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Background Checks for Ex-Offenders

Expect employers to do a background check on you and remember that having a few bad marks doesn't always keep you from getting the job.

Most employers do background checks on job candidates. However, a less-than-perfect past is not the kiss of death. The key is to understand why employers need to know certain information.

Why Employers Do Background Checks

Employers want to know if a candidate:

  • Worked at the jobs listed on his or her resume and job application. Do you really have the experience and skills needed to do the job?
  • Attended and graduated from the schools and job training programs listed on the resume and job application. Do you really know what you claim to know about the job? Are you an honest person?
  • Has positive references. What do the people you know say about working with you? How do you handle difficult projects and everyday duties?

Employers also have a legal duty to exercise "due diligence" when hiring. This means that they are responsible for finding out if potential employees might be dangerous or unfit for a job.

A background check can include:

  • Social Security number trace (to verify legal name and past addresses)
  • County and federal criminal record search (shows convictions, not arrests)
  • Educational verification (highest level of school attended and if a diploma was earned)
  • Employment verification (dates of employment, job title, and rehire status only)
  • Driving records
  • Drug test (person's system needs to be clean for seven days prior to test)
  • Personal references (find out about personality and work ethic)

Some employers also review profiles and information posted on social networking websites. Be sure you know more about each type of background check and pre-employment screening.

Truth About Background Checks

Expect a background check to be done. Be truthful on job applications and in interviews. When asked, many employers said they didn't hire a good job candidate because the candidate lied or purposely left out information about their past — not because they had a criminal record.

A mark on one or more background checks will not necessarily keep you from getting a job offer. For example:

  • Some areas of social services prefer to hire people with criminal records since they are able to relate to clients.
  • Some sales companies look for candidates with a lot of credit activity. It shows that the candidate is a risk taker and eager to make money in sales.

No company can refuse to hire a person based only on their criminal records unless it can provide a business justification. If a company makes a tentative job offer and then rescinds the offer based on the background check, you must be notified in writing.

Employers can view arrest records in the State of Minnesota. It is against federal law to use arrest records as the only basis for not hiring someone.

Warning Signs for Employers

Whether they run a background or not, most employers have all candidates sign a release of information form as part of the application process.

Refusing to sign the release form is a warning sign to employers that a job seeker is trying to hide something. This will result in the job seeker being dropped from consideration for the position.

Other warnings signs include:

  • Incomplete or skipped answers on a job application
  • Unexplained gaps in employment
  • Reluctance to allow past employers to be contacted
  • Discrepancies between job titles or dates on application and resume
  • Interview answers that differ from information given on application
  • Failure to sign application or release of information

Work with a career advisor to learn how to fill out job applications and present yourself on your resume. They can also help you figure out the best ways to tell an employer about your criminal history.

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