When applying for a job, most candidates focus their energy on preparing for the job interview. While the interview is certainly an important part of the equation, there is another area worthy of preparation: the employment background check.
A background check can mean the difference between getting hired and not getting hired. Spending some time thinking about your background check before you apply for a series of jobs could save you lots of grief and wasted time.
First, realize that the average employment background check is more than just a criminal history check. The common misconception is that if you don’t have a criminal record, the background check process can’t hurt your hiring chances. In truth, most employers look at other facets of your history, too.
Here are a few steps that you can take to prepare for every piece of the pre-employment background screening.
- Take a look at your own criminal background check: Even if you have no criminal record, it’s a good idea to run a background check on yourself. That way, you’ll see exactly what the employer will see.
- Check your resume: Go through your resume with a fine-tooth comb before sending it out to an employer. You want to make sure they every piece of information you’ve provided there is accurate. Check job titles, employment dates, lists of responsibilities and accomplishments, educational background, and other details for errors—and for embellishments. Many employers now conduct verification checks for employment history, education, and professional licensing or certification. Discrepancies in your resume can call your honesty into question, potentially costing you a job opportunity.
- Ask your references to be references: When you provide a list of professional references, don’t just list people who you think will speak well on your behalf. Contact those former employers, managers, or mentors and ask for their permission to list them as references. That way, you know that the person in question is willing to speak positively on your behalf and that the person is prepared to be contacted by prospective employers.
- Know your rights: Employers must follow certain protocols when conducting employment background checks on potential hires. Know what your rights are under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Be aware of any ban the box legislation that may be active in your area.
- Be prepared for other checks as well: Depending on the job that you are seeking, you might face other types of background checks. For instance, if you are applying for a position that involves driving, you will want to check your driving record for any red flags. If the job involves financial responsibilities, a credit history check could be in the cards for you. Drug testing is common for many jobs, so be aware that you may be asked to submit to a test prior to employment.
Above all, be honest and forthright. Employers have the means to learn about your past mistakes. Being transparent about these missteps ahead of time gives you a chance to control the narrative with employers so that they don’t assume the worst.