Should College Students and Graduates Check Their Backgrounds?
It’s summertime, which means that countless college graduates are flooding the job market and searching for full-time employment for the first time. It also means that plenty of current college students are scouring their hometowns looking for opportunities to make some extra cash, or jetting off to different parts of the country in search of internships offering valuable experience. The bottom line is that, in the summer, the job market is more congested and competitive than at any other time of year. Therefore, if you are going to find employment on this busy professional landscape, you are not only going to need to stand out from the crowd in terms of experience and interview rapport, but you are also going to need ace the background check with flying colors.
Everyone knows that they have most of the control when it comes to the experience and interview side of the equation. The ability to draft a killer resume, relate your experience to the job opportunity at hand, and above all, make a great impression on hiring managers, wins the vast majority of job offers. That’s why so many job searchers spend the majority of their time writing and rewriting their resumes, researching the company and job at hand, and doing mock interviews with friends and family. They want to control what happens during the interview process.
However, in prepping for the pre-employment process, many job searchers also forget a key component to that process: the background check. Virtually all employers these days – especially the ones that recent college graduates will be submitting applications to – run detailed background screenings of their applicants. These checks can search anything from your criminal history to your driving record, and they can have a huge impact on your employment chances if they uncover anything questions or unsavory in your background. In other words, background checks can make or break your employment chances just like a job interview can, making it all the more insane that so many job hunters opt not to prepare for the background check segment of the pre-employment process at all.
Why the Background Check Goes Overlooked
So why don’t most job hunters prepare for the background check, even when they are spending exhaustive amounts of time seemingly doing everything they can to get hired? One possible answer is that people simply forget that background checks are such a big part of the employment process these days. They forget that employers want to make sure that they don’t hire someone who is going to harass their customers or embezzle their money. They forget that employers can face negligent hiring lawsuits if a customer is hurt by an employee who happens to have a violent criminal history.
On the surface, forgetting these things seems almost logical. After all, not everyone is intimately familiar with how businesses operate and how they vet their employees. However, what everyone should be aware of is the fact that employers have an obligation to create the safest work environment possible. Part of making good on that promise is weeding out any employees who could somehow shatter the safety of the work environment, and the best way to weed such dangerous individuals out is to take a look at their criminal background checks for red flags. Therefore, in assuming that your prospective employer has the best interests of his or her workers and customers at heart, you should always go into an interview assuming that a criminal background check is going to be a part of the process.
Why Checking Your Background Check is Important
Another possibility is that the background check does not get forgotten at all, but rather that most job searchers merely assume that they have clean records and choose not to worry about what might come through on their background check reports. This line of thinking is especially popular among recent college graduates or other young people trying to join the workforce. They know they’ve never committed a crime or been convicted of a felony, and therefore, they know exactly what a prospective employer will see on their background check report.
Well, not quite. Just because you think you have a clean record doesn’t mean that your background check report will come back that way. Someone could make a mistake and pull the criminal record of someone who shares your name, or a cop could have accidentally logged a serious driving offense on the wrong record. You might even be the victim of identity theft. The point is, there are plenty of ways that your background check report can come back with inaccurate information. Sure, you could spot any of these false details from a mile away, but with job markets as competitive as the are in the summer, you can bet that employers are going to be much more likely to simply move onto the next possible candidate rather than taking time out of their busy schedule to check and double check background information.
In other words, a bad background check report, even if it is completely inaccurate, can still cost you a job opportunity. Luckily, employers are required to notify you in writing if they disqualify you based on some aspect of your background check, and the company the created the background report is required to provide you with a copy at your request. By taking advantage of these rights, you can find out what went wrong and set to work making sure it doesn’t happen again. However, such a scenario can easily be categorized as “learning your lesson the hard way,” with the lesson being that you should clean up your background check before it costs you a job.
How can you do this? Before you go on a single interview, run a background check on yourself. That way, you can find out about inaccurate information on your own terms. You might have to spend a lot of time on the phone or doing paperwork to get everything cleaned up, but your reward will be that employers see the clean record you know you have. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fresh college graduate or a 30-year workplace veteran who has been through the employment process a dozen times: if you think your record is clean, run your own background check to make sure. You’ll be thankful you did when you’re accepting your first job offer.
About the Author
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.
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- Take control by knowing exactly what is on your resume and what you want to say.
- Assume that your employer will be doing a background check.
- A good reason to get a background check is to ensure that you have nothing bad on your record; maybe you forgot you did something when you were younger, or there is inaccurate information on the report.