Having your past sifted through with a fine-tooth comb is an unpleasant process for any job candidate. But if you’re carrying around a record, it can feel like a pit in your stomach opens up whenever you send out a resume.
Learn what employers look for in a background check, and learn how to respond to a pre-adverse action letter (what employers send out when something troubling turns up in a check) before you even think of sending out another application.
Divulge Your Background Ahead of Time
The first thing you can do is be candid about your background. This can happen before you even get to the interview stage. You can professionally state the context for what might ping in a background search, explain how you overcame, and tie it into your suitability for the job.
Divulging upfront in a prompt, professional manner can make a candidate look like a consummate pro, but take a second to assess exactly what that background is. An unpaid traffic ticket is a different situation than a felony conviction. Don’t over-explain yourself unless it’s serious.
Don’t Lie on Your Resume
This is advice every job seeker should take. It can get so tiring sending out resumes and cover letters left and right with no response, You might think if you add an extra couple of years to the strongest entry in your experience section, or inflate that college GPA, that it’ll help you stand out just that much more. You might think, who really checks every detail?
The answer is, in the first round of resume review, nobody cross-checks every detail of every resume. But if you aim to be a serious candidate for a serious job, you can expect an employer to follow up with references, Google the claims made in your resume, and grill you about self-explanations in interviews. Ask yourself: is that how you want to stand out now?
Scrub Your Social Media
In the internet age, everything is forever. Every post, every photo, every like, and every comment. You probably scrolled by a screenshot “receipt” of a deleted tweet exposing someone for saying this or that just today on Twitter. Don’t assume that an employer won’t check your social media, and don’t assume that just because you deleted something that it’s gone forever.
Be proactive: scrub through your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and any other account where your account can be connected with your name and likeness, and scrub anything incriminating, from bad group affiliations to off-color comments, to inadvisable photos.
Don’t wait until you send those resumes and cover letters out. Many employers use technology that instantaneously searches the internet for instances of names that occur on resumes as they get them. You aren’t doing yourself any favors by waiting until the day of!
If You Receive a Pre-Adverse Action Letter, Ask for a Meeting to Explain
If you followed all these steps, and you’re feeling good about your transparency, there’s no guarantee that an employer still won’t flag your application based on an automated background check. But there are legal protections in place to prevent you from being discriminated against based solely upon your criminal record.
Employers are mandated by the FCRA, or Fair Credit Reporting Act, to send a notification to prospective candidates whose background checks have come back negative. If you’re wondering how to respond to a pre-adverse action letter, ask for a meeting to explain the results. You’re entitled under the FCRA to dispute the findings, and you’re entitled to a copy of that report for review as well.
Know your rights, know your worth, and make sure to demand it.