Common pre-employment background check misconceptions

Entering or changing positions within the workforce can be daunting, and misconceptions regarding background checks within the hiring process can complicate things. Today, we’ll be looking at seven common misconceptions and explaining the truths behind them. Let’s dig in. 

1. A Criminal Record Means No Hire 

Granted, a criminal record reduces career opportunities, but certainly not to nil. In September 2021, the Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab wanted companies to hire low-level offenders to drive lorries amid the UK fuel crisis. People with a criminal record will likely be unable to enter the workforce in fields of security, management, politics, medicine, law and childcare because of the sensitive or high-risk nature of these fields. However, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission advocates against discrimination, and champions equality in hiring and within the workplace. There are many workplaces in which a criminal history can be understood and the applicant accepted.

2. Lying In a Résumé Can Cover Up Background Information 

Some job applicants think that they can throw background screeners off-track by misrepresenting themselves in their résumés. Examples of this can be adding a qualification they have not attained, using phony references, omitting criminal history etc. This is common amongst those who have had poor experiences with previous employers, or those who have criminal records. 

Lying on a résumé may seem easy, but any decent vendor will unveil the truth, and the applicant is guaranteed to be passed over. It’s simple: dishonesty in the workplace isn’t something any employer is looking for. If an applicant is found to have misrepresented themselves on their résumé to boost their chances, the discovery of this will lead to irreparable damage to their professional reputation and them missing out on the job. 

3. Social Media Profiles Are Off-Limits for Background Checks 

This is a common misconception, especially among job applicants with unsavoury online habits. They may assume that recruiters won’t check out their social media profiles. Although this may have been true in the past, recruiters are now sensitive about employees’ online behaviour, because they know this can impact their brand in one way or another. 

Currently, most background checks focus on criminal records, education or previous employment. However, some recruiters now ask background vendors to comb through applicants’ social media profiles. Any questionable behaviour such as abusive or profane posts and indecent pictures or videos can cause them to reconsider their hiring decisions. 

4. Background Checks Only Look for Criminal History 

There are many reasons a candidate might be unsuitable for a job, and a criminal history is only one of them. Adequate pre-employment screening should include immigration status, reference checking, educational background, job history and, depending on the nature of the employment, even driving record and credit history. 

5. Great References Negate the Need for Background Checks 

Great references are a brilliant tool to check whether a candidate might have adequate qualities for a role, but these must be thoroughly validated to ensure that they are factually correct. Favourable references alone are not enough to ensure that someone will be a great hire. 

6. Having No Background Check Policy in Place, or Not Using it for Every New Hire, is Okay 

Running a background check on a candidate being considered for one position and not on a candidate being considered for a similar position would be considered discriminatory and opens that employer up to legal recourse. 

7. An Applicant Cannot Question Background Check Findings 

Candidates have the right to appeal criminal record check findings through the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission if a mistake has been made. 

So, there we have it in a nutshell, those are the seven most common pre-employment background check misconceptions. For employers, some of the misconceptions can create avenues for lawsuits. For job applicants, these misconceptions can cause them to engage in behaviours which may reduce their chances of getting hired (e.g. lying on their résumé). Therefore, it is important that both employees and job seekers find out factual information about pre-employment background checks, not just for everyone’s safety, but to create a happy workplace.


For information about how you can find out more about pre-employment background checks, visit

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