I am a college student accepting an offer for a six month internship at a smallish startup. Their employment contract states "As standard procedure for all new hires, this position is subject to satisfactory credit check, background check, reference check, and drug test."

Are they actually going to do all of those things? I'm unclear on what exactly a reference check is, but I know that I don't have references. (no prior work experience)

  • Related, but different - workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/14828/…
    – David K
    Mar 17, 2015 at 19:22
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    For a small start-up they are doing bg checks that normally only security cleared employers or banks do? Run away now! And its not even a real job!
    – Pepone
    Mar 17, 2015 at 22:33
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    Yes, though at this stage of your career personal references from College, high school, family friends that you may have done jobs for is probably sufficient for references. Basically they want someone who knows you and are willing to say "yea this person isn't going to rip you off or has such and such skills". Credit and background checks are to ensure you aren't a risk either financial or reputation wise to the firm. Mar 17, 2015 at 22:56
  • There are the students who get the grades and those who get the recommendations.
    – user8365
    Mar 18, 2015 at 15:52
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    Unless this startup is in a sensitive field, where you are likely to handle sensitive information or be responsible for human lives or something, these tests sound quite draconic and I would not really consider working for them.
    – Cronax
    Mar 19, 2015 at 8:43

5 Answers 5


Yes it is likely they will. Most companies that state this is their practice actualy do these things which are all pretty standard employment practices after all. You will likely need references; at this stage in your life, college professors will be fine.

  • I don't know how standard they are, though I agree with the rest of the answer.
    – Telastyn
    Mar 17, 2015 at 19:22
  • Just think about it, all these tests might scare people of, the more they show the scarier it gets. So it would be stupid to post more than you do
    – Martijn
    Mar 18, 2015 at 15:41

Yes they will probably do these all of these things.

The background and credit check are fairly standard and are just looking for anything really bad. I wouldn't worry about these too much.

The drug test is pretty standard these days. They will probably schedule you to go to some test center where you will have to pee in a cup.

Usually a reference check is done before a position is offered, so it is possible they might skip this part. Even if you don't have any real experience you can use personal references such as teachers, neighbors, etc.

  • Potentially worth expanding on this answer to say why the credit checks are common - Credit checks are common in companies related to finance particularly, to check if the candidate is likely to be tempted to commit fraud, but are becoming more common with other companies for the same basic reason.
    – Jon Story
    Sep 15, 2015 at 15:16

You need to assume that they will do AT LEAST two or three of those things, if not ALL of those things, if it is listed in the contract. It is standard practice for HR organizations to do these things, and they do. Different organizations have different standards of the detail to which they do these things, but here in the USA, I have had all of these things checked. You may or may not be asked for personal character references, or reference letters as a college student, but you can be certain that you will be asked for a urine or hair sample (for the drug test) if you have a formal interview.


Yes, typically they will do credit checks to make sure you are not in crazy amounts of debt, because this allows for competitors to "buy" you for company secrets. Sounds crazy, but it does happen.

Background checks at this point for you will mean checking your University to make sure that you actually graduated with the degree you specified and with that GPA.

As for drug tests, they are usually pee tests. Yes, they will require this. Most companies do these days. However, you need to read the contract to see if they do random screens during employment. Most don't, but some do (especially government agencies).

Put down the reefer!

  • 1
    For the credit check , it more than the ability to be bought off - some places where you handle money (even a cashier), they might be concerned about theft. And I have been told that some organizations use it as a judge of your reliability. If you have a problem keeping your life organized and paying your obligations on time may feel you won't be organized and responsible in your professional carrier. Mar 18, 2015 at 13:33

Well, if you are applying to a law enforcement agency such as the NYPD or the FBI, any one of the government security agencies such as NSA or CIA, a government public safety agency such as FDNY or EMS, or positions where you could have access to money such as a large bank or a Wall Street firm, you'd better believe that they'll check. Not only that, but for some companies in some industries, these due diligence checks may be MANDATED by government regulation or by law. If a company states to you that it's going to run these checks, it's safest to take them at their word.

References are individuals who will vouch for you in terms of your competence, spirit, initiative, team work, etc. If you don't have any, do the best you can: bearded professors who used to ignore you, grad student proctors who used to yell at you, the cop who arrested you at a demonstration - as long as they are willing to say on the record something nice about you, that's fine. You'll obviously get more selective as you gain more professional experience :)

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