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How to Follow Up on Background Check Clearances

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Dealing with background checks can seem intimidating, whether the goal is getting better mortgage terms, or a higher-paying job. Yet nothing feels more devastating when the outcome doesn't turn out well. However, there is some recourse, depending on their situation, if a background check has caused you problems. Knowing how your background information can be used is crucial to protecting your rights when you follow up on the results.

Check Yourself Out

Learn how background checks affect you. For example, employers can't base their hiring, firing or promotional decisions for applicants who file bankruptcy, according to financial analyst Liz Pulliam Weston. Similarly, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rules prohibit employers from using criminal records as the sole decision-making factor—unless they can cite a "business necessity," such as the nature and seriousness of the offense, or type of job being sought.

Hire an employment screening company, if possible, to run your own background check. The cost is $20 to $50, depending the records you want checked, and in how many states, Weston advises. Look under "Investigators" in your phone book, or do an Internet search. Type in phrases like "employment screening companies" to find them.

Know your Fair Credit Reporting Act rights if you still get turned down for a job. According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse's website (privacyrights.org) you're entitled to a written explanation of the reason, as well as a copy of the background check, and instructions for correcting errors that may still have cropped up.

Find out who did your background check. If the employer hired a third party, the Fair Credit Reporting Act allows you to dispute their findings, just as you'd do with a credit bureau, according to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. However, those same rights don't apply if the employer did their own background check. In that case, consult an attorney to determine the best options.

Dispute The Findings

Review public records at your local courthouse, and double-check them against the reasons expressed in your rejection notice, known as an adverse action letter. If the record turns out to be incomplete, or erroneous, ask the court staff how it can be corrected, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse recommends.

Contact the background check company if you come across inaccurate information. The company has 30 days to respond, and five business days to notify you of the results, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse says. Don't rely on the company to correct that information. You must contact the source of the inaccuracy to solve the problem. This may happen multiple times, depending on how many errors you encounter.

Consult an employment or consumer attorney for help with more complicated matters, such as losing a current job due to an error in a background check. More specialized help is also required if you wish to sue over erroneous information that costs you a job offer. For relevant advice, check with the National Employment Lawyers Association and the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

Tip

Don't expect a corrected report to save your prospects after you've been turned down for a job, because an employer isn't bound by that information.

Warning

Never lie about employment history. Verifying these details has become so routine for most employment screening companies that the process is now automated.

Never lie about academic credentials, including where you went to school, or claiming a nonexistent college degree. This is another detail that is easy for prospective employers to confirm.

About the Author

Ralph Heibutzki's articles have appeared in the "All Music Guide," "Goldmine," "Guitar Player" and "Vintage Guitar." He is also the author of "Unfinished Business: The Life & Times Of Danny Gatton," and holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University.

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