General Question

gorillapaws's avatar

Legality of online background checks to screen job candidates?

Asked by gorillapaws (24534points) April 14th, 2010

I was wondering what the rules are for investigating the backgrounds of job applicants.

Are you allowed to use online background check services? can you look into their credit history? is there a way to verify their past employers through their tax records? Criminal backgrounds?

Are these rules national? or is it a state-by-state thing. I’m mostly interested in the US, but I’d be interested to hear how other countries deal with this too. Thanks.

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7 Answers

PandoraBoxx's avatar

You can run a credit report, but you cannot check tax returns. You can also check an applicant’s online footprint, and about 78% of companies will google you and check your LinkedIn profile as part of the application process.

gorillapaws's avatar

So if someone omits working for x company on their resume, there’s no legal way of discovering this omission?

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@gorillapaws that’s going to show up on a credit report more often than not, unless the employment was somehow un-noticeably brief, under-the-table or some other unusual circumstance.

WestRiverrat's avatar

It depends a lot on what the job is too. I work at a school, so the state did the background check on me.

Pandora's avatar

Now in days, when people apply for jobs or credit or anything where a background check would be provided, their is usually something written on a form giving consent to the creditor, or future employer for them to legally obtain background information on you. If you don’t sign your name just below the consent box, then you be denied the job or credit since most of these things actually say this on the written consent form.
When I rented my home I had to get written consent and have it notarized to get credit information on the person on line. I’m not sure how creditable some agencies are but the good ones would require proof of consent. Otherwise everyone could be sued.
I think it may differ state to state. For instance, in NC. some of your personal information may be sold by the DMV unless you specifically asked for your information to be omitted to any 3rd party. I believe there was some opposition so I’m not sure if that law has changed. Phone companies can do the same unless you request your number to be put on a no call list with telemarketers.

marinelife's avatar

Here is what is included in a background check:

“Background reports can range from a verification of an applicant’s Social Security number to a detailed account of the potential employee’s history and acquaintances. There is even some evidence that employers are now searching popular social networking Web sites such as MySpace and Facebook for the profiles of applicants. An October 2007 survey from found that 44% of employers use social networking sites to obtain information about job applicants while 39% have searched such sites for information about current employees. Read about “digital dirt” and the jobseeking process at

Here are some of the pieces of information that might be included in a background check. Note that many of these sources are public records created by government agencies.

* Driving records
* Vehicle registration
* Credit records
* Criminal records
* Social Security no.
* Education records
* Court records
* Workers’ compensation
* Bankruptcy
* Character references
* Neighbor interviews
* Medical records
* Property ownership
* Military records
* State licensing records
* Drug test records
* Past employers
* Personal references
* Incarceration records
* Sex offender lists”

From Privacy Rights.

gorillapaws's avatar

@marinelife and everyone else, thanks for the info. That privacy rights site has tons of useful info.

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