Employment background checks have become an essential part of the recruitment process for many hiring managers. Reviewing a resume and interviewing the candidate is no longer sufficient to verify details and ensure a good fit. So, employers rely on pre-employment checks to dig a little deeper into the lives of potential employees. And for candidates, it could become both a blessing and a curse, depending on what turns up on their background checks.
High stakes for candidates
Now, let’s address the most pressing question for every candidate: what do employers look for in a background check? Today, a pre-employment check is not just limited to verifying identity, education, employment history, and references. Employers could evaluate a range of information from criminal records to financial details such as credit history and debt.
Of course, federal and state regulations such as the Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019 could prevent recruiters from accessing certain information. In some states, for example, regulations prevent employers from checking medical records or performing credit checks on potential hires. But today, increased accessibility to information and technology means you have less control over your data privacy. So, an employment background check may not always be in the best interests of a candidate.
Here are some common reasons why.
- Your background check could include inaccurate information that may reflect negatively on you. Consider, for instance, criminal identity theft, where a fraudster uses your personal details when arrested for a crime. It could leave you with criminal records under your name. Similarly, you may have a bad credit score due to financial identity fraud. As a result, an employee could see you as someone irresponsible when it comes to handling money and debt obligations.
- Everyone has personal biases, including hiring managers. And these could sometimes affect their hiring decisions. So, it’s important to focus on information that’s directly relevant to the job role. An excessive background search that goes into personal activities, opinions, and interactions could adversely influence their decision process.
- Everyone has committed some form of sin, especially during their younger days. However, this may not be an accurate reflection of them in today’s context. When employers conduct in-depth background checks, your past sins from decades back could return to haunt you. Of course, one wrong deed should not ruin your career prospects. But a recruiter may not view it that way.
- Extensive employee checks could also be an intrusion of privacy. You’re entitled to express your opinions and interact with whoever you want, as long as you’re not causing harm. But when employers cross professional boundaries and pry into your personal life, it could feel like a violation of privacy and freedom.
The fact is, businesses have much to lose with one bad hire. Employees could provide false information or refrain from disclosing critical details that could affect the hiring decision. So, dealing with a bad hire could be extremely costly to an employer.
5 Tips to create a positive impression
If you’re worried about a negative background check killing your career prospects, there are specific measures you can take to create a more favorable impression.
1. Run a background check yourself
There’s only one way to understand what an employer could unearth about you — perform a background check yourself. You can search your name on Google or even scan your profile on a people search site. It could provide a comprehensive picture of personal information readily available for recruiters. If you’re not impressed, then start removing what may adversely affect you.
2. Clean up your social media activities
Social media has allowed ordinary individuals to be heard by millions. But the many positive effects of this global phenomenon have been overshadowed by the practice of oversharing. Excessive sharing on social platforms could be detrimental to your career. So, ensure you perform a 360-degree scan of all your activities, from posts to likes and comments. Identify content that may reflect negatively on you and get that removed.
3. Get active on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is an essential tool for anyone preparing to get ahead in their career. It’s the perfect social platform for professionals to showcase their work background and career achievements. You can even demonstrate expertise and subject matter knowledge with thought leadership articles and posts. It’s also an excellent place to network, keep in touch with former colleagues and employers, engage with like-minded professionals, and explore career opportunities within and outside your industry.
4. Curate your digital presence
While poorly managed online engagement could suffocate your career prospects, a thoughtful and well-curated presence could open up an abundance of opportunities for you. Effectively managing your digital presence could also go a long way in creating a positive impression on potential employers. So, get involved in online forums and publications related to your area of expertise. Actively champion topics and projects that you’re interested in. Share your knowledge, opinions, and advice with others. It could naturally help build your reputation and may even allow you to develop a genuinely interested group of followers who can create positive word-of-mouth.
5. Sign up with an online reputation management service
If you have a notable online presence and plan to apply for a high-stake position, you can benefit from an online reputation management service. It is also a great solution for anyone experiencing a negative digital presence. These reputation management companies could monitor your online activities, help remove damaging content, and curate a positive image on your behalf. While their services will come at a cost, they can add tremendous value when building your online brand and reputation.
The bottom line is, you can no longer leave a background check to chance if you’ve set your eyes on that dream job. So, take charge of your digital data footprint to create a positive impression on your future employers.