Background checks are an important part of the hiring process for employers. However, they can also be beneficial for job seekers like yourself. By conducting a background check on yourself, you can gain valuable insights into what information is accessible about you. This allows you to ensure that the information accurately portrays you in a positive light. Understanding the components of a background check empowers you to navigate this process effectively.
In this article, we will explore background checks and provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to perform this process on your own. By conducting your own background check, you can be better prepared to answer questions during interviews and identify any inaccuracies in your information. It is recommended that you pay particular attention to key areas such as credit history, employment history, work authorization, and educational background during the background check process.
What is a background check?
A background check is a pre-employment screening process utilized by employers. It can be done in-house or through a third-party screening service. This procedure examines candidates’ background information, including public records, to verify their identity and the accuracy of the information they have provided. The objective is to ensure that potential employees provide truthful information and are in line with the company’s policies and values. A background check is typically one of the last steps in the hiring process, giving employers confidence in their decision-making.
What are the benefits of checking my background?
A background check is an essential part of the hiring process carried out by employers. Conducting this process on yourself can offer you several advantages while searching for a job. Some of these benefits include:
- Understanding your record: By conducting a background check on yourself, you can discover what information is available about you. This knowledge allows you to address and respond to any details found by the employer during their search. If there is something that may impact your eligibility as a candidate, you can provide an explanation that offers more context or helps the employer better understand the situation.
- Correcting any mistakes: While reviewing your records during a background search, you may come across errors or other issues. For instance, you might learn that someone has used your information or that you share a name or other details with someone who could negatively influence your search results. Depending on the nature of the errors, you can take appropriate action to rectify them with the relevant departments, websites, or organizations. You can also inform the employer about these issues and update them on the steps you have taken.
- Verifying details on your resume: Some of the information in a background report aligns with your resume, such as your education and employment history. Performing a background check on yourself can help ensure that this information matches, which establishes trust with your potential employer. For example, you might not be aware that the start date on your resume differs from the actual start date provided by your previous employer until you verify this information.
What does a background check include?
Employers often use background checks to verify information about job candidates. The process can vary based on the employer or position. Typically, employers review information related to the job, such as driving records for candidates whose roles will require driving company vehicles. The thoroughness of the process can also vary.
For example, individuals applying for government jobs must undergo very comprehensive background checks. Examples of the information included in background checks are as follows:
- Social Security Number verification
- criminal records (state, county, and city)
- driving records
- credit history
- work authorization
- employment history
- educational history
Additionally, some employers may also consider social media profiles as part of the background check process.
How to run your own background check
When applying for jobs, employers often conduct background checks on applicants. If you want to run a background check on yourself, here are some steps you can follow:
1. Confirm your Social Security information: To help employers verify your identity, you need to provide your Social Security Number. You can go to the Social Security Administration’s website and create an account to ensure the accuracy of the information they have about you.
2. Obtain a credit report: Employers may check your credit history, but they need your written permission to do so. You can request a free credit report annually from the national credit bureaus to view this information. Note that the employer’s credit report will differ from your personal report, as certain personal details are not visible to them.
3. Review your criminal record: If you have a criminal record, employers may find this information during background checks. The report may include details such as criminal convictions, imprisonment history, parole history, probation history, warrants, and pending criminal cases. You can request records from the relevant courts or corrections departments to review your criminal history, but please be aware that there may be fees associated with this process.
4. Obtain your driving record: Your driving record might be checked during pre-employment background screenings, especially if the job involves driving. Employers want to ensure that they hire reliable, responsible, and safe drivers. Similar to credit checks, employers need your permission to obtain this report.
Your driving record includes details such as:
- Status of your driver’s license
- License classifications and endorsements
- Traffic violations
- Outstanding fees and citations
- Convictions and fines
You can obtain your driving record from your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for a fee. The DMV often provides online access to this information, but you can also visit their office or request a copy by mail. The cost of obtaining your driving record may vary. If you held a driver’s license in another state within the past two decades, you may want to obtain your records from there as well.
5. Review your educational and employment history: When applying for jobs, employers typically ask for details about your education and work experience. Regarding education, this information includes the names of the schools you attended and the degrees you earned. Your work history may include:
- Names of organizations
- Locations of organizations
- Dates of employment
- Names of supervisors
- Contact information for supervisors
- Your job title
Employers sometimes request transcripts from educational institutions. Contact your school directly to ensure they have your records and request a transcript for review. Similarly, you can reach out to previous employers to ensure they have accurate records of your employment. You may also explore other methods of obtaining your work history, such as checking your Social Security records, IRS records, or credit reports.
6. Review your address history: Employers’ background checks may include information about your previous addresses. This information helps verify your identity, and the locations of these addresses can be relevant for driving and criminal records. It’s important to ensure the accuracy of your address information. You can verify this information through various sources, including your credit report, tax records, and publicly available records. There are also websites that offer address history searches based on your name and location. However, keep in mind that the information provided by these services may not always be completely reliable.
7. Review your social media presence: Nowadays, employers often review candidates’ public social media profiles to get an idea of their online presence and how they represent themselves. It is crucial to project a positive and professional image to protect your reputation. Therefore, make sure that your profiles don’t contain any mentions or evidence of illegal activities, violence, bullying, harassment, offensive content, or inflammatory messages. These guidelines apply to both written and visual content displayed on your profiles.
Take the time to review your current social media profiles and make any necessary updates or changes. If your profiles are public, continue monitoring them to maintain a positive online reputation. It’s also worth conducting searches for your name or commonly used usernames to identify any old profiles that you may have forgotten about. When you come across old profiles that are no longer needed or that you don’t want to be public, consider deleting them or changing their privacy settings whenever possible. When evaluating your background, remember to consider your online presence.
Some companies examine candidates’ social media profiles, so think about what your behavior on social media might indicate to a potential employer. Strive to present a positive and professional image through your profiles, and refrain from speaking negatively about your current or previous employers. Conversely, showcasing your accomplishments in your current role through frequent positive posts is generally viewed favorably.
8. Use a screening company: Instead of doing these steps yourself. Consider using services that employers use to make sure you get similar information. Companies that cater only to consumers might not have access to all the databases and resources that employer-serving companies have. Make sure that the employment screenings comply with the U.S. Fair Credit Reporting Act. This way, you can identify services based on their compliance with the law.
When evaluating providers, you might come across different packages they offer. Assess your options to determine which packages provide the desired information and fit within your budget. When using background search services, you will need to provide information about yourself to assist in their search. This usually includes your legal name, current address, Social Security Number, employment history, and education details.