Have you ever pictured yourself working for a Fortune 500 company? Whether your dream is to work at the Genius Bar at an Apple Store or in the boardroom at Ford, there's one qualifying criteria you must meet in order to land yourself an offer.
You have your ambitions set on serving one of the biggest and most successful companies in the world. Do keep in mind, though, that companies don’t make it onto Fortune Magazine's top 500 list by accident. On the contrary, the businesses featured on the annual Fortune 500 list got there by being particular about their products and/or services and, if possible, even more particular about their personnel.
Background Checks at the Fortune 500 Level
If you are hoping to work for a Fortune 500 company—regardless of the capacity you are seeking—you will have to undergo a background check before being hired. Pre-employment background checks are becoming increasingly common in this day and age, with everything from the competitive nature of the job market to a growing trend of dishonesty in resumes driving this growth.
Fortune 500 companies are the types of businesses that have been screening their every single hire for years now. Negligent hiring lawsuits can be ruinous for any business, but for Fortune 500 companies, they can balloon into class action suits that in turn lead to millions of dollars in court or settlement costs and millions of dollars more in PR troubles and stock dips. Bottom line, Fortune 500 companies need to run background checks to stay stable and successful, and even lower-on-the-totem-pole jobs (such as that of a checkout line cashier at Walmart) will face background check scrutiny.
What to Expect from a Fortune 500 Background Check
While you should always expect background checks if you are seeking employment with a Fortune 500 company, don't take that universality as a sign of consistency. While every company on the top 500 list is almost certain to run background checks on every employee, the types of background checks they choose to run can still vary from company to company and position to position. With that point in mind, you should expect the following types of background checks if you are shooting for Fortune 500 employment.
Criminal history checks are the most common type of pre-employment background check everywhere—not just among Fortune 500 companies. You can expect your criminal record to be taken into account by most major Fortune 500-ersand you can expect them to have the resources to check your record not just locally or on a state level, but nationally using multi-jurisdictional sources. Indeed, HireRight—a background check used by Fortune 500 firms such as Apple—says that most Fortune 500 companies will, at minimum, run criminal background checks in all counties where an applicant has lived in the past seven years.
While all criminal history will be taken into account, most Fortune 500 companies won't bar you from employment unless 1) your crime relates directly to the duties required by the job at hand, or 2) you have felony convictions. In April 2015, for instance, Apple was in the news for barring all felons from working on the construction of its new Cupertino, California headquarters.
Employment and Education History
In other words, the "resume check." It's seemingly become more common for applicants at every level of the job market to either lie outright on their resumes or to do some embellishing of their employment or educational histories. As such, businesses—including Fortune 500 companies—are taking more care to contact universities, accreditation programs, and former employers to verify resume information. Microsoft, for instance, notes that "a typical background check will verify employment and education," in addition to criminal checks. Whether it's a CEO without a college degree or a computer programmer who doesn't have as much technical experience as he claimed, Fortune 500 companies want to avoid hires that will make them look bad or underperform due to lack of education and/or experience.
Credit History Checks
In addition to employment and education verifications and criminal history checks, Microsoft's employment FAQ also mentions credit history. "For certain positions, we may also perform a credit check," the company informs prospective hires. The "for certain positions" tag is generally what you should expect when it comes to credit history checks—even at the Fortune 500 level. While credit is an area of concern and scrutiny for certain types of jobs—ostensibly, anything where the applicant would have control over money, accounts, or finances—then credit history is one tool companies use to assess financial responsibility. Amazon.com is another Fortune 500 company that typically runs credit history screenings, largely as a means of protecting the huge amount of customer data that flows through virtually every aspect of the online retailer's business.
Driving History Checks
As with credit history, your driving record won't be of interest to all Fortune 500 companies and will largely depend on the job for which you are applying. With that said, Fortune 500 companies do hire a lot of people who are responsible for operating vehicles or heavy machinery. Indeed, both General Electric and Delta Airlines (currently eight and 73 on the Fortune 500 list) have background check policies that mention the possibility of a driving history check. You can expect that other airlines or transportation companies (such as American Airlines, United Continental Holdings, Southwest Airlines—all Fortune 500 companies) are also going to take a look at your driving record before finalizing their hiring decisions.
As you can see, Fortune 500 background check trends aren't so different from the background check trends of smaller companies. Ultimately, expect your criminal history, your education, and your employment history to be the top points of scrutiny, with other background checks filtering in depending on the job you are pursuing. Above all, remember to be truthful and candid with your application, your resume, and in your interview. Where smaller business owners might be willing to give you a second chance for a resume flub, the more by-the-books hiring managers at Fortune 500 companies usually won't be so forgiving.
Michael Klazema has been developing products for pre-employment screening and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for Backgroundchecks.com. He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.