Most job applicants believe that they are powerless when it comes to background checks. They think that employers hold all the cards. In fact, some employers and background check companies also think that job seekers have are powerless.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives job applicants a lot of power. For instance, a background check cannot be carried out without the applicant’s permission.

Also, FCRA mandates that, when the background check leads to a “no hire” decision, the employer is supposed to explain to the job applicant in writing, why the decision was taken. An applicant is also entitled to a copy of the background report, and can even challenge the contents.

The EEOC places restrictions when criminal background checks can be used during the hiring process. Many state “Ban the Box” laws place similar restrictions. A job seeker is allowed to sue any employer who conducts background checks outside the bounds of the law. Basically, job seekers aren’t as powerless as they imagine.