So your dream firm has finally posted a vacancy, but you are dreading the application process because the ad says the applicants will be subjected to a compulsory background check. Remember there is no rose without its thorns and no dream job without an anxiety-filled hiring process. So, stop worrying and apply right away. As for your jitters, we have got you covered. Read on to understand what can and cannot happen during a background check.
Scope of Employment Screening
Employment screening is aimed at finding a host of things about you as a potential employee, and more so, as a person; and mind you, it takes no shortcut in getting there. A common screening may include work and credit histories, driving, educational, court, and criminal records, arrest warrants, professional certifications and licenses, character references, drug screening, and use of social media to name a few.
The list may be long enough to send chills down your spine particularly if you have some tracks in the past to cover, for example, criminal history. The question is, how long will you dwell on this fear of being “discovered”? More importantly, does prison time really imply no or limited work prospects? Similar skepticism concerning their job prospects exists among people with specific credit, medical or marijuana-use histories. Let us assure you that you are not doomed.
While there might have been a certain rationale behind your dismay five years ago, newer regulations have paved the way for fairer assessments and reduced discrimination. So, brace yourself as we walk you through a typical screening process and guide you on how to be well-prepared when anticipating one.
Tips for Background Check
Know your rights
The Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019, new IRS rules, and several state-level regulations have changed the employment screening landscape in the recent past for good. Limits have been placed on information that is legal for employers to access depending on the industry, whether the business is in the public or private sector, and in what state it is located.
For example, criminal history has been declared a no-go area for employers until the provisioning of a conditional job offer as per the Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019 going into effect December 20, 2021.
Similarly, NYC employers are forbidden to screen employees for marijuana use, New Jersey employers are not allowed to inquire about a candidate’s compensation and benefits in prior jobs, etc. No employer is allowed to get a background report on you without your prior authorization and if one does that, you have the option to contact the Federal Trade Commission for an official complaint.
If a red flag shows up in the report, the employer must give you a copy and a “Summary of Rights” mentioning how to contact the company that provided background check services in case there is a mistake you want to fix. As an applicant, you should know the protections you have been granted and the rules an employer must adhere to so as to avoid being discriminated against.
Prepare for the screening
- Run a background check on yourself. Stop guessing what employers will find on you and start knowing for sure. Almost everyone thinks to him/herself, can I run a background check on myself? Well, yes you can! Pre-empting a background check by running one on yourself is the best way to start. It will show any red flags that you might be unaware of and give you the opportunity to correct them before a potential employer finds them out.
- Notify the relevant court if a red flag mistakenly shows up. Sometimes, running a criminal background check on yourself surprises you by turning up offenses you may have not committed. Even though someone else’s clerical mistake should not be your headache in normal circumstances, it is your job to fix your false record before it gets you. Contact the court where the false implicating report showed up, explain your case and notify them of the mistake.
- Have your criminal record sealed or expunged. If you deem a charge on your record could be too risky for a potential job, consider having it sealed or expunged. An expungement erases convictions and arrests from a person’s criminal record entirely, rendering such a clean slate for him that even courts cannot trace it down. Sealing withdraws one’s criminal record from public view, but it may still be accessed through a court order. Not all kinds of records, however, are eligible to be sealed or expunged and will depend on your situation.
- Let your resume be accurate. Be sure not to overstate your qualifications and understate gaps in your employment history, as the first thing to be scrutinized in pre-employment screening is often your resume. Remember there are smarter ways to address a shortcoming in your profile than giving outright false information.
- State the references who know you well. Your stated references ought to know you well enough to be able to give flowering citations for your character and share your incredible achievements in your past roles when contacted by a potential employer. It helps to bring copies of your job records from former employers with you in an interview to avoid potentially uncomfortable questions about references.
- Scrutinize your social media accounts. Your social media accounts can be the most implicating if you have been a keyboard warrior in the past and have a history of disrespectful public posts and job-rants to your credit. Consider removing everything that you don’t want to be brought up in your interview. Let LinkedIn be the starting point. Ensure that the professional history and details listed on your LinkedIn match with your resume to avoid a T.K.O. in the first round.
Don’t Procrastinate, Apply Away
Employment background checks are here to stay, and it is almost impossible to bypass one when applying for a job. The key is to be aware of the legislation in your state, the protections it grants you, things that may incriminate you, and those that are out of bounds.
They say you fear what you don’t understand, and if that’s true. There is nothing left between you and your dream job after you’ve read this article and understood your rights. So, have faith in your abilities, brace yourself, and get the ball rolling. We wish you the best of luck!