Excerpted from a Forbes Article by Ginny Hogan

Great news—you’ve landed the job! Or at least, someone wants to hire you. Just one teensy tiny thing. They’re going to do a pre-employment background check.

You don’t need to panic—they’re not going to call your college roommate to ask if you ever smoked weed. At least, I don’t think they will. But it’s not always clear what happens when an employer undertakes a background check. I’ve had jobs where they went dark for a month, and I assumed they dug up some piece of information they didn’t like (I’ve tweeted a lot).

It’s scary to know someone is investigating you, especially if you don’t know what exactly they’re looking into. Fortunately, I have all the information you need about the dreaded pre-employment background check.

What Is a Pre-Employment Background Check?

pre-employment background check is a process employers conduct to verify the information provided by job applicants. The purpose of a pre-employment background check is to minimize the risk of hiring someone who may pose a threat to the workplace, is unqualified for the position, or has a history of bad behavior that could later cause problems for the employer. Basically, it’s to confirm you are the person you reflected on your job application.

Components of a Pre-Employment Background Check

The specific components of a background check vary based on the employer’s policies. For example, government positions can require extensive background checks that take months before the employee is cleared to begin working. I’ve had any number of freelance jobs that only checked to confirm my Twitter following is what I claimed it was. It’s up in the air.

In general, the trick to passing the background check is not to lie on your application. To give you a sense of what they’ll be looking into, here are some of the more common parts:

What If They Find Something?

If an employer finds an offense on your pre-employment background check, all hope is not lost. It ultimately comes down to the nature of the offense and the employer’s policies. Some employers may have strict policies against hiring candidates with certain types of criminal records, while others may take a case-by-case approach and consider factors such as the nature of the offense, how much time has passed, and whether it’s relevant to the job. If you have a criminal record, there are steps you can take to mitigate its impact, like obtaining a certificate of rehabilitation or expungement. This can help you pass a pre-employment background check.

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