Getting a Background Check? 3 Things to Help You Land the Job

by Miranda Marquit · 6 comments

In today’s career world, where negative publicity can cause serious problems for companies, it’s difficult to get excited about hiring someone who might turn out to be a liability.

Teachers whose drunken party pictures end up on Facebook, or top level executives whose nasty comment ends up being posted online, can really set an employer (and their reputation) back.

Not only that, but there are some jobs, like truck driving, in which your driving record might be applicable. No trucking company wants to hire someone with a string of DUI arrests.

So, when you apply for a job, what will the employer look for in background checks? Are there limitations to what information they can see?

As with almost everything else in life, the answer depends on where you are, and what job you’re applying for.

Employers Need Your Permission

Generally, before running any type of background check, an employer needs your permission. They can’t pull your credit report, and even some other reports, without your consent. In fact, there are some states that won’t allow certain types of reports to be pulled for employment purposes at all. Then again, most of us who are looking to get hired will likely agree to pretty much everything they ask us to sign.

A few years ago, when pulling a candidate’s credit report was all the rage amongst employers — even for jobs where handling money wasn’t part of the description — some states passed laws against using credit reports in the hiring process.

However, even in those states, other background checks are still done. Depending on the job, you might need to consent to a criminal background check or a check of your driving record among others.

On the other hand, just because they ask doesn’t mean they will actually run the checks. I remember applying for a job many years ago and agreeing to a background check. The company ended up hiring me, but they never did any of the checks they said they would do. In fact, HR told me they never do any background checks even though they ask for permission to do so on their standard hiring form.

That’s not to say you should agree to everything and just hope they don’t check though.

Know Where You Stand

In some cases, employers might even ask permission to look at your social media accounts (or, they might just Google you, to see what pops up). At one point, there was a controversy because some employers were asking candidates for their social media passwords (again, a rash of state laws and the public backlash has put a stop to those types of requests).

Denying your permission for a background check, though, might cost you the job. If you don’t agree, an employer might think that you have something negative to hide.

If a potential employer finds something that sways the decision against you, the law requires that the employer notify you in writing, and provide the name of the company that performed the background check. This is so you have a chance to look at the information — and correct it if it’s wrong.

Find Out What’s Publicly Available

Of course, thanks to the Internet, and the fact that few of us value our privacy online, an employer might not need to go through the trouble of getting your permission for an official background check. Simply Googling your name might be enough to give a potential employer enough information about you.

Additionally, there are public records of certain proceedings, although those can be difficult to slog through. One of the reasons many employers hire background check firms is due to the fact that many of them compile searchable databases of public records information, making it easier to find the information that employers want to know.

So, what’s the solution? If you are serious about privacy, be careful about what you put online. And carefully think about what you’re doing now could impact your job prospects tomorrow.

David’s Note: Your online profile isn’t just important during the hiring process. When I was in sales, one of our potential customers started Googling all of the people he interacted with when they were deciding which company to partner up with. I found out later because he half-jokingly threatened to rat me out about running on the side while I was still working at the company that was trying to win his business. Luckily, everyone at my firm already knew I had the site, so it was a non-issue.

You never know how your online presence could affect you. It’s extremely simple to just Google someone’s name these days, so make sure nothing majorly negative shows up when someone Googles your name.

Have you ever been subjected to a background check? What was your experience and how did it affect your chances of getting the job?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Ana C Herrera-Stinnett says:

    Sorry for the loss of your Dad…

  • Beau W. says:

    When I first got hired for my present city job I went to our police station and submitted a fingerprint and a complete background check. If you’re planning on working for a local municipality or government you have to have a clean record.

  • Taylor Lee says:

    I’ve never been submitted to a background check (at least for work) though I doubt anything would come up if it happened. Some advice to consider is, if you have a minor mishap on your record, consider going through the formal process to expunge it. Could definitely save you some awkward conversations in the future.

  • Jon says:

    I make it a point to Google my name every so often. I usually come up with nothing which makes me feel good. I make it a point to keep a low profile online as I don’t want a picture to be the cause of me failing to get a job.

  • Tina says:

    I’m going through a government security clearance right now, and even for the interview process I had to consent to a credit check. I think people forget how many aspects of your life credit can impact: job, car insurance rates, etc. not just what interest rate you can get.

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