in not being considered for a job if the employer finds out about it later. A felon should highlight skills and abilities that qualify him or her for the job, both on the application and during the interview.

A felon needs to take responsibility for past actions and explain how he or she is putting life in order now. Doing his or her own background check allows a felon to know what an employer will see on his or her record.

A felon needs to remember that he or she is not defined by his or her crime. We are not defined by our mistakes but in how we recover from them. He or she must be willing to see him or herself in a different light, ready to establish an honest life. The best opportunity for success in a new life begins with having support from family and friends.

So what do you think about this blog post about whether or not employers run background checks before an interview? Have you or has someone you know had an employer run a background check before an interview? What was that like and was he or she successful in being hired? Please tell us in the comments below.

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