The landscape for job seekers has changed dramatically over the past six months. With many office roles now based at home, remote work has become the norm and interviews are mainly carried out via video link rather than in person. This means it’s likely that you’ll start a new job without having ever met your colleagues or managers in person.
This also means that some employers and recruiters are now placing even greater emphasis on completing background checks—including criminal record screenings such as DBS checks—and following up with your references. So what can you do to make sure you aren’t putting barriers in the way of getting hired? Here are the top seven things you can do to ensure you're prepared for and pass employment background checks.
1. Make sure you’re well-prepared for these checks.
First, it’s a good idea to find out, in advance, any information a prospective employer might be looking into. Contact the HR department and ask them which documentation you need to prepare, or if there’s any information you need to provide for their screening process.
2. Check your credit.
Even if you think your credit history is irrelevant to the job you’re applying for, it’s no longer unheard of for employers to check this kind of information—they think it tells them a lot about a candidate’s character. So, to prepare for this, get a copy of your credit report and go through it. If there’s something on it that doesn’t seem right, get in touch with the creditor. You can dispute things on your report, but it can take some time, which is why you should check your credit regularly. Note: while it might be illegal for employers look up your credit score, it’s typically okay for them to get your credit report.
3. Review your driving record.
If the employer you’re applying to wants to see your license, you need to be prepared to explain any anomalies. If you’re able to anticipate any questions they might ask, it’s less likely that they’ll catch you off guard. There might be a perfectly plausible reason for a minor blip on your driving record. Make sure that you can put it into context and explain why it's there.
4. Be informed about banned substances.
Some employers now carry out drug tests. Make sure you know about various banned substances in the city and state you’re applying. And if you’re taking any legitimate prescription medications that might be illegal in some areas but not others, make sure you can explain them. You’re much more likely to come out of the situation positively if you’re upfront and honest.
5. Contact former employers and ask for copies of your employment records.
Contrary to popular belief, there aren’t always restrictions on what information a former employer can disclose about you. If your employer is based in the U.S., laws about what can and can’t be shared may vary from state to state. But no matter which state you work in, you can contact former employers and ask for copies of your employment records. This way you can preempt any potentially awkward questions arising from references.
6. Research local employment laws.
Since a lot of roles are home-based now, you don’t have to live close to your place of work. However, this could mean that you’re out of step with the laws that your prospective employers are adhering to. Make sure you do your homework so you know your rights and don’t get any nasty surprises.
7. Beat employers to it.
If you know there’s something that will look less than positive in a given background check, it might help your case to discuss the issue with your prospective employer rather than waiting for them to discover it. If you’re the one to bring it to their attention, you can explain any extenuating circumstances—which could make all the difference in how they perceive you.
In general, you can make it infinitely easier for employers to hire you if you’re ready with the right information for their checks and you’re prepared to explain any potential red flags in your background.
George Griffiths is the managing director of uCheck DBS Checks. In 2013, George joined the firm full time with the goal of creating a fluid and successful business development structure. His focus for the future is to drive the development of the uCheck HR platform and continue to align his way of working with the firm's mission statement—to always care about getting it right.
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