Job hunting? Here's what you need to know about background checks

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Rachel Moore
Updated on:

What is a background check?

Background checks are a process that employers use to get more information about you when you apply for a job. It's like checking your background to see if everything you said in your application is true and accurate. They want to make sure you are a good fit for the job and that there are no red flags or risks.

There are a range of different checks that look at your work history, education, and sometimes your criminal record, if relevant to the job. So, don't worry, it's just a normal part of the hiring process to ensure they hire the best candidates.

Types of checks done in a background check

How does a background check work?

Background checks are where someone investigates the identity and past behaviours of someone. When a background check is done as part of the hiring process, they help ensure the person is a good fit for the role they are interviewing for and mitigate any risks associated with making a new hire. Often, the people who are being background checked will only need to provide information and documents to prove their identity or their address. These will then be verified and investigated by the employer or a third-party background checking service. However, for more senior roles, deeper checks are often conducted, particularly in industries such as finance, healthcare or education, as these industries are subject to regulatory scrutiny. Jobs that require certain tasks such as handling money, working with vulnerable people or driving may ask for additional checks such as credit checks, criminal record checks or driving history checks. For these checks, prospective employees may have to give extra information or documentation so the company can conduct the checks.

Complete background checks with Zinc

Which jobs don't require a background check?

There isn’t a specific list of jobs that don’t require background checks. If you are looking for a job and have something in your background that you think could hinder your chances of getting a job such as a criminal record or bankruptcy, it would be best to be upfront and open about these with your prospective employer. Not all roles require a thorough background check and some employers may be open to hiring people who have committed certain offences but are working towards rehabilitation. However, this all depends on the nature of the role, how regulated the industry is and the employer’s preferences.

For example, if you have a poor credit history and the job requires you to work with financial accounts, this may bar you from being employed in this position. But if the role has no financial duties and the company does not work in the finance sector, your financial record may not be of interest to them. Carefully reading through the duties of the role can give you an idea of what kinds of background checks the company may want to conduct. If you are in doubt, open up a conversation with the recruiter to see whether you may be a good fit for the role.

If you have a criminal record, searching for a job can be a daunting experience. Some employers may take into account certain factors such as the severity of the crime and whether it happened only once or if you have multiple offences over a long period of time. The period of time that has passed since your conviction may also be taken into account. Getting career advice and help with your resume can be a good starting point. Also, being honest and upfront with employers could help put you in a better position.

Why are background checks important?

Background checks are primarily a safety measure. Hiring a new person entails risk, especially if the person is new to the company. 

  • Background checks validate the accuracy of your employment history and educational background.
  • Background checks provide employers with a comprehensive view of your qualifications and suitability for the role.
  • They ensure a fair and consistent evaluation process for all candidates.
  • They provide employers with valuable insights to make informed hiring decisions.
  • They demonstrate your honesty and transparency as a candidate, building trust with the employer.
  • Background checks help protect both you and the company from potential legal and reputational risks.
  • They help ensure workplace safety and security by identifying any potential risks or red flags.

In regulated sectors, background checks are even more important as they prove the company has acted diligently when hiring new employees, particularly in senior positions. 94% of employers conduct one or more types of employment background checks, it’s an extremely important and standardised part of the hiring process and helps build transparency and trust for both yourself and the employer.

94% of employers conduct background checks

Can background checks reveal past employers?

If your hiring manager asks for professional references, then this will reveal that you previously worked for the company the referee works for. They usually ask for references from the last two to three jobs, but some sectors require references that cover the past five years. For more information on who you can put as references during a background check, read our referencing tips for candidates.

How much does a background check cost?

Most employers will not charge a candidate for their background checks. The cost of a background check can vary depending on the type of checks needed, how thorough they need to be, where in the world they are conducting the checks and how many people the person is background checking at once. If you do need to pay a fee this will be clearly communicated before undergoing the checks.

What background checks do companies use?

The kinds of background checks companies use depend on the type of work their employees do. At a minimum, most employers will conduct an employment reference check and an ID check. Some employers also will want a criminal record check, although the level of criminal record check that companies can conduct depends on the role and the sector they are working in.

For more information about background checks through Zinc, check out our knowledge base for more FAQs.

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