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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

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2:32 PM     What's In Your Background Check?

WHAT'S IN YOUR BACKGROUND CHECK?
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One of the biggest surprises that some candidates get is the message from the recruiter or hiring manager that starts, "Hey, Jim, thanks for coming in the other day. I'm calling because something came up in the background check that I wanted to ask you about. I'm sure it's just a mistake, but..."

Of course, the period of time between when you receive this message and when you actually talk to the person who left it has you going crazy with all sorts of scenarios. The bottom line usually is that you're not getting the job.

Following are My 6 Surprising Rules of Background Checks that I tell every candidate about their background check:

1) EVERYTHING that you've been CHARGED with (not convicted, *charged*) is going to show up on your background check. So, the indecent exposure charge that was dealt down to a midsemeanor disorderly conduct? Both the charge and the final conviction are there. Domestic disputes, DWIs (misdemeanors and felony versions), basically anything you've seen a policeman about that he took your name for is listed there.

2) There are no 7 year limits on what can be seen by ANYONE doing a background check on you. Your background check goes back to the day that you turned 18 (21 in some cases). So, that MIP (Minor In possession) from that high school graduation party 20 years ago? It's there. That drug charge from when you were young and stupid 35 years ago? It's there. Some companies (such as any government) have a policy that they only pay attention to the last 7 years, but there is no law or requirement that makes anyone else do so.

3) Whatever is in your background check is your problem - even if it's a mistake. There are errors in background checks. If the Social Security Number is one off from yours and someone who was in a rush entered it, it's now on your record. It is YOUR responsibility to get it off, not whoever put it on. You will usually end up at a courthouse to start the lengthy and painful process to get that done.

4) You should know, BEFORE you interview ANYWHERE (even with a recruiter) what is going to show up in your background check. Mostly, you know what you've done. I've had candidates tell me that a spousal abuse charge (admittedly with a different wife 10 years ago) was a surprise to him. I've heard my share of fanciful tales about how innocent candidates took the heat for a drug charge because his buddy (who was REALLY the one with the drugs) had two strikes. EVERY recruiter and HR person has these stories, so don't think you're the first.

In any case, at least once every time you're looking for a job, you'll want to check your record for yourself so that you know what you're walking into. Following are some places I know of that can do a background check for you. I haven't used most of them, but doing a background check is not difficult:

Career Screen - They're running a background check special for $24.95
My Background Check has packages from $24.95 - $68.95, including some verification papers to show you're all clean and verified.
US Search offers some more in-depth packages from $39.95 - $295.95

If you know of some better / quicker / whatever ones, put 'em in Comments. NOTE: Doing your own background check won't replace what your potential employer will do. It just lets you know what is there. (Read: Don't pay a lot for extra 'verification' services.)

5) If there is ANYTHING in your background, 'fess up immediately! If you lie about it, even (or, perhaps, especially) if it something small and stupid, you will not get the job. Period. Don't waste your time and their time. Just tell 'em about it. If it's a problem, they'll tell you and you can spend your time interviewing with people where it isn't a problem.

The most common misconception is that, because you got to a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. interview, they aren't going to find whatever is in your background. It's not true! They'll do the background check eventually and then be REALLY P.O.ed that you didn't tell them.

6) The fact that you have something in your background isn't necessarily a show-stopper. Ask any HR person you know - you'd be amazed at what people at all levels (entry-level up through CEO) have in their backgrounds. Heck - even the CIA is considering accepting candidates with drug charges!

There ARE situations where it will usually kill your chances. I talked to a candidate that had just gotten out of Federal prison for child pornography charges a few months before (the child porn was on his work computer). Him, I couldn't do a lot for. Chances are you'll be okay.


Whew! Okay - it's really long, but there's what you need to know about your background check. If you have any questions, shoot 'em to me!

Happy hunting!

-Dan

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3 Comments:

  • does this apply to all states? everything i was arrested for but never convicted of? wtf

    By Blogger davedave, at 10:08 PM  

  • I AM 25 YEARS OLD NOW BUT AT AGE 18 I GOT PULLED OVER IN ASMALL TOWN FOR DOING 25 MILES OVER THE SPEED LIMIT AND ALSO 2 FRIENDS OF MINE WERE DRINKING AND THERE WAS BEER IN THE CAR i HAD TO GO TO COURT AND DO COMMUNITY SERVICE THINK THIS ON MY REPORT? WILL IT AFFECT MY CHANCES OF A JOB>?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:38 PM  

  • I have a great place to check what's in your background. It's called MyPublicInfo. Go to www.MyPublicInfo.com. You can check what's in your background for only $79.95. They have the most comprehensive background information available including federal, state, and county records, financial records, and even property records. It's amazing to see the information that's out there on you.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:16 AM  

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