Not too long ago, the hiring process was simple: you met with the owner of a company or the person who would be supervising you. If the interview went well, you would be offered the job on the spot, and if you agreed to the salary, a start date was selected. You shook hands and went home to celebrate.
Things are quite different today. You may start with an interview with human resources, and then have several other interviews with company executives and employees. If you made it through that gauntlet, you are given a provisional employment offer pending an employment background check, which might include a drug test. If you feel that your previous employers have good things to say about you and that everything you submitted was honest and true, you have nothing to worry about.
That is, until you do have something to worry about.
A Closer Look at Employment Background Checks
Employment background checks can be job killers. You can go from elation to depression with one email or phone call – all based on the results of that background check. It happens to people all the time, for a variety of reasons. So, what do employers look for in a background check?
Interviews and resumes can provide prospective employers with information that you lay out, but employment background checks are used to verify that information and do a deeper dive. The key metrics that employers look for are your employment history, although due to liability laws most companies will merely validate the dates you were employed, and not go into specifics about your job performance.
They will also look at our education history, and verify that you graduated from the college you listed. Depending on the job classification you’re applying for, they may do a credit check. After all, they don’t want somebody with authority to write checks coming to work after filing for bankruptcy. If your job involves driving a company vehicle, or even your own, they may do a check of your driving record. Employers will also look for any criminal history, so if you have something in your past that will show up, it’s best to be honest upfront before it’s discovered.
Finally, they’ll review your social media profiles, just to see if any red flags appear due to inappropriate postings of words or photos. The last thing an employer wants is to put the company at risk for liability due to explicit photos or affiliations with terrorist groups. Depending on the job and the company, you may be asked to submit to a drug test.
Based on the findings, the company will either move forward with your job offer, or they will rescind an offer if one was made. If you are denied employment due to a background check, the company must follow the Adverse Action Notification Process, which includes a written report on what information was discovered that denied them employment, along with information on where the job candidate can obtain a copy of his or her report.
Where the Information Comes From
Background checks include looking at information found on people-search sites, like Whitepages, US Search and Intelius. These sites contain a lot of unauthorized personalized information, so you should remove all data from these sites and opt out. There are over 100 people-search sites, and each one has its own methods and requirements to remove information. Finding all the sites and following the protocols will take a large amount of time, but it’s something you really need to do.
Since the prospective employer will scrub all the social media sites looking for your profiles and postings, you should be proactive and curate your information, removing as many inappropriate posts or images you’ve posted in the past. While you may have thought certain images you uploaded were amusing at the time, they probably won’t be amusing to the employer. In fact, over 50% of job applicants have been turned down due to what was discovered on their social media sites.
Criminal Background Reports and Credit Checks
You need to do your own due diligence to ensure that all court records and criminal background reports are accurate – before your employment background check. Here’s why: there’s been an onslaught of identity theft, including synthetic identity theft, where cybercrooks take your information and merge it with made-up information to create a new identity. If your name was used, or your social security number was stolen, you may show up as having a criminal history, even though you have never been involved with the law.
It’s the same with your credit history. Get a free credit report or contact one of the 3 main credit bureaus, including Experian, TransUnion or Equifax. Review all reports, and report any discrepancies. By being proactive, you can prevent erroneous information from ruining your chance of getting the job offer you want.
Other Strategies to Use
Before you apply for that job, make sure you beef up your profile on LinkedIn, the main business-to-business social media site. Employers will look at LinkedIn to see how active you are in the business community, so be sure to ask colleagues and friends to provide references about you. Another strategy is to create your own website, and add content that is authoritative and has value to readers. Google will find your posts and boost your rankings based on your content, which will enhance your chances of employment.
Employment background checks are here to stay, and nobody can circumvent having one done if they’re applying for a job. The key is to be proactive and follow the suggestions outlined above in preparation for that check. With identity theft running rampant, you want to be sure the information gathered is really about you, and not some creation of a cyberthief. By checking to ensure it’s your records that are being examined, you’ll have a good chance of becoming employed.