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Top Tips for Dealing With Background Checks

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Background Check

A simple background check, can mean the difference between employment and shuffling back to the job search. Many of us stretch the truth a little, but what makes an employer cross you off the list?

For those currently in the job-seeking market, almost one-third of potential employers will check an applicant’s history. The check is often one or more of the following: Background, criminal history, work history, and/or credit. Less common background check inclusions involve drug tests or even driving history.

Know Your Rights

According to federal law, a company must tell you why they turned you down if the reason involves your background check, but knowing what to look for beforehand can help you avoid this outcome.

First, know your rights as outlined in the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which has set a standard for what employers can use to reject a possible candidate.

Check Your Credit

Then, check into your credit yourself. Experian, Equifax and TransUnion all offer free self-checks once a year, by law. Don’t fall for sites asking for a fee to see your own report.

Remember that small problems will most likely not concern a potential employer, and your interviewer is probably savvy enough to understand how and when credit hiccups can occur.

Youthful credit mistakes or bad credit following a divorce are understandable and often expected. Explaining how you are rectifying the problem can turn the questioning back to how and why you’re qualified for the position.

Getting eyes on what an employer will see could also help you understand what they’re looking for. Check your background yourself. If you’re concerned about what could come up, a nominal fee can get you a full check at sites like mybackgroundcheck.com, which also offers tips on how to clean up your background check.

Identity Theft

Identity theft is a real concern, and some seekers can have a wrongful criminal record without even knowing it. Get ahead of these major problems and you’ll not only help your job search, but improve your life going forward.

Resume Lies

Once you’ve ascertained what your check will bring up, be sure to purge your resume of any obvious misrepresentations. Fibbing about education is the most common form of resume falsification, but resist the temptation to do so.

Seemingly tiny adjustments to your major are obvious to an employer, as these are often the first items checked. Listing your degree as Finance instead of Business doesn’t help you if it makes you a liar in the eyes of a potential boss.

If you think you need more education, make it clear you are willing to pursue this path. If you know your experience outweighs class credits, make sure to put forth your many assets to prove this point.

Resume Gaps

Some seekers express concern at small gaps or omissions, such as jobs that ran less than 3 months, or temporary positions. These are common, and most employers expect to see long tenure-type jobs on a resume rather than short experiences.

If these omitted jobs can help illustrate your qualifications for this particular position, include them briefly in your cover letter. Deflect possible aspersions from your potential employer by mentioning omitted positions in your interview, or by placing a follow-up call to clarify dates of employment.

Everyone offers a bit of embellishment in these situations. After all, the interviewer will always stress how wonderful a job will be and often leave out the tedious bits until you’re on the payroll.

However, making something up entirely is the wrong way to go. Misrepresenting yourself via fake degrees, made up employment dates, or entirely invented achievements only damages your credibility, which is often your greatest asset to an employer.

The best road to take in any job search is one of honesty. If you’ve interviewed well, your straight-forward approach could have already convinced an employer that any small indiscretions are worth overlooking.

Cautionary Tale: Former Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson busted for lying on his resume about his major. Sooner or later a even small lie can sink you.

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Written by

Pamela Skillings

Pamela Skillings is co-founder of Big Interview. As an interview coach, she has helped her clients land dream jobs at companies including Google, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan Chase. She also has more than 15 years of experience training and advising managers at organizations from American Express to the City of New York. She is an adjunct professor at New York University and an instructor at the American Management Association.

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