Career Advice

Debunking Myths Around Employment Background Checks
Vincent Charbonneau posted on April 28, 2017 |
Does every engineer looking for a job understand employment background checks?

Background checks are required for most positions, especially for engineers working on high value or highly confidential projects. But does every engineer looking for a job, or company looking to hire, know everything they need to about employment background checks and how they work? Possibly not.

In an effort to help rectify some of the common myths and misinformation surrounding background checks, the HR solutions company CareerBuilders recently conducted a nationwide survey on what both job seekers and hiring managers know – or think they know – about employment background checks.

The poll highlighted the following myths for both employees and employers:


Myths for Employees

Myth 1: Estimating the months and years of employment at each job is good enough.

Reality: 1 in 8 workers say that they estimate employment dates on their current resume. What might not be obvious is that such dating discrepancies can cause resumes to be flagged as inaccurate, and could even remove them from consideration. Always make sure that the dates on your resume are accurate.

Myth 2: Most employers don't conduct background checks.

Reality: The majority of employers (72 percent) say they do perform background checks for every new employee before they're hired. More than half (55 percent) drug test job candidates.


Myth 3: If a background check is performed, employers will usually only check where a candidate has worked.

Reality: In addition to verifying past locations of employment, companies check many other sources of public information, such as an individual’s schooling, criminal and driving records.


Myth 4: Telling someone that you plan to use them as a reference isn’t necessary.

Reality: It is a professional courtesy to ask for someone’s permission before listing their name as a reference on your resume. Doing so alerts your references that they may be contacted in the near future about your job history. It also avoids the potential for confusion and resentment if they were to receive an unexpected call asking for this information.

Myths for Employers

Myth 1: Background checks are not always needed.

Reality: 18 percent of employers admitted to having hired the wrong candidate for the position due to the fact that a background check was not conducted. Even one bad hire can be an expensive mistake, costing companies $17,000 on average.

Myth 2: All background check systems are created equal.

Reality: It is crucial to ensure that selected background systems are accredited from the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). 29 percent of employers have made hiring mistakes because of inaccurate background information. In some cases, such mistakes can even lead to litigation.


Myth 3: All background check systems provide a good experience for candidates.

Reality: 65 percent of employers have never tested their own background check systems to observe what the candidate experience is like. Employers should endeavor to experience their own process first-hand and to seek direct feedback from candidates.


Myth 4: Background checks usually take 1 to 2 weeks.

Reality: Typically, background checks should be completed in less than five business days, but on average take between 24 and 72 business hours to complete. The longer the check takes to finish, the higher the risk of losing candidates because their information couldn’t be verified quickly enough.


In the world of job recruitment, employees and employers should heed the old proverb: “Trust, but verify.” While background checks might seem annoying, unnecessary or awkward, the reality is that they can provide important information to companies, helping them select the best candidates for a job.

On the other hand, it is also important for prospective employees to be aware of what employers are looking for when conducting a background check, and which mistakes may cost you the job.

For more on engineering job hunting, check out Winning Strategies to Land That Great Engineering Job.

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