What's the most important preparation you can make before heading into a job interview? Is it polishing the resume? Practicing your responses to interview questions? Cleaning yourself up, picking out a nice outfit, and making yourself presentable? Getting a good night's sleep and making sure you don't get too nervous? The answer isn't as obvious as you'd think.
These are all valid responses, and all things that you should do before a job interview. However, in my estimation the most important pre-interview preparation is something else: running a background check on yourself. Waiting to see what your background check reveals might be the difference between breezing through the interview and missing an opportunity. There are several misconceptions surrounding background checks. Learn what they are, and what you can do to ensure you have a squeaky clean record before sitting down with potential employers.
8 Reasons to Run a Background Check
1. Candidate Screenings
Every year, pre-employment background checks are becoming more and more commonplace for employers. Bottom line, expect that your employers will look into your background, and just as you would prepare to answer different interview questions, you need to prepare for the background check as well. After all, a bad interview can cost you a job, and so can an unflattering background check.
2. Not All Background Checks Are Accurate
Somewhere along the line, a police officer could have mis-cataloged a criminal conviction and filed it under your record instead of where it belonged. A careless background check company, meanwhile, can pull the wrong records entirely — especially if you have a common name.
In other words, even if you think your criminal record is squeaky clean, there's a possibility that it's a bit more colorful than you think it is. Running a background check on yourself can reveal inaccurate information and give you a chance to resolve the problem before it costs you a job.
3. It's a Complex Process
Many people have misconceptions about how background checks work, believing that there is some giant mainframe of background information out there that can spit out criminal records, driving history, credit history, and more within minutes. This isn’t the case: background information — particularly criminal history information — is scattered across the country at different county courts, state repositories, and other sources. Running a background check on yourself will give you a better understanding of a complicated process, and will help you see why, sometimes, background check information is inaccurate.
4. Too Little Too Late
Employers are required to notify you, if they choose not to hire you based on something in your background check. They are also required to furnish you with a copy of the background check report in question, and you even have the right to dispute any findings you deem inaccurate. The only issue is that hiring processes don't stop just because you need to clear your name. By the time you've convinced a background check company or a prospective employer that they had false information about you, the job you were gunning for will almost surely have been filled. By running a background check on yourself now, you can clear up any issues before they cost you a job.
5. Competitive Edge
The job market is as competitive right now as it has ever been. Job searchers are working on a landscape where they have to be perfect to land a position. Every piece of work experience, every interview response, every reference — it all counts, and can make or break your job chances. By running a background check on yourself and clearing up any issues, you will be making a preparation that many competing applicants won't. Think of it as a chance to get a leg up on everyone else — even if your background check findings come back looking exactly as they should.
6. The Devil is in the Detail
If you've previously been convicted of a crime, but later had that conviction expunged from your record, then running a background check on yourself is even more pivotal than normal. Sometimes, records that are supposed to be expunged or sealed come up on background checks — even though they cannot legally be held against you. Still, even a criminal record that is supposed to be sealed can change an employer's opinion of you. Bottom line, if you went through the process of getting your records sealed or expunged, then you deserve to enjoy the fruits of your effort. Running a background check on yourself, prior to any interviews, will make sure that you get the chance to do so.
7. Provide Insights
If you have a criminal record, poor credit history, or a rough driving record, the chances are that you have an explanation for every little issue. Whatever your story is, though, your employer isn't going to see it on a background check report. What they are going to see are numbers, statistics, and facts about you that leave little room for gray area.
By looking over your own background check report, you can give an objective window into how employers perceive you. This kind of perspective can help you in numerous ways, from showing you the types of jobs you probably shouldn't be pursuing (someone with a poor credit history, for instance, is facing an uphill battle if they are applying for jobs in finance), to telling you there shortcomings or problems you need to explain in your interview.
8. Gain Control
All of the above points flow into this one. By running a background check on yourself, correcting any inaccurate information, and getting a window into how employers screen and assess applicants, you can have a tighter control over the narrative of your own hiring process.
If you don't run a background check on yourself, you leave certain elements up to chance, or up to the understanding and discretion of a hiring manager. With the job market as competitive as it is, you need to control every variable that you can in order to land a dream job, and a self-background-check can make you the master of several variables.
Michael Klazema has been developing products for pre-employment screening and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for Backgroundchecks.com. He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.