Many employers require a background check before finalizing a job offer to a prospective employee.
While there are various protections in place to ensure an employer does not discriminate against applicants based on their criminal history or credit history, applicants are oftentimes unable to prove an employer made its decision based on these protected categories.
Because proving that an employer took an adverse action against an applicant based on these categories is difficult, it is in your best interest to address any problem in your background before an employer has an opportunity to bring it up.
Here are five tips for applicants with troubled backgrounds to attempt to address issues in their past:
Order a Copy of Your Credit Report
If the report contains something you do not recognize or that you disagree with, dispute the information with the creditor and/or credit bureau before you have to explain it to the interviewer. Although laws like the Fair Credit Reporting Act ensure applicants are judged on their merits, not an inaccurate credit score, requesting your credit report and correcting any inaccuracies can help stem the issue before a prospective employer finds it and uses it to screen you out.
Check Court Records
If you have an arrest or conviction record or have been involved in court cases, check the Consolidated Court Automation Programs, also known as “CCAP” or “WCCA”, and ensure the information is correct and accurate. You may also consider going to the city or county where the crime took place and inspect the files to ensure everything is correct. In some limited circumstances, applicants will want to ensure that their criminal case was properly expunged from all public records.
Colin B. Good, Montana 2004, is senior counsel with Hawks Quindel, S.C., Madison, where he litigates employment issues in local, state, and federal courts as well as administrative agencies.
Wisconsin law allows a judge to “expunge” a case in a limited number of situations, such as certain crimes committed by a person under 25, victims of human trafficking, and adjudication of a juvenile delinquent. An expunged case is sealed by the clerk of court and may be viewed only with a court order. Any reference to it should be removed from WCCA, so applicants should be sure to follow up if a court has agreed to expunge their record.
Check DMV Records
Request a copy of your driving record from the Department of Motor Vehicles, especially if you are applying for a job that involves driving. It is important to note that, in most instances, a DWI is a civil forfeiture and need not be reported as an arrest or conviction by job applicants. Many employers may look upon your failure to recognize it as such as an act of dishonesty, however. We encourage applicants to be as forthcoming as possible while filling-out their applications.
Do Your Own Background Check
If you want to see what an employer’s background check might uncover, hire a background screening company that specializes in such reports to conduct one for you. That way, you can discover if the databases of information vendors contain erroneous or misleading information. You can use one of the many online search services to find out what an employer would learn if conducting a background check in this way. Hawks Quindel, S.C. makes no recommendations regarding what background services to use and applicants should be leery of background screening companies that engage in fraudulent activities.
Eliminate Provocative Digital Fingerprint
Clean up your “digital dirt.” Many of us enjoy using social networking websites, such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, as a way of staying connected with friends and family. Unfortunately, some of our friends and family – and occasionally ourselves – may post and/or tag unflattering or provocative references or images of us without our permission.
As such, you should conduct a search of your name – in quotation marks – in the major search engines such as Google and Yahoo. If you find unflattering references, especially images, contact the website to learn if and how you can remove them.
If you have written blog articles, you may wish to revisit them in case editing or eliminating the entries might be prudent. You can also monitor the web for new mentions of your name by setting up a Google Alert, which sends you email updates of the latest Google results mentioning your name.