The concept of “checking your own background” may sound like a bit of an oxymoron. After all, if you know your own history, then why should you have to get a compiled report about it? This thought process has led countless job searchers – especially young people just out of college – to dive headfirst into the interview process without sparing so much as a worry for the background check part of the process. Read on to learn why this sort of “diving headfirst” should never be something you do during a job interview process, and why letting your prospective employer check your background before you do is a careless maneuver.
1. Your background check might turn up inaccurate information: The first reason why you should check your background before an employer does is that, until you’ve done so, you can only speculate on what it might include. Sure, you might never have actually committed a crime, but that doesn’t mean that a police officer couldn’t have accidentally logged a criminal record under your name, or that the background check company couldn’t have pulled the file of someone who shares your name and used that information in your background check report. Running a check on yourself helps you spot inaccurate information so that you can correct it before employers see it and make judgments about it.
2. You might have offenses you didn’t know about: Ever failed to pay a speeding ticket, or missed a jury duty summons because it was sent to an old address and you never received it? You might have a few minor infractions on your record that, believe it or not, could show up on your background check. It depends on the check your employer runs of course. A criminal background check won’t usually pick up these items, but a driving record check or a civil screening will, and if your employer is bothering with such checks, they are probably serious about them coming back clean. Making sure they actually are clean, therefore, should be a top priority.
3. Failing to run a self check can make you look like a liar: If someone else’s murder charge pops up on your background check, you will probably have bigger problems to worry about than your prospective employer getting upset that you lied on your application about never having been convicted of a crime. However, a background check can also make other elements of your application – your resume, for instance – look like a sham. Running an employment verification check and taking a look at your work history may seem pointless, as it’s often difficult to forget where you’ve worked. That said, sometimes your record won’t match up with what you have on your resume, which is worth taking care of before your employer has a chance to question the discrepancy.
4. It can help you clear up any discrepancies with your educational history: Different universities and educational institutions release educational records differently, so running an education verification check on yourself might be a good idea to make sure that the educational history on your record matches what’s on your resume. This step is especially key for recent graduates, whose educational history might not be updated immediately if they hit the job circuit immediately after finishing high school, college, grad school, or certification.
5. Your credit history may be a mess: Many employers, especially those hiring individuals for jobs that involve the handling of money, will still run credit checks on their applicants. Requesting a report to see what your own credit history looks like will give you a chance to look at your financial history from the perspective of a hiring manager. If you think something about your credit report is off, dig a bit deeper: it could be the result of anything from payments that didn’t go through to identity theft. If your credit history is a mess for a reason (like due to medical expenses from an accident, for instance), you can actually get the credit bureau to let you attach a brief explanation for the financial hiccup. When your employer or prospective employer requests your credit report, they will see this note and gain a better understanding of your financial history.
6. It can remind you of how employers look at social media: While social media background checks are not universal (they are, in fact, frowned upon by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), they are also not illegal, which means that many employees will take a look at your Facebook or Twitter accounts to see how you behave in real life. Everyone knows that a job interview is a performance, where an applicant tries to emphasize his or her best qualities while hiding the less desirable ones. As a result, employers want a window into how their applicants or employees really act and interact in more informal spheres, and the easiest way for them to glean this information is to look at your social media accounts. With that in mind, take a look at your own accounts with an objective eye and remove any content that could be viewed as inappropriate, offensive, or unprofessional.
7. It can be the difference between you being offered your dream job and losing it: In many ways, this item is the last six points combined into one big bottom line. Running a background check on yourself, cleaning up the inaccuracies, and polishing the rough edges can mean the difference between you coming across as a friendly, professional, or trustworthy employee and appearing to employers as a dangerous, lying, or irresponsible individual. Always remember before you dive into the job interview process that a background check can ultimately make or break your reputation and your job chances, so if you really want a job, then you owe it to yourself to take the time and look into your own background to make sure everything is sound. It might seem like a hassle, and it might cost you a few bucks, but you’ll thank yourself a million times over if it helps you get your dream job.
About the Author
Michael Klazema has been developing products for pre-employment screening and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for Backgroundchecks.com. He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.