Don’t spend all of your time preparing for the interview and not even spare a thought for the background check.
There are ways to prepare for an employment background check, and each one of them can improve your hiring chances considerably.
The job search period can be an incredibly busy and daunting time in one’s life. From sending out applications to writing cover letters, and from refining resumes to preparing for interviews, there are a lot of different things to think about when you are trying to secure new employment.
Naturally, it’s easy for certain preparations to be forgotten or to fall by the wayside, and probably the most looked over of these is preparing for the background check.
Nowadays, virtually every type of employer—from education and medicine to office work and retail—requires their applicants to undergo criminal and/or other types of background checks prior to hiring.
There are numerous reasons for these checks: employers run them to keep the workplace safe, to avoid negligible hiring claims, and more.
For you as the applicant, though, the presence of the background check means one thing: another step in the employment screening process for which you need to be prepared.
Many job searchers ask, “But how can I prepare for a background check?” It’s a valid question, given the fact that most of the information employers are digging for—criminal convictions, driving records, etc.—are things that you cannot alter or fix on a whim. However, there are still numerous ways that you can get prepared for the big background check test. Here are seven of them:
1. Run a Criminal Background Check On Yourself
If you do one thing to prepare for your employment background check, this should be it.
While you might think you already know what an employer will see when they browse your criminal history—especially if you have never been convicted of a crime and have no criminal record—the truth is that you can never be sure.
Criminal records get “miscataloged” every day, and a background check can actually pull someone else’s criminal record if you share a name. As a result, running a criminal history check on yourself—usually at the county level, but perhaps at the state level, as well—can help you spot any potential inaccuracies on your criminal record before your employer sees them.
2. Contact Courts to Rectify Any Inaccurate Information
If you run a criminal background check on yourself, and see criminal history on your record that you didn’t expect to see, then you next step is to correct the issue.
Say your background check says you were convicted of assault, but you’ve never even been arrested. If this is the case, you need to get on the phone to the courthouse where the record in question was pulled. Politely explain the situation and inform the court that the information in your record is incorrect.
In some cases, you will be able to get the inaccuracies corrected with a simple phone call, written request, or in-person appearances. Other times, you might have to actually file a petition with the court. Either way, it’s a hassle, but it’s worth it to make sure your record actually reflects the life of innocence you’ve led.
3. Consider Criminal Record Expungement
If you have a criminal conviction on your record that could cost you a job, but it actually is correct, you might consider criminal record expungement.
Different states and counties have different laws pertaining to expungement, while your eligibility to have a crime removed from your record will depend on a number of factors—including the severity of the crime, the time elapsed since the conviction, and whether or not you have been charged with any other crimes.
You will also likely need legal representation to appeal for expungement, and the process will be complicated. However, if you can make a valid claim for expunging your criminal record, it’s worth jumping through the hoops and paying for the lawyer: having a clean record will automatically make you a more competitive applicant for most jobs.
4. Review Your Social Media Profiles
Not all employers will review your Facebook, but some will, and they don’t take kindly to inappropriate and unprofessional pictures, profane statuses, comments complaining about work or other negative content.
With that in mind, review your social profiles: if there is something on your page that you wouldn’t want to have come up in an interview, it’s probably worth deleting or editing.
5. Review Your Resume For Truth and Accuracy
Background checks often search for more than just criminal history. For instance, your prospective employer may dig into your past to make sure that your work and educational history lines up with what you put on your resume.
Taking a few minutes to review your resume and make sure everything is correct will allow you to pass this part of the background check with flying colors. Lying about a degree you don’t have or a job you never held is obviously a no-no, but other more common resume fibs—like snazzing up your old job title, editing employment dates to remove gaps, and listing job responsibilities you never had—is almost as risky.
6. Ask Former Employers Permission to Use Them as References
Though many applicants don’t consider it as such, the reference check actually is part of the background check.
When your prospective employer calls your old boss, supervisor, or mentor, they are looking to learn more about your skills, work ethic, overall job performance, and more.
For best results, contact your references beforehand—first to ask their permission to list them as a reference, second to update their contact information (this makes things easier for your prospective employer, which will be appreciated), and third to give them a heads up that they might expect a call about you in the near future.
7. Request a Copy of Your Driving Record and Credit Report
Driving record checks and credit report checks aren’t standard for every job, but if you are going to be performing a job that involves finances or the operation of a motor vehicle, you should expect them.
And if you do expect them, it’s a good idea to see what your records look like—just as you did with your criminal history. That way, if there is an inaccurate reckless driving charge on your record, or if identity theft has left your credit in shambles, you can correct those issues before they create an uncomfortable situation in the interview room.
While you might not think of the background check as something that requires a lot of thought or preparation on your end, it can make or break your employment chances just like an interview can. As such, it’s worth taking the time to think about the background check from a few different angles before you head off to your interview. After all, you want to do everything in your power to maximize your hiring chances, and that includes making sure your past looks as clean as it really is.