Preparing for a Background Check? Here's What You Need to Know

Preparing for a Background Check? Here's What You Need to Know
Jobstreet content teamupdated on 12 January, 2024
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Before buying something costly, we often read pages of reviews first to ensure we're getting our money's worth. Background checks for employers work in the same way. They ensure they're employing the right person before investing in you. A background check usually takes place after your interview. It verifies your credibility and makes sure you're a good fit for the workplace.

Whether you're preparing for the job hunting process or have just completed an interview, this article aims to help you understand and prepare for an employment background check:

What is a background check?

Employers conduct background checks during the hiring process to learn more about you. It helps them gauge your character and checks if you're the right fit for the role and the company. This pre-employment background check verifies your:

  • identity
  • residential address
  • educational background
  • employment history
  • criminal record

You may also need to provide other personal information during this process, depending on the nature of the job. This information helps the employer to: 

  • confirm the accuracy of your documents
  • recognise any conflicts that may arise
  • make fair and informed hiring decisions

Types of background checks

Pre-employment background checks can differ depending on the duties and responsibilities of the job you're applying for. It can involve one or several of the following:

Identity verification

This background check ensures that you're who you say you are. Employers use the personal information you provide to verify your identity. Details can include your full name, date of birth, contact number, and National Registration Identity Card (NRIC) or MyKad number.

Education verification

The company may also want to verify your educational background. For example, they may wish to confirm the education details you mentioned in your resumé by contacting your school. They may ask for a copy of your record or confirmation of your diploma, degree, or accreditations.

Employment verification

This type of background check for employers verifies your past employment. The hiring manager contacts your referees to learn about your previous performance and track record. They may also reach out to past employers listed in your resumé. They may enquire about:

  • how long you worked for them
  • your salary
  • your performance
  • your reasons for resigning

Criminal record

Criminal record checks assess the risks of employing you based on your criminal history. To do this, an employer may conduct a search via Polis Diraja Malaysia (Royal Malaysia Police) to determine if you've previously committed criminal activities. This is usually done through an employment background screening agency as criminal records are inaccessible to third parties. You won't be required to participate in the search. 

Address verification

Employers verify where you live by checking your current residential address. This verification aligns with the criminal record check. Knowing where you live can help the employer uncover any unknown background information. 

Can a background check affect employment?

man typing on laptop

Yes, a background check can affect your prospects of getting a job. This is because it usually reveals more personal details than you initially offer to an employer. They can also use this information to assess your suitability for the role. Based on this, employers may reject applications from job seekers who fail their employee background checks. Common rejections include the following:

Inconsistencies and false information on a resumé

You risk failing background checks if employers find incorrect information on your resumé. This can include issues with your employment history, education, or qualifications. Inaccurate information related to these issues may come across as dishonesty. Should they notice this, employers may contact you about any inconsistencies and confirm whether they're clerical mistakes. 

Unsatisfactory employment history

An employer can be wary of significant gaps in your employment history. They may ask for further information to explain these gaps. Another element in your employment history check is the duration of your previous roles. Job hopping is the act of switching jobs every six months or less. This can cause concern for employers that you're likely to resign after a short period.

Poor reviews from professional references or previous employers can also be a reason for rejection. One poor reference may not sway an employer. But several unsatisfactory remarks from previous employers can.

Pending criminal cases or past criminal records

 In Malaysia, all companies have the right to check the criminal histories of job applicants and make hiring decisions based on what they find. However, not all jobs need a clean criminal background check. Some employers may accept job seekers with criminal records. However, some roles that involve vulnerable people or having safety, security, or financial risks may need employees with no criminal history. This rule can apply to: 

  • teachers
  • security guards
  • bank officers
  • caregivers
  • school bus drivers

It's important to inform the employer of your background during your interview. This way, you can explain the circumstances.

Compromising social media activity

Employers may also do a background check online. With the majority of Malaysians spending nearly 20 hours a week on social media, your social media account can be a pool of information for employers to check. Avoid offensive content, previous work complaints, or posts during working hours. Check your online social media accounts and remove all the things that shouldn't be on your public social media. This can help reinforce your professional image.

Other reasons that a background check can affect employment include: 

  • poor credit history
  • poor financial records
  • failed drug screening
  • poor driving records

How much these records may affect a job application depends on the role. For example, if the role involves handling finances, a poor credit history may not help you get the job. A failed drug or alcohol test may not help if the job position involves operating heavy machinery. A poor driving record may hinder you from becoming a bus driver.

