December 26, 2012

Background Checks

Dear Consumer Ed: 

I was turned down for a job because my application responses did not match the background check.  I want to see what information came up on me. Where can I get ahold of the same background information that businesses pull?

Consumer Ed says: 

You haven’t said what type of job you applied for and, since different businesses have different practices, it’s impossible to identify exactly what your potential employer searched for or took into consideration in deciding not to hire you.  However, following are some ways you can find the information that a potential employer may have seen when conducting your background check:

  • Order a copy of your credit report.  TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, the three nationwide credit reporting companies, are required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months upon request.  To order, visit or call 1-877-322-8228. Please note that because of the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the three credit reporting agencies are now offering free weekly credit reports through December 31, 2022;
  • If you have a criminal record, have been involved in court cases, and/or have been adjudicated bankrupt, visit the courthouse where any proceedings took place and inspect and copy the pertinent files;
  • Obtain a copy of your driving record from the Georgia Department of Driver Services;
  • Hire a company that performs background checks to conduct one for you, upon you;
  • Ask neighbors and work colleagues if your potential employer contacted them, and what information was requested;
  • Conduct a search using your name through the major search engines online;
  • If you have created profiles on social networking websites, review those profiles;
  • Ask to see a copy of your personnel file from a previous or current job; and/or
  • Request previous background check reports that your employers conducted.

Generally speaking, several different pieces of information are accessible to potential employers when they perform background checks.  The Georgia Crime Information Center (“GCIC”) is authorized to make criminal history records available to private businesses when the businesses provide your fingerprints or provide your signed consent.  The GCIC can make criminal records available without your fingerprints or consent when the identifying information provided is sufficient to identify you and when the records are requested electronically.  This only applies to the electronic dissemination of criminal history records for in-state felony convictions, pleas, and sentences.  Additionally, the military may disclose your name, rank, salary, duty assignments, awards and duty status without your consent.  On the other hand, a potential employer must obtain your written consent and notify you in writing in order to run a credit check on you, as per the Fair Credit Reporting Act. 

The following are additional pieces of information that could be included in a background check, especially since some of the information is public record:  

  • Driving records
  • Court records
  • Workers' compensation
  • Bankruptcy
  • Character references
  • Neighbor interviews
  • Property ownership
  • State licensing records
  • Past employers
  • Personal references

There are certain pieces of information that will not be included in your background check.  Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, educational records such as transcripts, recommendations, and financial information are confidential and will not be released by the school without your consent.  The Employee Polygraph Protection Act prohibits most private employers from using lie detector tests, either for pre-employment screening or during the course of employment. The law includes a list of exceptions that apply to businesses that provide armored car services, alarm or guard services, or those that manufacture, distribute, or dispense pharmaceuticals.  Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers cannot discriminate based on a physical or mental impairment or request your medical records. Businesses can, however, inquire about your ability to perform specific job duties.

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