What Does HR Find out in a Background Check?

I was reading a bit about your knowledge related to employment background checks.

If I sued an employer, would this come up in a background check?

I believe, from struggles I had that myself seeking employment, that I may have been possibly discriminated against by the mere legal Right & “freedom I had” to sue based on past employment violations.

My question to you is, am I alone? This information made public&  is a background check in its own Right, & creates a certain barrier by this burden.

I hope my question is not to “legal like,” but also by way of requesting a response to that possible employer why I was NOT hired what I should be asking for to reinforce this possible theory of mine?

The insight will be very helpful and a strategy as if I can do something to better my chances in this Covid 19 reality.

First of all, a reality check. There may be a zillion people hiring out there, but it doesn’t matter if they aren’t hiring for what you do. Anyone can walk in off the street and get a restaurant job these days, but if you’re looking for a job as a senior marketing specialist, it’s going to be a bit of a struggle. So, don’t panic.

Second, reality check, people aren’t doing background checks before they interview you. No one has that type of extra time.

Third, unless you worked in a small industry and had a spectacular blow-up at your employer that you sued, there isn’t a blacklist. (Some small industries or small towns certainly can be impossible to get back into if you gained a bad reputation. But this isn’t because HR keeps a list.)

Fourth, you would know that the background check was causing the problems if you were getting offers that were then yanked after the background check. (Most companies do background checks after the offer, with the offer contingent on the background check.)

So, to be clear, I don’t think your past lawsuit (whatever it may be) is causing difficulty in gaining a job. But to be sure, I conducted a completely unscientific survey of the HR people at the Evil HR Lady Facebook group.

This is unscientific because people have to

  1. Opt into the group
  2. Opt into the survey
  3. And I don’t for a minute believe that people who join a group of HR people online that is focused on making HR the best it can contain a representative sample of all HR people. I think our group is considerably above average as far as HR people are concerned.

And here’s what I learned

  1. Almost everyone does criminal background checks
  2. About half do a pass/fail drug test
  3. A little less than half do a degree and previous job verification
  4. About 20 percent do reference checks with former managers/coworkers.
  5. Out of the 1500 people who saw the survey, only three said they ever receive any information about previous lawsuits.

So, while it’s possible that someone, somewhere, is looking at your lawsuits, it’s a rare thing.

Yes, recruiters google people. So, if you have a unique name. It’s more likely that they will find out. I did Google you, and yes, your lawsuit is the first thing that pops up under your name. (I presume it’s you!) There are no sordid details, though, just that your case was dismissed. Also, it was five years ago.

This isn’t preventing you from working. It could be your resume. It could be your interview skills. If you’ve been out of work since this case, it could be the employment gap, but it’s not likely to be your lawsuit.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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5 thoughts on “What Does HR Find out in a Background Check?

  1. I’d like to add to your suggestion that “interview skills” might be a factor for this person’s struggles to be hired. I’ve found that, plenty of times, an applicant I’m interviewing misreads my warmth & friendliness as being someone who will be sympathetic to his/her perceived injustices from former employers. If I even hear a single sentence of sour grapes from the interviewee, like “poor me” or “i wasn’t treated fairly” or anything else that sounds like drama or whining, I’ll nod empathetically but then send a rejection letter the next day. (Short of the interviewee telling me a story of truly horrible and/or illegal behavior by their former employer, of course.)

    1. I agree; it’s not likely to be the lawsuit, especially if OP is getting interviews. I would definitely make sure interview skills are as sharp as they can be.

      The last time I was in college, a woman in her early fifties I’ll call Jane was assigned to a class project with me and another student I’ll call Sue. Jane had a work comp lawsuit against her former employer. She thought it was maybe one reason she wasn’t finding a job (along with age discrimination, unfairness, blah blah blah). After spending an inordinate amount of time trying to do anything with her and failing, I figured it was probably her attitude, which was extraordinarily bad. In fact, she was so recalcitrant and hard to work with that Sue and I had to abandon the group part of the project and the instructor graded us separately. I imagine Jane got a zero. I also imagine her frustration and drama came across quite strongly in any interviews she had.

      I’m in a long-term period of unemployment myself and I know it’s tough. It’s hard not to let that bleed into cover letters and interviews. I’m not saying that’s your issue, OP. Just be careful that you are as positive as possible when interacting with potential employers. Focus on the job and why your skills would be a good fit. And good luck.

  2. This was unique situation but it does boil down to presence on social media which is a big factor involved in disclosing activity and viewpoints of an individual that doesn’t show up in an interview or resume or employment check. The former employer didn’t post that Google information but the antics(however the issue) of the individual forced the issue into public view, which happens even if this was a whistleblower situation, This individual must be prepared to be prepared to give a reasonable explanation if directly asked and may have to voluntarily disclose the occurrence to allow the potential employer to understand the why. I highly doubt that when given fuller facts than a Google notation, they would automatically reject the individual, because we all know that most information on the internet is not necessarily the entire story. It will allow a better conversation to occur about the job expectations and the potential individual fitting in to the role.
    Now no job is a perfect fit but both sides should feel comfortable enough to blend together, plus the potential employer wants to know that the potential employee is comfortable with the method of communication within the company for a problem issue and won’t skip the process by suing the company instead. I feel this is the problem upfront—and it is up to this individual to persuade potential employers that they are not looking to find a reason to sue but to find a place to work. They created their persona by whatever issue they sued for, so now they have to include that information as a positive.

  3. You are so nice! How amazingly kind of you to ease her pain and look into her concerns. I wish every HR person I met was as empathetic and caring as you. It is usually the opposite.

  4. Hey,

    What an insightful post! 🙂

    HR’s typically read and talk about a lot of material when it comes to employee background checks but what it actually entails and the process how it’s carried out.. ACTUALLY is quite different than what one can imagine.

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