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Background Evaluation/Investigation

Background evaluations, sometimes referred to as background investigations, seek information about an applicant's employment, criminal, and personal history in an effort to investigate behavioral reliability, integrity, and personal adjustment. Background evaluations are conducted to determine whether there are any historical facts that would interfere with an applicant's ability to perform the job, including violations of statutes, regulations, or laws. It is important to note background evaluations are a different process than competency-based assessments and are typically handled apart from the traditional assessments (e.g., cognitive ability tests, accomplishment record). Depending on the extensiveness of the background evaluation, you may be required to gain the applicant's permission.

Background evaluation data are primarily used when screening personnel for positions of trust in which integrity and positive psychological adjustment is particularly desirable. Such occupations include law enforcement, private security industry, and positions requiring government-issued security clearances. The appointment of any civilian employee to a position in the Federal Government is subject to a background investigation.

Examples of factors investigated with a background evaluation are an applicant's employment history, past illegal drug use, and previous records criminal. In addition to collecting background information directly from an applicant, background information is sometimes collected from other sources who know the applicant such as former employers and co-workers, friends, and neighbors.


(See Section VI for a summary of each article)

Hilliard, P. A. (2001). Comparison of the predictive validity of a written test, an integrity test, a conscientiousness questionnaire, a structured behavioral interview and a personality inventory in the assessment of job applicants' background investigations, and subsequent task or contextual performance. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences & Engineering, 62(6-B), 2981.

McDaniel, M. A. (1989). Biographical constructs for predicting employee suitability. Journal of Applied Psychology, 74(6), 964-970.

McFadden, K. L. (1997). Policy improvements for prevention of alcohol misuse by airline pilots. Human Factors, 39(1), 1-8.

General Questions and Answers about OPM Background Investigations. Retrieved February 5, 2007.

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