Regardless of what statistics show about the American job market, competition is still tough in top industries like finance, law and other white-collar positions. That’s why internships have become a necessity for college students. These entry-level positions not only offer a foot in the door, but they are also critical teaching tools for how to look, act, speak, and conduct yourself in a professional setting.

Employers Point of View

While screening candidates for part-time and full-time employment positions is de rigeur for many businesses, interns are often treated differently. They shouldn’t be. Interns, like any other employee, should be required to pass some sort of background check before entering your workplace. Why? They have access to almost everything a regular employee does, are privy to proprietary conversations and information, and are often left to their own devices while performing menial tasks.

This is a perfect recipe for a conniving intern to take advantage of the situation. Consider this: An example from the Seattle Times shows how a 17-year-old intern at Tacoma Public Utilities was able to steal about $90,000 worth of equipment in six months with the help of two accomplices.

Furthermore, if your intern will be working with children, the elderly or other vulnerable populations; personal identifying information; financial data; or in security like law enforcement, they absolutely MUST be screened for everyone’s protection.

If you’re considering on-boarding an international student intern, you should definitely conduct a criminal background check against police records in their home country. (Many countries, however, won’t make this information available. Read our post on International Background Checks here).

Don’t forget a social media check, too. This is a great way to peak into someone’s life to make sure they’re the right cultural fit for your company, and to see if there are any inconsistencies between your intern’s resume and his/her profile. Social screening is an important tool and should be used on EVERY job candidate, from CEOs to full-time employees and interns. There are rules to follow when social screening, though, so read this post to make sure you’re staying on the right side of the law when doing it. 

Interns Point of View

If you think interns aren’t afraid of background checks, think again. They are VERY AWARE that they may be screened and eliminated before they even get a chance to prove themselves in the workplace. Here are some of the most common fears interns have about background checks:

  • I have no employment history. Will that be a knock against me?
  • I didn’t list a couple of small jobs I had (like a fast food and retail gig) on my resume because I left after a month for each one. Will this seem like I’m lying or disloyal?
  • I have no credit.
  • I have a criminal record.
  • I’ve done an unpaid internship before but it was “off the books.” Can I still put this on my resume?

So, here’s what you need to know if you’re looking to secure an internship.

Yes, many employers will conduct a background check on you. If you’re worried about what they’ll find, you have options. One, read up on background checks; find out what information is pulled and what legal rights you have. Two, run a background check on yourself. If you find errors, take steps to correct them. Three, if you do have a record, don’t despair. Read up on Ban The Box and see if you can get it expunged. Four, don’t lie about your criminal record. Be honest and tell your employer what you learned from the experience.

Good credit is important for many jobs and plenty of employers use credit reports as a measure of your responsibility and trustworthiness to perform a job. Having no credit doesn’t disqualify you as a candidate, but should be an important reminder that you need to start generating some credit. If you’re not sure if you have a credit history or credit score, you are entitled to one free credit report every 12 months.

If you’re on social media (and we know you are), clean it up. Employers WILL look at your social profiles. We like this advice from the Intern Queen: “Make sure that all of your social networking profiles are private or work-appropriate. Talk to friends and family and ask them not to tag you in any photos without first getting your permission. Do you have a blog or YouTube channel that you don’t want a potential employer to see? Make it “invitation” or “members” only. Do regular Google searches on yourself to make sure that nothing inappropriate comes up. If something does appear, do the work you need to do to fix it and maintain your reputation online.

Still have questions? We have answers. Our dedicated and on-trend team at Active Screening is always ready to help. Whether you’re a student struggling to land your first internship because of a poor background check or an employer wondering how in-depth of a background check you need to run, we’re here for you. Leave a comment below or ring us at 1-800-319-5580.

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