"I think more people are doing background checks because expectations have risen as to what an employer has to do to meet expectations of the public," says Chris Lemens, executive vice president of BackgroundChecks.com "And with information so readily available these days, you want to be sure that what they find is the truth."
"Just like credit reports, background checks sometimes show false positives," says Rob McGovern, founder of CareerBuilder.com and CEO of JobFox.com. "If there is misinformation, you want to set the record straight."
If you're looking for a job or considering running a background check on yourself, here are a few things you need to know.
Don't turn in a background check with your resume. This may seem like it's proactive behavior, but some employers could get suspicious. "Using it as a peace of mind tool is better than using it as a marketing tactic on your resume," says McGovern.
Plus, if you give an employer your own background check, there's no proof it's authentic, says Richard Krissinger of InfoTrack Background Screening. "A company has to do their own background checks to be sure of the source," he says.
An employer can't do a background check on you without your written permission. "In order to use criminal background data for pre-employment purposes, you have to have authorization from the potential employee," Krissinger says.
Background checks will differ depending on the job at stake. "If you want to work with children, they will check your criminal background," Lemens says. "And if you're considering a job that requires operating heavy machinery, you don't want to have a DUI on your record. But it doesn't make sense for an employer to do a check on your driving record if you're applying to be a cashier."
It can be affordable. Fees for background checks can be as low as $2 to validate a Social Security number, and can exceed $200 if you're checking criminal records. "I use a company that charges $25 per search," says Cathy Wolfson, owner of 2BU Studios, a multimedia playground for kids.
Arrests won't decrease your chances of getting hired. "From a legal standpoint, you can't decide not to hire somebody because of an arrest," Lemens says. "We do grading for a lot of our clients and none of them — zero percent — say they look at arrests. They are only interested in convictions."
Come clean about your past. "It's not what you want to lead with during the interview process, but at the end when they ask, 'Do you have any other questions?', that's the time to disclose this," Lemens says. "And whatever you do, don't lie. Once they find out you lie, there's no saving you."