A recent SHRM survey found that most companies conduct some sort of reference or background check as part of their hiring process.
Thus, during your job search, whenever you make it to the final phases of a screening process, expect the company to go into research mode on you.
How Do Recruiters Check Backgrounds?
Some employers do the sleuthing themselves. Others hire background check companies.
Running a background check can range from a few simple questions a recruiter asks to hiring a private investigator to prepare an in-depth report.
I once had a candidate who was going to have access to high-value, easily moved physical assets. All of his previous employers were out of business. He had been living on a remote island for a few years managing a private individual’s wealth.
I wondered if he was in a witness protection program or had an even more interesting background.
The hiring manager engaged a private investigator to learn more about the candidate’s prior companies and perform a criminal background check. It was all good news. He got the job and performed very well.
I never asked him about the witness protection program, but I still wonder.
Thus, if anyone suspects inaccurate information in your resume or interview responses, or if there are other red flags, expect a deeper than normal dive.
The SHRM Survey
SHRM found that 76% of the companies they surveyed always run employment background checks on top job applicants.
Another 22% of their participants do background screening “sometimes.”
Here’s what they check:
- Former Employers — 95% of the respondents said they check former employers.
- Employment Dates — 90% check employment dates.
- Job Titles — 89% check job titles.
- Degrees — 75% perform education verifications.
- Job Responsibilities — 75% dig into information about job responsibilities.
- Certifications & Licenses — 74% verify certfications and licenses.
Sterling Talent Solutions 2017 Survey
A more recent survey by a company that provides background checks found that 89% of their participants investigate prospective employees.
Here’s what they check:
- Criminal records — 89%.
- Prior Employment — 64%.
- Form I-9 — 55%.
- Education — 50%.
- Substance Abuse Screening — 44%.
- Certifications & Licenses — 35%.
- Credit History — 28%.
- Social Media & Internet Presence — 23%.
10 Ways Recruiters Check Backgrounds
When you combine the two lists, you get ten ways recruiters check backgrounds, plus social media.
Survey results range wildly on how many employers admit to checking people out online because of the considerable potential to run afoul of employment law.
However, be sure that someone, most likely a hiring manager or future colleague, will informally fish around to see what they can find out about you.
What People Lie About on Their Resumes
Smart recruiters check backgrounds because yet another study found that 90% of job seekers lie at least a little on their resumes.
What do they lie about? Their work histories and job responsibilities!
Check out the infographic below to find out how many employers, according to SHRM, check up on applicants and what they want to know:
Click here to embed this graphic on your website.
Updated April 2019
© 2013 – 2019, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.
Donna Svei, an executive resume writer and former C-level executive, retained search consultant, and CPA, writes all of AvidCareerist’s posts. She has written for and been quoted by leading business, general, and career media outlets, including Forbes, Mashable, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Lifehacker, Ask.com, Social Media Today, IT World, SmartBrief, Payscale, Business News Daily, and the Muse. Let her background and experience inform your job search strategy and decision making.