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Your past can determine your future when you're the subject of a background investigation. Many employers utilize background checks when considering candidate applications. They are also required when becoming an attorney, and the federal government conducts investigations when deciding whether to grant security clearances. Most background checks include an interview with the investigator. In preparing for the process, it's useful to know what types of questions to expect.
Employment and Education
Employers will likely address your education and employment history in a background investigation. Your interviewer will collect information about every school you have attended. Expect that your answers will be checked with school officials to ensure you reported accurate credentials. You will also provide information about your employment history, including a business name, a contact person and contact information for every job you have ever held. Your interviewer will want to discuss your work duties and details about your separation from each position. If you have ever been fired, be prepared to discuss the reasons.
Depending on the investigating agency, the interviewer may inquire about your financial status, including your assets and outstanding debts. The investigator obtains your credit report and reviews it with you during the interview. Be prepared to explain any unpaid debts and your efforts at repayment. If you have filed for bankruptcy in the past, obtain an official copy of the discharge from the court where you filed.
Be prepared to discuss any involvement with the justice system. Most interviewers only want to know about your criminal history. However, interviewers sometimes ask about civil matters, including debt collections, evictions, divorces and custody cases. For criminal history, your interviewer will want to know your charges and whether you were convicted. He may also ask about your sentence and rehabilitation since the conviction. The agency will conduct extensive criminal background investigations, so it is best to provide accurate information.
To Your Health
Health is a consideration in some background investigations. If you are applying for a position where certain physical abilities are required, the interviewer may ask questions about your health history. You will be asked to disclose any illegal drug usage or involvement in drug rehabilitation programs. Your interviewer may also request information about your general consumption of alcohol. Security clearance investigations include your mental health. Though the U.S. Office of Personnel Management asserts that mental illness alone cannot be used to deny a security clearance, you will likely be asked about any treatment for psychiatric issues. Your interviewer will request names of any doctors who have treated you, as well as any inpatient care you have received.
Family and Friends
Though general background checks do not involve your acquaintances, security clearance interviewers will ask about your family members and close friends. The interviewer will ask for names and contact information for these individuals. Depending on the level of government clearance sought, the hiring agency may conduct a limited investigation into the background of your spouse and other family members.
Erika Winston is a Washington, D.C.-based writer, with more than 15 years of writing experience. Her articles have appeared in such magazines as Imara, Corporate Colors E-zine and Enterprise Virginia. She holds a Juris Doctor degree from Regent University and a Masters in public policy from New England College.