Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Is It Legal? Background and Credit Score Checks for Job Application

It seems more employers are running background checks and getting credit scores of job candidates as part of the hiring process, these days. What do you need to know about when and how a hiring employer is getting this not-so-private information? And do you have any say in the matter?

Here's one job seeker's experience and some employment advice by a lawyer.

I submitted a resume online for an entry-level tech support job for a wireless networking company, who then called me for an interview. The interview went well and I was offered a job contingent on a background check. I was never asked to fill out an "application", this was all based on my resume and interview alone. The thing is that I omitted a job from my resume because I was fired from the job and omitting it did not leave a gap in my employment. I am worried that this omitted job will show up on the background check and they will think that I was lying and rescind the job offer. Am I ok? I really need this job!

I'm not sure why they feel the need to do a background check. They also said they can get info from consumer reporting agencies. What does that mean?

I have often advised people to leave off a bad job on their resume if it doesn't create a gap in employment (using just years, not months when listing dates). However, I tell people to include all jobs, even bad jobs, when filling out the job application.

Uneasy-but-need-a-job's case is unusual in that the employer is effectively using her resume as an application, which is something I've never run into. So I asked Jack Robbins, an attorney who practises employment law (along with other areas). Here's Jack's response:

Most large companies, and many small businesses, will conduct some sort of background check either prior to a job offer being made to the applicant, or done after employment begins. Under the law of most states, unless the employer is terminating a current employee for a discriminatory reason, an employer can terminate an employee who was determined to have lied in the application process. So an employee needs to weigh this risk in making a decision to not disclose a prior job, or omit any other information.

With our current tough job market, the temptation is understandable to omit any adverse information. A middle ground is Susan’s advice, that if you omit a job from your resume, then you should list it on the job application.

The background check might include a search for pending or older criminal/traffic cases and civil actions. It might also include getting credit scores. To obtain the reports using a credit service, the employer needs to first obtain a signed authorization from the job applicant. Generally, the applicant is entitled to a copy of the report. Some of the information may be incorrect or not current. Most reputable Human Resources Departments will ask the applicant for an explanation of any items in the report that are of concern.
Good luck.
Jack Robbins, Esq.

This posting is a general comment only, and not specific to your situation. Your situation might vary based on additional facts of your case.

Thank you, Jack. We appreciate your expert legal opinion.

Here are other posts on this topic:
True Confessions: Problem with Employment Background Checks
Why Not Lie on Your Resume?
Why do employers run credit checks on potential hires?


marry said...

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Melbourne jobs said...

The post was really helpful since it made me aware of the importance of preforming well in my current job. Getting good feedbacks from past employers or maintaining a good background and credit score would help in future job applications.