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Do Restaurants Run Background Checks?

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The biggest challenge for felons after returning home is finding a job. In looking for work, a felon who has experience working in the food industry may want to apply for a job at a restaurant.

This blog post will cover whether or not restaurants run background checks.

  • What is Included in a Background Check?
  • Restaurant Application
  • Restaurant Background Check
  • Type and Depth of a Background Check
  • Can You Run a Background Check on Yourself?
  • Tips for Getting a Job at a Restaurant


What is Included in a Background Check?

Employers, like a restaurant, review an applicant’s background because they don’t want someone who doesn’t succeed after starting a job. This is considered to be a “bad hire,” which is someone who:

  • Doesn’t produce quality work
  • Has a negative attitude
  • Doesn’t work well with other employees
  • Doesn’t deal well with customers
  • Doesn’t have the necessary skills
  • Has attendance problems
  • Is dishonest on the job

The last issue is the biggest challenge for felons. Their criminal history can be a problem when applying at a restaurant even if they are now committed to living an honest lifestyle.

An employer typically views at least some of the following:

  • Credit reports
  • Driving records
  • Educational records
  • Criminal offenses

Background information helps an employer, like a restaurant, to determine a candidate’s:

  • Past mistakes
  • Character
  • Financial Fitness

This allows an employer to identify hiring risks for security and safety issues for the company. For a restaurant, criminal convictions, including driving offenses, are likely the most important.

The criminal record review conducted by a background check includes examining criminal history files for any criminal offenses, which will reveal all convictions and non-convictions, including cases not prosecuted or ones dismissed. Convictions can be reported with no time limit while a non-conviction will show up for seven years. A crime will not show up on a background check if a felon has his or her record expunged.

Restaurant Application

Working in the food industry is a common area for felons to find employment. Typically, restaurants hire felons. During the application process, a restaurant may ask for permission to perform a pre-employment criminal background check.

Interviewers may focus on personality factors and hire workers who are:

  • Courteous
  • Friendly
  • Energetic outgoing

The hiring process typically begins by submitting the required information for employment. An application can be submitted online or at a restaurant.

The minimum age to work at most restaurants is 16 years old, although some require an applicant to be at least 18. Entry-level positions typically available at a restaurant include:

  • Restaurant team member
  • Grill crew
  • Kitchen service
  • Front line crew
  • Cook
  • Cashier

Entry-level positions require someone to handle food regularly and interact with customers. Being able to work under pressure, having a positive attitude, and valuing customer service are important traits.

The initial part of a restaurant application takes place online, although face-to-face in-store interviews will be requested for anyone being considered for a position.

Typically, the basic information required includes:

  • Name
  • Address phone number
  • Social Security Number
  • Shift availability
  • Expected pay rate
  • Work experience
  • Education

An applicant may go through one or two interviews. Typically, it may take a week for the application process, including any background check.

Typical interview questions often include:

  • What does customer service mean to you?
  • Do you like to work as part of a team or alone?
  • What makes you a good candidate?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • Why do you want to work for this restaurant?
  • Have you had any experience applying to work at a restaurant?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

The hiring manager typically interviews prospective employees individually. A candidate for an entry-level job, like a server or cook, may be interviewed by the front-end manager or a kitchen manager. The hiring manager will review an applicant’s availability, work experience, and general background.

Restaurants Run Background Checks?

Background checks are done at the discretion of a restaurant’s hiring manager. Some companies do not do background checks because they don’t want the expense.

Restaurants that do not run background checks are typically small independent restaurants or restaurants in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods. Restaurants that run background checks are likely to be large restaurant chains that can afford multiple checks as well as fancy restaurants.

Some restaurants hire delivery drivers without running a criminal background check. A clean driving record is essential because DUIs and at-fault accidents will greatly reduce the likelihood that a company will hire a person. Employers may not require background checks for certain types of restaurant jobs like servers, cooks, and dishwashers.

Type and Depth of a Background Check

The type and depth of a background check often relate to the company’s size and the level of security management desires. Small restaurants might not want to pay for a full-scale background check, but they may still look into an applicant’s background before hiring.

A more casual background check and calling previous employers for personal references may help an employer learn more about a person’s experience level and work ethic. A restaurant manager may also do an online informational background check.

Restaurant employers may consider:

  • The type of incident
  • How serious the offense was
  • How long ago it occurred
  • Whether it relates to the job involved

Someone found guilty of intoxicated driving might not be hired as a bartender. A DUI conviction a number of years ago after which the applicant attended an alcohol safety class might be overlooked by a hiring manager.

Restaurants often meet with potential employees after finding negative information in a background check to give an applicant the opportunity to explain any issues discovered. The following can demonstrate to a potential employer that his or her professional history outweighs any past mistakes:

  • Focusing on volunteer work in the community
  • A strong academic record
  • Positive references

Any felon applying at a restaurant needs to:

  • Know his or her criminal history
  • Answer all questions
  • Be honest
  • Focus on the positive

All questions on the application regarding criminal history must be answered truthfully. If a job is offered, an applicant will often be asked to consent to a background check, so not being honest will immediately disqualify him or her.

In evaluating the results, the restaurant hiring manager will look for discrepancies between the report and their responses on the application. The restaurant also evaluates the nature of any criminal offenses discovered by the report.

A background check is run for a restaurant to protect:

  • The company
  • Its employees
  • Its customers

A felon would have the best chance at getting a job at a restaurant by having his or her record expunged.

Can You Run a Background Check on Yourself?

Doing a background check on yourself before applying at a restaurant will allow a felon to know exactly what will be discovered when the restaurant does its review. A felon with any questions can contact an attorney. It is essential to take action and not risk 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 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 at a restaurant by having his or her record expunged.

Tips for Getting a Job at a Restaurant

Suggestions for a felon to increase his or her chances to be hired at a restaurant are:

  • Arrive early for an interview
  • Dress appropriately
  • Make a positive first impression on the interviewer
  • Show a friendly, courteous, and energetic personality
  • Make consistent eye contact with hiring representatives
  • Sit with a straight posture
  • Speak clearly
  • Make a case for a new job opportunity
  • Emphasize experience and skills related to the restaurant industry
  • End each restaurant interview with a firm handshake
  • Express gratitude for the interview opportunity

Don’t hide a felony conviction if it comes up. Instead, explain the facts about that conviction without emotion.

It is never a good idea to lie about your past on an application. This could result in not being considered for a job if the restaurant finds out about it. Highlight skills and abilities that qualify you for the job and focus on them during the interview.

Take responsibility for past actions and explain how you are putting your life in order. Doing your own background check allows you to know what an employer will see on your record.

Remember, you are not defined by your crime. Be willing to see yourself in a different light and ready to establish an honest life. The best opportunity for success in a new life begins with having support from family and friends. After all, felons do make good employees.

So what do you think about this blog post about whether or not restaurants run background checks? Have you or someone you know had a restaurant run a background check? What was that like and were they successful in being hired?  Please tell us in the comments below. 

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