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  1. Career Advice
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  3. Everything you need to know about a third-party background check for a new job
Everything you need to know about a third-party background check for a new job
Profile Jennifer Inglis

Jennifer Inglis

Everything you need to know about a third-party background check for a new job

Artwork by: Antonina Kasyanikova

  • What is a third-party background check?
  • Why companies run third-party background checks
  • What information is included in a third-party background check?
  • Ways to prepare for a third-party background check
  • Key takeaways

Third party background checks are nothing to be afraid of. In this article, we’ll demystify the process and discuss everything you can expect when you’re facing a background check — no private investigators required!

You did it! You got the job! Then the HR recruiter says, “We’re going to do a background check just to make sure everything is in order.” If you’ve never dealt with that before, it sounds scary — do they hire an investigator? Is the FBI involved? Will they care that you stole a candy bar from the corner store when you were six? Take a moment to relax, because it isn’t scary, and you won’t be hunted down by the “feds.” 

In this article, we'll discuss everything you need to know about a third-party background check, including:

  • What is a third-party background check?

  • Why companies use a third-party background check

  • What’s included in a third-party background check?

  • Ways you can prepare for a background check for a new job

What is a third-party background check?

Basically, a third-party background check is a process in which the employer hires an external company or service provider to conduct a comprehensive investigation into an individual's personal, professional, and sometimes criminal history. It’s a way for the companies to make sure you haven’t misrepresented yourself, and that you won’t present a liability. They’ll provide the potential employer with information on your educational background, job history, criminal record, and credit history. As 92 percent of companies utilize background checks, chances are you’ll have one run at some point in your career.

Why companies run third-party background checks

Beyond verifying your identity, there are a whole slate of reasons why a company might utilize third parties to run a background check instead of doing it themselves.

They don’t have the resources

Background checks take time and specialized skills, and it’s often more efficient to outsource. Most organizations find that specialized agencies are quicker and more accurate, as they are experts in local and federal employment laws and regulations. This allows human resources to spend their time recruiting candidates and conducting interviews.

It provides legal protection

If a company makes a mistake during a background check, they risk racking up significant legal fees. It’s more cost-effective to utilize a third party to shield the employer from lawsuits stemming from privacy issues, possible defamation, or negligence.

It instills a sense of trust

A lot of potentially sensitive data might be collected during a background check. By using a third party, employers can demonstrate that they value people’s privacy and take the appropriate measures to protect their information.

What information is included in a third-party background check?

While it depends on the type of background check being run, the information gathered by the third party can run the gamut from employment history to criminal history. Some things that are often on background checks include:

  • Where you’ve lived

  • Places you’ve worked

  • Where you went to school, including degrees or certifications earned

  • If you were in prison

  • Any convictions you have, for either felonies or misdemeanors.

  • Arrest record

  • Civil judgments

Expert Tip

You might be wondering, “How can I get around a background check?” Short answer? You can’t. According to a recent survey, 78 percent of candidates who received a job offer in the last six months admit they did (or would consider) lying on their resume or in their interview. Companies can’t risk hiring someone who doesn’t have the skills or background for the job, so it’s in their best interests to be thorough.

Ways to prepare for a third-party background check

If you’re concerned about a background check, don’t stress out. There are steps you can take to make sure it goes smoothly and doesn’t toss up any red flags for a potential employer. 

Be open and honest

It may benefit you to be proactive and let the company know about any potential issues ahead of time. This way you can give context to your situation so that they don’t disqualify you for the job. Depending on the circumstances, it may not negatively impact your chances. 

Make sure you know about potential drug screening

If your background check includes a drug screening (which you’ll know about ahead of time), research what types of substances they're looking for to prevent issues. If you have any regular prescriptions, let them know ahead of time and get documentation from your doctor.

Know the law

You need to be aware of any rights and regulations surrounding your potential employment, such as residency requirements, which are common for city or federal employees. Also, employers have to get your permission before running a background check. You have the right to say no, but be aware that it might cost you the job.

Check your credit history

If your credit is less than stellar, an employer might take you out of the running for a job. Review your credit history with any of the major credit bureaus beforehand, and you’ll be able to check for any possible inaccuracies and correct them (this might even improve your credit score).

Give your references a heads-up

Some third-party background checks include a reference check. If you inform your references in advance that they might be getting a phone call, it will give them a chance to prepare their answers so that they have them ready (and increase the chances that they’ll pick up the phone).

Expert Tip

Know your rights.

Be aware that there are certain things an employer is not allowed to check, such as your medical background. According to the FTC, employers also can't ask for extra information due to your race, or because you've filed discrimination complaints against a previous employer. The EEOC has a slate of federal laws designed to protect you against employment discrimination because of different protected categories.

Remember, a third-party background check is really nothing to worry about. If you've done your prep work, you'll know that the information that's collected is fair and accurate, and it will help show the company you are who you say you are, eliminating any possible red flags.

Ready to take the next step in your career? Check out our Job Search, Salary Analyzer, and Career Pathway services to get you where you want to go.

Key takeaways

  1. A third-party background check is an examination of a potential employee performed sometime during the interview process by an impartial third party.

  2. Third-party background checks allow the companies to make sure you haven’t misrepresented yourself, and that you won’t present a liability.

  3. Before a background check, you can let the company know of any errors on your resume, do a credit check on yourself, and educate yourself on laws regarding what information the employer can gather.

Profile Jennifer Inglis

Jennifer Inglis

Jennifer Inglis is a freelance writer and content creator. A former public school teacher, she has expertise with English literature, writing, and public speaking, as well as an extensive professional background in advertising and media analysis. Jennifer has a bachelor’s degree in Theater and a master’s degree in Education, and is the author of two published novels.

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