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Clearing Your Path to a New Job
Getting a new job can be a full-time job. It can take months to progress from crafting your application to getting an offer. By the time you reach the last few hurdles, you’re daydreaming about shopping for a new work wardrobe and decorating your cubicle. Passing a background check is often one of those last hurdles, and it’s a nerve-wracking one. Luckily, HireRight, one the most-popular background check companies, has its system down to a science. Start lining up day care and trying on blazers—once your prospective employer orders a background check, it should receive your results within a few days.
The HireRight Timeline
If everything goes smoothly, HireRight should complete your background check within two to four days of receiving your information. It takes longer in certain cases. Any complications in your work history or HireRight’s ability to confirm your information will slow down the process. If you’ve worked, gone to school and/or lived outside the United States, it will likely take the company longer than four days to complete the background check. Court closures and procedures also slow down the process at times. HireRight estimates that 30 percent of the courts in the United States don’t make their records available online, so it has to employ court runners to pull the physical records for some job applicants.
The package that your prospective employer chooses also affects the timeline. HireRight’s most basic background check can be completed within one day. If the employer orders more services, such as a check of your driving record or verification that you’re not on a terrorist watchlist, the company may need more than a few days to complete everything.
How Many Years Back Does a Background Check Go?
It depends on what the employer orders. For standard background checks, HireRight typically goes back seven years. But if the employer opts for a more rigorous search, HireRight will go back even further than that. The company you’re applying to should be able to tell you how far back they ask HireRight to go.
Do Misdemeanors Stop You From Getting a Job?
Not necessarily. It’s true that some employers won’t hire an applicant with a criminal history, especially for jobs that involve handing money or working with children or sensitive information. The type of misdemeanor also affects your chances for getting certain jobs. A shoplifting charge may make it tough to get a job working in a store but not present a problem for working in a call center. A misdemeanor related to drugs or alcohol may make it impossible to get a job working in a school as a driver or in a job that requires you to operate heavy machinery.
Do Misdemeanors Stay on Your Record?
All misdemeanors remain on your criminal record, even the most minor class Cs. You may still be able to keep a prospective employer from learning about the charge, however. Some states allow individuals to have their records sealed if they meet certain criteria. For example, in New York, it’s possible to have your record sealed if you have no more than two misdemeanors and have committed no crimes within the previous 10 years. Each state also dictates who can access sealed records. Private employers usually can’t, but if you’re applying for a government job or one in which you would use firearms, expect the employer to find out about your misdemeanor.
How Should I Explain Misdemeanors to a Potential Employer?
First, make sure you have to disclose your misdemeanor. Some applications only ask about felony convictions, and some states have laws that prevent employers from asking applicants about criminal histories. In any case, never lie to an employer about your criminal history. If they learn that you’ve lied, even if it’s a lie of omission, you almost certainly won’t be hired.
The best practice is to assume that the topic will come up and prepare to address it. Practice giving a brief explanation of the situation and sharing any lessons you’ve learned. You might say something like, “I made a mistake when I was 19 and got a misdemeanor for shoplifting. It was out of character, and I realized right away that I didn’t ever want to break the law again, and I haven’t since.” One exception is if you were charged in relation to something like civil disobedience. In that case, you might use it as an opportunity to talk about your willingness to fight for causes you believe in.
It’s easy to bungle this tricky conversation when you’re under the stress of a job interview. Try role-playing the discussion with a friend until you feel comfortable.
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Kathryn has been a lifestyle writer for more than a decade. Her work has appeared on USAToday.com and Indeed.com.