March 4th, 2022 | Sterling

Background Checks for Employment: What Job Seekers and Employers Need to Know About Resume Fraud

Resume fraud is a concern both for job seekers and employers. Here’s what you need to know.

A resume is the first opportunity a job seeker has to leave a lasting impression on their potential employer — and according to a recent survey, some are more willing than others to gain an edge through less savory means, if it results in getting their foot in the door.

According to the Monster Future of Work: 2021 Outlook survey, 66% of hiring employers agreed that candidates exaggerate or even lie about skills and competencies listed on their resume, while 44% say that candidates stretch the truth about other aspects, such as dates of employment, reason for leaving, or even job title. But even if these exaggerations aren’t uncovered during the interview process, the truth is likely to come out during background checks for employment. With this in mind, what do job seekers and employers need to know about resume fraud, and how can both groups help make certain they know their rights during the background check process?

What are Background Checks for Employment?

A background check for employment is another step in the pre-employment background check. The separate components of a pre-employment check help organizations get a better overall picture of their candidates and give them the insight they need to make an informed hiring decision. Background checks for employment can add to that insight.

In addition to a background check and education check, background checks for employment services contact the past employer’s human resources and payroll departments to make sure that the candidate’s information is both factual and without personal bias. These types of background checks compare information on the resume against information directly from the source to see if there are differences in prior positions held, job titles, dates of employment, and reasons for leaving. By cross-referencing this information with details provided by a candidate, employers will both verify the candidate’s work experience — and depending on how it matches up against what’s listed on the candidate’s resume — gain some early insight into their integrity.

Job seekers take note: this is one of the main ways employers can help determine if their candidates are actually who they claim to be! Since any discrepancy found on your resume during the application process is likely to get your resume moved to the bottom of the pile, it’s best to be as truthful as possible when listing your credentials.

What is Needed for a Background Check for Employment?

The surest way for job seekers to prove that their credentials are valid is to first learn exactly what documents they’ll need to present to employers during a background screen. The exact information needed for a background check for employment will vary depending on a company’s needs and the role’s responsibilities. Some companies will require more detail about employment background, depending on the role they are hiring for. But in general, in addition to the information a candidate provides for a criminal record check (social security number, birthday, any known alias, current and past addresses, and driver’s license number) a candidate may be asked to provide the following information during a background check for employment:

  • The name, address, and contact information of past employers
  • Dates of employment at previous employers

If past employers cannot be reached, some companies will request proof of employment through a W2 or a pay stub from a previous employer — although this will vary based on local laws.

Do You Have the Right to Know the Results of Your Background Check?

Third-party background check companies are regulated by federal, state, and local laws. At the federal level, background checks for employment are regulated by Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) guidelines.

The FCRA requires companies to disclose their intention to perform a background check on an applicant, and first obtain authorization prior to performing the background check. This must be made clear beforehand, and authorization should be obtained in writing. The job seeker also has a right to know the results of that background check regardless of whether or not it results in a rescinded offer: “(Even) If the employer thinks it might not hire or retain you because of something in the report, it must give you a copy of the report and a ‘notice of rights’ that tells you how to contact the company that made the report.” This gives the job seeker the opportunity to fix any unintentional errors, such as mistakes in data entry.


There are many aspects to a background screen — from criminal record checks to education and background checks for employment. Naturally, each company will require different checks for the positions they’re filing. With this in mind, you can get an early step ahead of other candidates by first understanding exactly what information you need to have prepared for your background check in order to help reduce the turnaround time. Knowing your rights as an applicant can provide you with added transparency: remember that you can choose to view the results of your check if you believe it was conducted unfairly, or if you’d like to see the detailed report for yourself.

It’s important for job candidates to know that even outside of a background check, exaggerations on their resume will likely be surfaced somewhere in the hiring process — and that it is important to be honest and open from the beginning of the process in order to build trust with their potential employer, as well as avoid potentially larger consequences down the road. For other questions about the background check process, check out our candidate FAQs and client FAQs.

Sterling is not a law firm. This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.