Legal requirements for background checks

In general, there's no law in Malaysia requiring employers to conduct background checks on prospective employees. However, Bank Negara Malaysia (Central Bank of Malaysia) has imposed regulations that make employment background checks mandatory for financial institutions. Regardless of their industry, employers must adhere to the Personal Data Protection Act 2010. As such, they're required to secure your consent before conducting a background check. Consent documents include: 

  • Personal data protection notice (written in English and Malay)
  • Intention of data collection
  • Method of processing the collected data
  • Your consent for the collection and processing of your data

What employers can ask about your background?

A background check doesn't mean the employer can access all your sensitive personal information. They can ask for documents that show the following:

  • your full name and a recent photo
  • your date of birth
  • your address
  • your educational degrees and other related information
  • your government-issued identity documents
  • your previous employer's name and contact information
  • your certificates showing work experience
  • your letters of recommendation

However, the law prohibits employers from discriminating against you because of the following:

  • your race or ethnicity
  • your gender
  • your place of birth
  • your descent
  • your religion

How long does a background check take?

woman writing

Identity verification usually takes a few hours. A more detailed background check may take a week or more. It may take longer if the employer is:

  • waiting for different government agencies
  • performing a manual check for specific records
  • unable to reach your previous employer, academic institutions, or references

Employers may contact you in the middle of this background screening if they need you to explain any inconsistencies. Once you pass the background check, employers may contact you about your application or recommend the next steps of the hiring process. This process ensures that their hiring decisions are fair and sound.

How to prepare for a background check

Here are some tips to help you prepare for a background report:

  • Review your digital footprint. Remove posts or engagements you prefer an employer not to see. Consider updating your account or swapping your photo with a professional one.
  • Be honest throughout the job application process. Don't hide details that may arise during employment background checks. Instead, discuss them with the employer and explain them.
  • Double-check your documents. Review your documents and make sure they contain accurate information.
  • Review possible questions. Background checks are usually similar for most job seekers. Review the important questions hirers ask during a pre-employment background check.
  • Contact and prepare referees. Inform the people providing your references about your application. They can then prepare to vouch for your character and work ethic.

If you're turned down for a job or promotion after a background check

Ask the employer why your background check failed if they haven't provided the reason. Then, you can check for errors such as:

  • mistaken identity
  • incorrect criminal records
  • past information that you may need to update

You can exercise your rights if you suspect the employer discriminated against you and violated employment laws. For example, you may consider filing a complaint with the  Ministry of Human Resources (MOHR) or via the Public Complaints Management System.

Third-party screening companies

Third-party screening services are available in Malaysia to help employers hire suitable people for vacant roles. They can conduct different types of background checks for the employer, such as identification verification, education verification, employment history verification, credit report checks, criminal record checks, and online or social media checks. However, these companies can vary in terms of quality and efficiency, so it's essential for employers to do proper research to find a reliable provider. A third-party background check company is used when: 

  • employers are hiring employees for many roles
  • the employer doesn't have the resources to conduct background checks themselves

Conclusion

A background check is a necessary pre-employment process that helps verify your information. It checks your identity, qualifications, and fit for a job. We hope this article equips you with the necessary steps to prepare you for a pre-employment background check. Remember to review your public social media accounts, ensure your personal documents are up-to-date, and inform your professional referees about your application. Most importantly, stay honest throughout the job application process. These all can help you prepare for your background check and get you closer to getting hired.

FAQs

  1. How long does a background check take?
    ⁠Employers can receive your identity verification in a few hours. A more detailed screening process can take around a week. If the employer is waiting for third-party agencies and government bodies to deliver important information, it may take even longer.
  2. Are background checks a requirement for all employees?
    ⁠There's no law in Malaysia that makes it mandatory for companies to perform background checks on prospective employees. However, background checks are compulsory for financial institutions, according to the regulations of the Central Bank of Malaysia. With that said, most companies may still conduct a background check at their own discretion as there’s no law preventing them from doing so. Should they decide to conduct a background check, the company must provide a personal data protection notice to the interviewee explaining the purpose of data collection, how the company will handle the collected data, etc. This is in accordance with the Personal Data Protection Act, 2010.
  3. Why do employers choose to use third-party screening companies for background checks?
    Employers use third-party screening companies to help them hire and conduct background checks on their behalf. This is especially true if the employer is hiring a high number of employees for multiple roles or doesn't have access to government data. 
  4. What should employers consider when selecting a third-party screening company?Employers should look for a company that strictly complies with federal laws relating to background checks. The company's reputation should be positive and follow the Personal Data Protection Act 2010. The third-party company should also be efficient and thorough in gathering accurate information. It's also important to look for a company that has experience in background screening and is familiar with industry regulations.
  5. What is the most common background check for employment?
    ⁠Common background check processes include criminal background checks and employment verification checks.
  6. Will background check results be communicated to job candidates?
    ⁠As an employer, it's important to allow the job seeker to explain the results of their background check, especially if there are inconsistencies. Employers should discuss any inconsistencies before making a hiring decision.

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