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Preparing for a Background Check

Now is a great time to find a job. The world is revving its engine, and employers are hiring in preparation for better things to come. If it’s been a while since you applied for a job, it’s important to remember that a background screening is very likely to be part of the process. Background checks for employment help employers keep their environments secured against less-than-trustworthy hires and costly workplace violence. The following is a brief refresher course on the basics of background checks and what you can do to be ready.


Background Checks 101

A background check for employment is a report summarizing data about you collected from private and public records. Information in your background report could include any of the following depending on the employer and the requirements of the position:


        Criminal activity

        Credit history

        Employment history

        Education history

        Social media information

        Motor vehicle record

        Medical records

        Legal work authorization


Employers can request different reports based on their needs and the nature of the job. For example, if you’re applying for a transportation job, you are likely to have your motor vehicle report checked, and if you’re applying for a position with daily unsupervised contact with vulnerable populations, checking your criminal record will be part of the application process. Aside from employer preference, individual cities and states have different laws governing background checks, and some types of jobs have federal mandates.


How to Prepare

Since it’s not unreasonable to expect a background check, you might consider taking the following steps prior to applying for a job to be ready:


Clean Up Your Social Media Accounts

It’s not uncommon for potential employers to take a look through your social media accounts for obvious red flags. If you’ve got information out there you don’t want a potential employer to see, delete it, or manage what can be seen and not seen by changing your privacy settings.


Check Your Own Records

Filling out a job application requires access to employers, addresses, dates, and places. Having this information readily at hand will make the process smoother. The following list will get you started:


        Official copy of your education transcripts and diplomas

        Information about past employers, including a good phone number and address as well as the dates you were employed and your titles

        Contact information for personal references

        Addresses of former residences with dates of when you lived there

        Personal identification information such as driver’s license, passport, and social security number


Run Your Own Checks

Background checks contain your information, so it’s totally appropriate and often a really good idea to request copies of your own records. Consumer reporting agencies are required to provide individuals with a free copy of personal reports annually, so request one. Ask your DMV for a copy of your driving record, run your credit report, and reach out to your state for a copy of your criminal history.


Running your own check is a proactive approach. It allows you to address and correct any errors before they surprise you during the job application process, and it will remind you of issues you might like to get in front of before an employer sees them.


Be Honest

Padding a resume is never a good idea, and not just because the truth might come out in a background check. If you aren’t qualified for the job with the right skills and training, it won’t be a good fit for anyone. And, if there’s something in your background that employers will ask about, be prepared to be honest. 


Now you’re ready. Go get that new job.

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