Your Conviction: Employment Checks

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You may go through more than one kind of screening as you interview for jobs. It’s good to know all the types of checks that employers might do before and after you are hired.

Most employers do some type of background check or pre-screening on all job candidates.

Employers want to know as much as possible about a person before making a job offer. This helps employers know that they are hiring a person who has the right skills and qualifications for the job. They also want someone who will represent their company well.

Employers cannot do most of these checks without your permission. Often you are asked to sign a document allowing the company to do a specific check. This can happen when you fill out a job application or submit a resume, or it can happen during the interview process.

There are several types of pre-screenings or checks an employer can do. It’s common to do more than one type of check on a candidate. Some checks or screenings are done after you are hired.

Employment history checks

Your past employment is verified in several ways. The most common way is to use databases updated directly from company payroll records. This information uses your Social Security number to find your past jobs.

The hiring manager might contact a past employer personally to verify employment. They usually talk to the human resources representative at your past employer.

In most cases, a past employer is allowed only to reveal the dates of your employment with that company, job titles you held, and if you are eligible for rehire. Any other details, including your job performance or reasons for leaving the job, are not discussed.


If you list a former supervisor or coworker as a personal reference, that person can talk about your job performance in detail. Your personal reference can say if you were a good worker, got along with people, describe your best skills, and other things.

Be sure to give your references a copy of your resume so they know the dates you worked, your exact job title, and other details about your past jobs.

Social networking and internet searches

The number of employers that check social networking profiles is growing rapidly. Social networking sites include Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Many employers say they will not hire someone who has posted inappropriate content or photos on these sites.

Employers also use search engines, such as Google or Bing, to check for questionable information on job candidates. Make sure you know what information employers can find when they type in your name.

Not all of the information found on the Internet is used to disqualify a candidate. In fact, it’s a good idea to use social networking sites to help you create a good reputation and build your network.

Drug testing

An employer may require a drug test during the hiring process and after you’re hired. They are used to determine if someone has recently consumed alcohol, prescription medication, or illegal drugs.

According to the National Clearinghouse for Drug & Alcohol Information, employers can use several types of drug tests:

  • Pre-employment tests. An employer can decide to not make a job offer based on the results of a drug test given before hiring a person unless the finding is a prescribed medication — then they can not discriminate.
  • Reasonable suspicion and for-cause tests. When an employee shows signs of not being fit for duty or has a documented pattern of unsafe work behavior, the employer can issue a drug test.
  • Random tests. Employers might issue drug tests to all employees at unscheduled times. This discourages employees from using illegal drugs at any time.
  • Post-accident tests. An employer may test employees who are involved in an accident or unsafe practice incident to find out if alcohol or other drug use was a factor.

Each employer has its own policies regarding drug testing. You will know if a drug test is part of the hiring process. After hire, the company will give you a copy of their employee drug policies.

Credit checks

Checking a candidate’s credit report is more common than in the past. However, an employer should have a sound business reason for this. If the credit information is directly related to a job, it’s OK to check. Otherwise, using credit as part of the hiring process might be discriminatory.

Employers should let you know about their policies and procedures related to credit checks. The use of credit information should be both relevant and fair. Job seekers and human resource staff should refer to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FERC) and state regulations.

Pre-employment screenings

Other common pre-employment screenings include:

  • General knowledge. This measures an applicant’s basic knowledge of what is required to perform the job. An example is to solve math problems. If required, it is done usually at the beginning of the application process.
  • Aptitude screening. This measures an applicant’s skills and ability to learn new skills. It can be a written test or a hands-on test or demonstrating a task related to the job.
  • Psychological screening. This measures an applicant’s ability to handle the situations and environments that might be encountered on the job. An example is to ask how you would handle a difficult customer or a fast deadline.

It might make you nervous to know that an employer gives these screenings and checks, but think of these checks as a good thing.

Some of these screenings take a lot of time and cost the employer money. They are only given to people who are seriously being considered for hire. So, if you are asked to go through one or more of these checks, that might mean you are close to getting hired.



JeffAltman, The Big Game Hunter
JeffAltman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2100 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

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Your Conviction: Employment Checks

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