Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Michael Klazema, who 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.
When you head into a job interview, it's natural to have jitters. After all, your interview is likely coming after a lengthy and stressful job search, and if you are interviewing for a position that approximates your dream job, it's easy to feel as if the whole world is riding on the interview. Indeed, everyone deals with nerves before a meeting with a prospective employer. However, the important thing is to not let them cloud your judgment and keep you from taking the measures that will give yourself the best possible shot at employment.
The pre-interview measure that job searchers most often overlook doesn't have anything to do with the actual interview, but with the pre-employment background check. The vast majority of employers these days require their applicants to complete a thorough background check as part of the interview process. Sometimes, the background check will be instituted after the job has been offered, with employment conditional on the results of the screening. Other times, employers will run background checks on all candidates and use the information as a means of deciding which applicants they will consider further. Either way, the background check is a hurdle you will have to clear before your prospective employer will regale you with a hiring offer, and contrary to popular belief, the background check is a step in the interview process that absolutely demands preparation.
So how can you prepare for a background check? Here are five ways that you can turn a self-background check into a learning experience that can help you land a job.
1. Run a criminal background check: One of the prime focuses of any pre-employment screening session is the criminal background check. Quite simply, employers want to know if their applicants have had run-ins with the law in the past. Sometimes, a candidate can be a perfectly attractive job applicant in every other way, but can have a history of violent crimes that makes him or her a liability to the safety of customers or co-workers. Similar scenarios are the reason countless prospective employees are disqualified from job consideration every year. The importance of the criminal background check, therefore, cannot be overstated.
Given just how much stock many employers put in a criminal background check, running your name through a criminal registry check is one of the first things you should do in your self-background check session. A check under your name could be yielding criminal convictions that belong to another person, or someone could have merely miscataloged a piece of information and left you with an offense on your record that you didn't commit.
If you notice any incorrect information on your record, get in touch with the proper courts or agencies to get everything fixed. Going through this process can be a huge inconvenience, but it's worth it to make sure you don't miss out on a job because of someone else's mistake.
2. Do a credit check: Speaking of incorrect information, credit reports can be susceptible to it as well. Employers often look at credit reports to see how financially responsible their applicants are. This part of the check is especially important if you are interviewing for a position that involves the handling of money. When you run a credit check on yourself, you should be on the lookout for a few things. First of all, try to spot any suspicious transactions. If your credit score is significantly lower than you expected, then someone might be fraudulently using your credit card information or Social Security Number. Secondly, look for credit card or loan payments that didn't go through. Both of these issues can wreck your credit score and make you look irresponsible to employers, so be sure to get them all sorted out before going into an interview.
3. Check your driving record: This step is especially important if you are applying for a position that would involve the use of a vehicle, but many employers will check driving records just to get a better idea of who you are as a person. Check your driving history to make sure that things like fix-it tickets have been cleared from your record and to see if there are any tickets or citations on your record that you either haven't paid or that you don't remember receiving.
4. Ask former employers if you can use them as references: Surprisingly, one of the larger mistakes that job searchers use is writing down former employers, professors, or supervisors as references without first asking those people for permission. Not everyone will be as comfortable speaking on your behalf as you might think, so make sure to ask before you put together your references sheet. Chances are, your references will be happy to sing your praises, but you should at very least let them know that your prospective employer might be calling.
5. Take a look at your social media presence: What's the last thing you should do before heading out the door for an interview? Check your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media outlets. You want to make sure that your online persona is portraying you in a positive light, so looking through your statuses, comments, and pictures and deleting anything that could be seen as inappropriate or unprofessional is an important step to take.