The How and Why of Running Your Own Background Check When Job Hunting

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Updated resume: check.

Customized cover letter: check.

Recruiter interview: perfect.

Hiring manager interview: excellent.

Panel interviews: outstanding.

An offer is certainly on its way to your inbox, right?

Time out. Chances are, your new employer will run a background check before finalizing the deal. Nearly 70% of businesses do, according to the Society for Human Resources Management.

Yes, that’s right, a background check.

Breath. It’s OK. Background checks are common, and most of the time they go off without a hitch. However, it makes sense to know what a future employer will see on your background report.

The best way to do that is to run your own, especially if you’ve never had a background check done before, or haven’t for a long time. Here’s why:

Mistakes Happen, And You Can Fix Them

Most employers conduct criminal background checks as well as employment and education verification during the hiring process, and some may conduct credit checks. Unfortunately, mistakes in records do happen. Finding out about any errors before an employer runs your report gives you the opportunity to correct the information – and to let the hiring manager know about inaccuracies you’re working to fix. Here’s an example of a consumer dispute resolution process.

Confirm Résumé Details

Hiring managers typically check dates of employment and job titles with past employers and education history with your alma maters. One study found that more than half (58%) find exaggerations or outright lies on applicant résumés. And half of all employers surveyed say they’d disqualify applicants who do lie.

Not all discrepancies are intentional. Dates of employment may be open to interpretation.(For example, if you started at the company as an independent contractor, you might list your start date as the day your contract began, but your employer might list it as the first day you are a full time employee.). But any disparity between what you’ve listed and what your employer (or school) reports can raise questions about your truthfulness.

Avoid Surprises

You may like surprises, like a surprise party or an unexpected bonus. Those are good surprises. There are bad surprises, like these, that you want to avoid:

  • Identity theft. It is unfortunate reality of the modern world, especially as data breaches become more common. In fact, identity theft been the number one consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission for 15 years in a row. Much of the harm comes from thieves misusing someone else’s government documents and records. We often see other names attached to Social Security numbers, which can be a sign of a clerical error in processing a credit application, or of identity theft.
  • You share a name (and even date of birth) with someone whose reputation isn’t as stellar as yours. A recruiter once told me about a background report that showed that one of her candidates appeared on a terrorist watch list. The candidate was able to prove that he simply had the same name as the suspected terrorist. This can happen because watch list searches return incomplete information, checking only a name – not date of birth or Social Security number. If you have a common name, it’s especially important to check to make sure you won’t be mistaken for someone else.

Understand Your Record

If you know that an infraction might show up on your report, it makes sense to understand exactly what information your employer will see. Alerting the hiring manager to any incidents before they turn up on a background report gives you the power to tell your story in person, rather than letting the documents speak for you.

Hiring managers are likely to have a better view of candidates who explain their record before the background check reveals it.

How to Run Your Own Pre-Employment Background Check

If you want to find out what employers will see when they look into your background, you’ll need to do more than a Google search. While searching your name can be revealing, especially when using search tricks like putting quotes around your name, it won’t return court records or provide employment or education verification details.

The easiest way to see your background report the way a potential employer will is to use an employment screening service.

Not all background-checking companies allow self-background checks. GoodHire is one of several companies that offer this service to job hunters. Whichever service you choose; make sure it emphasizes compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The FCRA governs the way reporting agencies handle consumer information to ensure accuracy, fairness, and privacy.

Once you’ve selected a provider, decide how extensive you want your background check to be. For the most accurate results, pick a package that includes at least federal, state, and county records. If the job you’re applying for involves driving, choose one that includes a motor vehicles records check. And employment and education verification options will give you peace of mind that your résumé is accurate.

To run the report, fill in the same information your employer asks you to provide:

  • Your legal name,
  • Social Security number, and (depending on the kind of report you buy),
  • Past employment and school details.

And that’s it.

Background checks are a reality of the job search process. They don’t need to be scary. By doing a little research ahead of time, you can approach every step of the hiring process with confidence.

Max Wesman joined Inflection in 2012 to lead the planning and launch of GoodHire, a rapidly growing employment screening service now used by over 20,000 businesses. As Vice President of Product, Wesman is engaged in all aspects of the business, from the product roadmap, to the design and development of GoodHire, to its marketing and PR efforts, as well as legal compliance and support.

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