Workplace Rights

Weekly (6/12/17)

Topic of the Week  Hunting for Red Flags: Surviving a Background Check

  • Credit reports
  • Criminal background checks
  • Social Media checks

Hunting for Red Flags: Surviving a Background Check

You've aced the interview with the right combination of expertise and enthusiasm, but there is one more hurdle, the background check. You're home free, right? Hardly, many companies want to know everything they can about you. Which reminds me of Lorenzo Gaspar. He was recently arrested by Shelbyville, TN police for passing a $50 bill they thought was fake. Only problem, it wasn't.

Unfortunately more of us are more like Mr. Gaspar than we realize. Because we can lose possible jobs over fake information. In a perfect world companies would focus just on work history and expertise. Not these days. Now companies are doing credit checks, criminal background checks and social media checks. I've listed some strategies below to survive this hiring gauntlet.

Credit reports. Back in 1998 only 25% of companies did credit checks. Now it's up to 60%. Given the recession's impact on most of our finances, it's just wrong to hold credit challenges against a potential employees. Ironically, a study at LSU found that credit reports had no value in predicting theft, one of the main justifications for doing them. I encourage you to check out A free service that allows you to do one credit check of the three major reporting agencies and fix any errors that you may find.

Criminal history. Today 90% of companies check criminal histories, up from 51% in 1996. A recent ruling by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, or EEOC, puts restrictions on how frequently a company can do criminal history checks. Good news if you're one of the 65 million people in the US with criminal records. We've all heard of identity theft, but most of us are much less aware of identity mistakes. Where a background check turns up arrests or convictions that we didn't do. Again, it's often a good idea to do a background check on yourself, just to see if there are any mistakes that could interfere with your getting hired.

Social media. Considering that social media didn't even exist in the 1990's as a mass market phenomenon, today 52% of companies report that they check out the social media pages of potential employees. Unlike mistakes that can appear in a credit check or criminal background check, which are often out of our control, we mostly only have ourselves to blame for any problems arising from our social media presence. That's why it's so important to constantly look at your profile from the point of view of a company that is thinking about hiring you. Free speech is great, but do you really want to lose a potential job over a posting on Facebook or a picture from a bachelor party?

Turns out the Gaspar's $50 bill was really old and that's why police thought it was fake. And it would get really old to lose a job over errors in your credit history or criminal record. In this electronic age you've got to look over your own shoulder if you want to get hired.

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him

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–Maria Robinson

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