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What Shows Up In A Background Check?

February 20th, 2009

You’ve just landed an interview for the job of your dreams. Everything seems to be going well and they ask you to fill out some paperwork as the interview progresses. You notice, tucked among the papers, one titled “Background Check Release Form”. Suddenly your past begins to flash through your mind. Maybe you had gotten into a bit of trouble as a teenager or did some crazy things in your younger days that you’re not proud of. You worry that your dream job may be in jeopardy as you wonder what shows up on a background check?

The answer to that question is “it depends on the job you’re applying for”. If you want to work for the local McDonalds then you probably have nothing much to worry about. If you’ve applied to work at NASA, somewhere that requires a high level of security, or any other high level, high paying job you can expect that they’re going to delve deeply into your background.

First, let’s debunk a couple of myths about what shows up in a background check:

  1. If you’ve ever been in any kind of trouble with the police that required them to take your name then it will show up on a background report. Convicted or not, if you’ve ever been “charged” with anything it’s going to show up on a background check. Misdemeanors and felonies WILL show up. Some examples of things that will show up are: disorderly conduct, domestic disputes, DWI, DUI, delinquency of a minor, sex offender information, etc…The list could go on and on but you get the picture.
  2. There is no statute of limitations for what shows up on a background check. Once you become an adult at 18 everything you get charged for with will show up on a background check. That doesn’t mean that everything will be found however. Many companies may only use the last few years to determine your eligibility. That drug charge from 20 years ago is still on your record but may not be recent enough for some employers to worry about or even find.

Besides any criminal activity that will show up on a background check, it’s also used to verify education, employment verification, sex offender status, or motor vehicle records.

If anything from your past pops up on a background check, just be honest when asked about it. If you lie and they find out about it you certainly won’t get the job. Not every offense is a show stopper. What shows up in background check may not hurt your chances at all but it’s something you need to be aware of when going into a job interview.

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