Everyone knows it’s tough to get a job these days. The task is that much harder if you have any kind of blemish on your past.

The use of background checks to screen potential employees has become a billion-dollar business. More than 90 percent of employers in the U.S. conduct criminal background checks, at least on some potential hires, according to a recent study by the National Consumer Law Center.

In addition to criminal records, businesses commonly look into all kinds of other information, such as credit reports and driving records.

“Our approach has been, there should be a job for everybody, but not everyone is appropriate for every job,” says attorney Les Rosen, head of Employment Screening Resources, a background check firm in California.

How Far Is Too Far?

Businesses can be legally liable if they don’t check out workers who go on to commit crimes while on the job. And no company wants the embarrassment of finding out later that high-profile employees fibbed on their resumes, as happened recently with Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson.

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