Pre-employment background check

Employers can run different types of background checks. Criminal background checks, past employment and education verifications, reference checks, and drug screenings are a few examples. The type of check will depend on the company and job function. Some employers conduct in-depth reviews, and others only surface level pre-employment screening. We’ll explain what a background check is, how it’s done, how long it takes, and what employers usually look for - dive right into it!

What’s a background check?

A background check for employment is a process used by companies to verify whether a candidate is who they say they are. This process helps hiring managers confirm a person’s criminal history, education, employment history, and other activities from the past. The most common look-back period for a pre-employment screening is around 7 years, and the minimum is 5 years.

Let’s take an obvious example to give you a clear picture. If you want to become a police officer, it’s certain that they’ll do a thorough background check on your criminal background as well as a drug screening.

When does an employer do a background check?

96% of employers conduct at least one type of pre-employment screening. Typically, companies do a background check at the end of the first interview. Before they conduct the screening, they’ll let you know the specific areas they’ll look into. So, what do most employers look for in a background check? That would be your right to work, criminal record, and employment/education history.

After your background check has been done, you’ll be contacted for a follow-up interview. But of course, you’ll be wondering how the first interview went. Don’t know how to ask for feedback after your interview? Check out our tips.

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What do background checks show?

10 types of pre-employment screening that can pop-up in your background check:

Right to work check: This is a process that investigates whether a candidate has the right to work in the UK or not.

Criminal background check: A criminal background check can show any details of convictions and cautions from the Police National Computer (PNC).

Employment references: Hiring managers can confirm that you have the work experience stated on your CV by contacting previous employers. Try out our free CV maker to see how to include your past work experience and more.

Educational references: Like the employment check, education verification helps employers confirm whether you have the required knowledge, skills, and education.

Credit check: This is used as part of the background check in the financial sector. It’ll check whether you’ve committed fraud in the past, your financial situation, and more.

DVLA check: Anyone that applies for a driver job has to go through a DVLA check. It’ll show licence validity, disqualification, licence expiry date, vehicles types a candidate can drive, and more.

Social media screening: Most employers do a check on social media; it’s free and easy to find. However, people may have their profiles on private, or just simply don’t share much on their socials.

Medical checks: These are done especially in roles that require a good bill of health. They can ask you for a copy of your medical health report, or require that you do a medical check-up.

International sanctions: International sanction checks detects whether an applicant is affiliated with terrorism, animal rights, money laundering, drug trafficking, etc.

Sanctions checks: UK employers that want to hire a candidate who owned or operated a company in the past has to go through this check.

85% of employers catch at least one candidate fibbing on their CV. So, most employers will check your job references to avoid being tripped up. How? They’ll create a reference check form with questions to ask previous employers. If you don’t have any work experience, they could contact your uni or ask for evidence (your diploma).A job in finance can require a credit check; so, at the end of the day, it really depends on your function.

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How long does a background check for a job take?

A standard background check normally takes around 2 to 5 days. If the hiring managers encounter any issues, like information that doesn’t add up to what you said, it might take longer. If this occurs, the time frame could be extended up to 30 days.

As long as you're open and honest, you shouldn’t be worried about companies doing background checks. You’ll be fine! At least you now know what they’ll be looking at during your pre-employment screening.

Background checks: in short

Background checks are a process used by employers to check whether the information on an applicant’s CV is true. Companies conduct pre-employment screening on applicants before the hiring process ends. Furthermore, a background check usually takes around 2 to 5 days. However, the waiting time can be extended up to 30 days if any issues arise.

There are 10 types of screening employers have the right to do. But, the most common ones are: education, employment, criminal background, and right to work checks.

As long as you’re being honest and open during your interview, you’ll be golden. If you need some tips on how to do this, check out our tips and tricks for interviews. Maybe you know how to express what you want, except when it comes to salary. If you want to become a guru in negotiating the salary you deserve, check out our article.

After the background checks are done, the hiring manager will contact you to either give you a job offer, or have a follow-up interview.

FAQs about background checks

  • How far back do background checks go in the UK?

  • A background check can go as far as 7 years. The minimum number of years that an employer will look back into your past is 5.

  • Why do employers conduct background checks?

  • Employers conduct pre-employment screenings to avoid hiring candidates that are not qualified for the job, or to avoid risks of fraud.

  • Do employers check social media?

  • Most employers do check social media, because it’s free and easy to access.

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