What To Expect from a Pre-Employment Screening

Updated March 10, 2023

Many employers will conduct pre-employment screenings before they send you a job offer. Potential employers will typically perform a screening sometime during the interview process to assist in their hiring decision. There are a variety of screenings potential employers can use to get a thorough understanding of your background. In this article, we will explain what pre-employment screening is and how you can prepare for it.

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What is pre-employment screening?

Also sometimes called a “background check,” a pre-employment screening is a verification of your information and background. Employers can use screenings to determine if you can handle sensitive or confidential information and to assess skills that are relevant to the position.

Depending on the job, employers can conduct one or more of these common pre-employment screens:

  • Social security number (SSN) tracing is used to find all of the names, date of birth and addresses associated with that SSN. This trace makes it possible for employers to find areas to search for additional records.

  • Criminal history screenings check records in various local, state, national, federal and even international databases. Some criminal history screenings may require you to submit your fingerprints.

  • Public records screenings can search motor vehicle records, driving history, credit history, bankruptcy records, workers’ compensation records, civil records and sometimes medical records.

  • Verifications and credentials screenings check the accuracy of your education or degree received, previous employment, professional certifications or licenses, professional references and military service records.

  • Controlled substance screenings are conducted by a health care provider to ensure your employment complies with company-wide policies on illicit substances.

  • Lie detector or polygraph tests can only be required by companies that provide security services or manufacture or distribute controlled substances.

  • Pre-employment assessments are tests your potential employer may ask you to take to determine your abilities as they relate to the role.

Read More: Q&A: What’s Included in an Employment Background Check?

How to prepare for pre-employment screening

Use these six steps to prepare for any pre-employment screening your potential employer might require:

  1. Run a background check on yourself.

  2. Report inaccurate information.

  3. Notify your references.

  4. Be honest.

  5. Review your social media.

1. Run a background check on yourself

Ordering background checks on yourself will help you determine what potential employers might observe on your records. Depending on the job, you may want to obtain records from different sources. For example, if you are applying for a position as a delivery driver, consider requesting your driving and motor vehicle records to ensure the information is accurate.

2. Report inaccurate information

Pre-employment screenings can occasionally produce incorrect data if something was improperly filed. If you discover inaccurate information in your screening, you should report it immediately to the proper authority. You can also notify your potential employer that the screen is incorrect and offer proof of inaccuracy if possible. For example, if you have a common name, a hiring manager may request a report that produces someone else’s information. To prevent this from happening, verify your SSN, current address and employment history with a potential employer before they ask for a report.

3. Notify your references

As part of a screening, a potential employer may contact your references. You should inform your referees that they should expect a phone call or email from a representative of the company. Notifying your referees can help them prepare for a conversation in which they can accurately verify your work history. Provide your referees with your most recent resume and the job description so they have context for the conversation.

4. Be honest

If there is something in your history that could potentially remove you from the application process, address it with the hiring manager, and explain how you are taking steps to improve. Being honest will demonstrate your trustworthiness to potential employers.

5. Review your social media

Sometimes, recruiters will review your social media accounts during the hiring process. Examine your personal accounts and change your privacy settings if there’s any information that you would prefer to keep private.

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Types of pre-employment assessments

Some employers may distribute pre-employment tests. These are objective, standardized ways of gathering information about your ability to perform in the workplace. Common pre-employment assessment types include:

  • Personality tests identify your personality traits. These results can help your employer determine if you fit into the workplace culture, and certain traits can indicate better performance in certain roles. For example, salespeople tend to be extroverted and assertive.

  • Skills tests measure hard and soft skills. Testing for soft skills can include questions to determine your ability to effectively communicate or problem solve. Questions about hard skills will usually relate to the role. For example, a test for a computer programmer could include questions about a specific coding language.

  • Aptitude tests can measure a wide variety of cognitive abilities, but the most common tests assess critical thinking, attention to detail or the ability to learn and apply new information.

  • Job knowledge tests measure your technical or theoretical expertise in a specific field, such as marketing techniques or accounting principles.

  • Integrity tests determine your reliability by asking questions about ethics in the workplace. Common questions include, “Do you often agree with your employer’s policies?” or, “Do you think it is sometimes acceptable to take a long lunch?”

  • Emotional intelligence tests show how well you develop relationships and understand emotions, which are abilities you may need in a variety of positions. These tests may ask you to respond with “Agree” or “Disagree” to statements like, “I accept responsibility for my actions,” or “I consider the impact of my decisions on other people.”

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