Monday, March 15, 2010

Job Seekers: What’s On Your History Report?

There are common words in the English language that create jangled nerves and sometimes even a cold sweat, right?

• Fire!
• Open up. This is the Police!
• Tax Audit
• Non Sufficient Funds
• You’re Fired
• Background check

Do you stress out when you here those words? Of course you do! These are things that automatically raise the blood pressure and create an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach. If you are a job seeker, “background check” is a term you may begin to hear often. Today, it is common practice for an employer to run a check on who you are and what you have been up to.

Many job sites and applications inform an applicant they must submit to a background check and that no criminal backgrounds will be accepted. Let’s dig into what a criminal background check includes. You want to make sure that there are no “surprises” on your record for a prospective employer to find.

Every company has different rules and guidelines they have to follow when it comes to a background search. Some employers will not even run a background check while others will get all the history they possibly can. Let’s take a look at what they are going to consider prior to hiring you….

When an employer runs a background check on an applicant, it can be as simple as verifying that the social security number is correct. However, in most cases, employers want to know whom they are hiring. Therefore, an employer might look at your past employment history, credit report, bankruptcy information, criminal records, and any other information they can legally access on government public records.

Don’t be discouraged. If you know that some of these things are on your record, don’t panic. How much time has passed since the situation happened? If you have a bankruptcy claim on your history, ten years or longer, it can not be held against you in a background check. If you have other undesirable history, keep in mind that anything seven years or older can not be held against you either. If you’re wondering what “undesirable” consists of, after researching a bit, I included civil suits or judgment, an arrest, accounts that have gone to collections, or any other negative information that the prospective employer would consider for a new hire.

It is important to be honest about your background. Depending on company policy, your past may be overlooked if you have shown great improvement and can explain why the undesirable account is on your record.

Before beginning the job search process, you may want to run your own background check. It is simple to do:

1) Order a copy of your credit report: If there is something you do not recognize or that you disagree with, dispute the information with the creditor and/or credit bureau.

2) Check court records: If you know you have an arrest record or have been involved in court cases, inspect the files in the county where it took place. Sometimes court records are not up to date, so be sure yours are correct prior to beginning your application process. If a conviction should have been expunged or dismissed, make sure that you get a hold of a certified copy of your report showing this from the court.

3) Check DMV records: You can request a copy of your driving record from the Department of Motor Vehicles. This is a crucial step if the job you are applying for is a driving position.

4) Do your own background check: There are two ways to do this. You can hire a company that specializes in running background checks or you can go to many forums online that will do the same thing. You want to see exactly what an employer sees and dispute any false/ misleading records before you start applying.

5) Old jobs maintain personnel files; ask to see them. Every state has different policies about what can be released to a former employee, but ask for whatever the employer is permitted to release. You will receive the same information that a prospective employer will find out when speaking with that employer. Keep in mind that many companies limit the information they disclose.

6) Always Always Always read the fine print. (This is a good rule of thumb for anything you sign, be it job related or not.) Read everything on the paper that you are signing and question anything you do not understand or aren’t sure of.

7) If you list references, be sure to let them know you’ve done so. You’ll want to let them know that they may receive a call asking them to provide information about you. Remind them via email or phone, but be sure to let them know well in advance so they can prepare their answers.

8) Check yourself out online! Look up your name in any search engine online and see if there are any negatives returned in the search results. Anything can pop up online including your Myspace, Facebook, LinkedIn, or your other outside organizations. If your name is included, it will be found by the search engines and show up for an employer. It’s important that your image be as squeaky clean as you can manage, so to the extent that you can, clean up the content or get it off line.
Here is a good website to refer to about cleaning up your digital dirt:

Remember, your information is out there and, if requested, it can be released. Get yourself in the know and be proactive in cleaning it up if possible. Otherwise, it could mean your job!

Does this clear things up about what is and what isn’t included in a background check? Is a background check going to limit you on what type of job you can get? Leave your comments so I can post for others to read.

Carly Sabato

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