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For one job candidate, it was a very exciting time. She was one of two people who were in contention for a high-level job with a prestigious company. The company would make a final decision shortly, while they were waiting for the results of both candidates’ employment background checks. She was filled with anticipation while waiting for an answer.
Unfortunately, the excitement turned to extreme disappointment when she was told that information uncovered during her background check wouldn’t allow the company to extend her a job offer. Because candidates are entitled to see the results of their background check, she discovered that they had wrongly reported that she had been fired for embezzling money from her previous employer. Fortunately, she provided proof that the background check company had mixed her up with someone else who had the same name, but a completely different birthdate. Two weeks later, she was hired.
It’s not an uncommon story to hear, as there are many horror stories when it comes to employment background checks. Poor information, identity theft or other miscues have thwarted many job applicants from being hired for their dream job. But an employment background check doesn’t have to have an unhappy ending if you properly prepare for one.
So, what do employers look for in a background check? Your written or electronic resume submission is a summary of your experience and education, the two key items that can make you qualified for the job you’re applying for. But nobody puts their criminal history, court records, warrants, incarceration, bankruptcies or anything else that is negative on their resume. If you put down that you received a BS or MS at a specific college or university, you’d better be able to back that up, because that information will be checked.
The other things that an employment background check will reveal are inconsistencies in your employment timeline, multiple short-lived jobs or deliberately leaving out relevant jobs to the position you’re applying for. From the employer’s perspective, if you’re leaving out information about a job you’ve had that is similar to the one you want, they’re going to assume you were either fired or something negative occurred.
That is why it’s imperative to be truthful and honest about the information you provide. Because the background check will certainly reveal that information, and then you’re going to have to backpedal and provide explanations. Experts agree that it’s always better to be upfront about anything negative, and then make sure you’re able to explain things in a way that won’t impact a potential job offer.
Just as you prepare in advance for a job interview, you need to prepare in advance for your employment background check as well. The more you can be proactive in finding out about the information that’s available to your prospective employer, the better off you are.
One of the best ways to start is to Google your own name. By Googling yourself, you’ll learn exactly what the background check will show when they Google your name. You must remember that Google only publishes information that’s gathered from the Internet – they don’t publish their own data. And one of the top places that Google gets your information is from people-search sites, like ZoomInfo, Peoplefinders and Instant Checkmate.
You’ll want to delete all of the unauthorized information contained on those sites and opt-out, but be aware that there are more than 100 people-search sites containing information about you, and each one has their own protocol for deleting data and opting out. Doing this manually can take a lot of time, so prepare to spend several weeks deleting all of that data. It’s a lot of time and effort, but it’s worth it to ensure that only accurate information is found about you.
Take a hard look at your social media profiles and posts. This includes photos, images, cartoons and written messages you may have posted years earlier when you were much younger and that time they were amusing, but in today’s employment market and the sensitivities that exist within companies, it’s best to delete anything that could be construed as inappropriate by a potential employer. If you’re unsure about anything, delete it.
If you have any websites that you control, review all of your copy and your content to be sure it’s positive and appropriate. Make time to add content to your own websites about the industry you’re applying for, to showcase your knowledge. Publish articles and try to get them picked up by other sites. If there is information about you on websites you don’t control, contact the website owner and ask them to delete it. It could even be on a website from a previous employer who has you listed under their “about us” pages.
Boost your LinkedIn presence, because LinkedIn is the go-to B2B social media site. Ask your friends and colleagues to “like” posts you upload, and get recommendations from previous employers and colleagues to show that you’re well-known and well-liked within your specific industry.
Make sure any information posted about you is accurate. With all the identity theft going on, it’s possible someone is using your name and identification for other purposes. You want to verify the accuracy of anything you see online. The last thing you want to find out is that you’re told that you have a criminal history when you really don’t.
That includes verifying your credit history, because many employers check to see if you’re financially solid. You’re entitled to a free credit report each year online, or through one of the top credit bureaus including Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. This is especially important if you’re applying for a position that involves money and finance.
Following the recommendations listed above will help to ensure that you receive a fair and accurate employment background check. If there are any problems, ask to see the report – you’re entitled to see it, and it will provide an opportunity to explain or correct any misinformation.