Ask LH: What Do Employers Check For Before Hiring Someone?

Ask LH: What Do Employers Check For Before Hiring Someone?

Dear Lifehacker, I’ve been applying for a lot of jobs recently, and I’m wondering what kind of research an employer might do on me. What do they find in background checks? Do they look online too? Sincerely, Worried Searchers

Dear WS, Employers often do quite a bit of research before hiring someone. Background checks are common in some industries, and a general search online is almost guaranteed for every job these days. Here’s what you can expect employers to look for, and how you can clean up what they will find.

They Will Search for You on Google

Ask LH: What Do Employers Check For Before Hiring Someone?

For most jobs, the first thing any employer is going to do is a quick Google search for your name. This will likely pull up your social network profiles, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter, as well as any other mentions of your name online. So, you want these results to look good.

We’ve covered how to manipulate the information that pops up about you on Google before, and it’s essentially about making sure that the first results on Google are all positive. With some tweaking to your social network profiles, you can ensure that any bad news is buried pretty deep.

If a good first impression isn’t really possible, you can always split your online and real-world identity, but remember that employers want to find information about you, so make sure your real identity account still has a lot going on.

So, start with a quick Google search of your name. What you see should be pretty close to what your employer will see, so if there’s anything in those results that needs to get cleaned up, do so before you apply. Likewise, it’s not a bad idea to spruce up your profiles with new images and recent achievements. Your social network profiles are essentially light resumes, so make sure they’re in order. Otherwise, check your privacy settings so that only information you want a potential employer to see pops up.

Employers can dig a lot deeper if they want. As CNN points out, employers might come across information such as Amazon wish lists, campaign donations and plenty more if they know where to look. Chances are they’re using the same tools available to you, so it’s worth stalking yourself before sending off that resume if you’re especially worried.

They Will Run a Background Check on You

Ask LH: What Do Employers Check For Before Hiring Someone?

Some employers will also do a formal background check. This is usually a service they pay for that takes a few days to complete. Your potential employer will send off information such as your name and your last few addresses and get back a list of details about you, including credit reports, criminal records, qualifications and bankruptcies. Generally, these background checks are just to check criminal history.

They Will Research Previous Salaries and Employers

Ask LH: What Do Employers Check For Before Hiring Someone?

Finally, your potential employer may also verify your previous salaries, employers and positions. This used to require a series of phone calls, but it’s as easy as a quick look online these days. According to a recent survey from SHRM, 76 per cent of employers verify your resume data. That includes details about former employers, employment dates and job titles, so you should be honest on your resume.

As CNN points out, this is why embellishing your salary is often a bad idea. If you lie about a previous salary in hopes of getting a better one at a new job, you’ll likely get caught, since it’s incredibly easy to track that information down.

The fact is it’s easy for employers to research you, and they’re going to do it. Cleaning up your social networks is easy, but it’s important to remember to keep your resume honest while you’re at it.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Picture: tokyoimagegroups/Shutterstock, van Jackson/Flickr


  • One of my previous employers, did a search for their name on Facebook. If the prospective employee had a completely private profile – no information available at all to non-friends (or a hidden profile that couldn’t be discovered), he was immediately eliminated from consideration as the boss took that as he had something to hide.

    • In my (correct) opinion, this kind of employer behaviour is ridiculous. It’s along the same lines as discounting an otherwise suitable applicant based on their email address ([email protected]).

      People have a life outside of the work-place. People are entitled to privacy and to protecting their security.

      In my mind, the applicant that gets discounted from the process for these ridiculous reasons dodged a bullet as the employer would likely have an abundance of ridiculous business practices.

      • He doesn’t exclude applicants with those kinds of email addresses. He doesn’t exclude people for swearing, posting explicit photos, personal opinions, or anything really (unless it’s illegal). Just people that “have something to hide”

        • Sounds like someone more concerned with being “too smart for that trick!” than legitimately finding the right person for the job. Ego before efficacy.

          Glad to see you said PREVIOUS employer.

  • I just checked my name and in the summaries in the Google search I see my name from some forum I’ve commented on along with some negative comment by the poster after me so the lazy manager who doesn’t click on the summary will think I make negative comments.
    For the record my comments are informative or humourous but never negative as I don’t bother with things I don’t agree with.

    • Yeah this is the shame of it. People are smart to modify their anonymous online behaviour in order to protect themselves against the absurd behaviours of an employer or potential employer. To me, that destroys a proportion of the potential of the internet – free, unhindered speech. Now we do well to censor ourselves.

  • One biggie missed here, if your job history (or LinkedIn profile) suggests you’ve worked with someone they know, there’s a good chance they will ask them about you. Just because you don’t list them as a reference, doesn’t mean they won’t be asked about you.

  • I’ve employed quite a few people in my time and I’ve never Googled or checked for them on Facebook/etc. Frankly, what you do in your private life is your own business. My first cross check is Linkedin vs the CV, usually to check up on anything missing or overplayed. The public nature of Linkedin tends to be much less over the top than the CV.

    My company performs a police check as a matter of course, but nothing has ever come up and it’s only an Australian history anyway – pointless IMHO.

    Best advice – be yourself. You’ve got a 3 or 6 month probation period to get rumbled. If you’ve bulls#!ted on your CV, you’re an idiot or just plain lazy, your employer if they’re worth their salt will work it out. If not, lucky you.

  • Nah guys, you have it all backwards. See, the real reason employers check social networks is because they dont want to get caught out unawares. Has nothing to do with their employee behaviour. The employer just wants to make sure that they dont run into any employees while the employer is partying hard. Or maybe just maybe, I’ll create a fake profile on one of those sites with a fake/outlandish name so they really struggle to find me. A name like Thorin Oakenshield for instance. That should do the trick.

  • I think anyone who values their privacy would be glad to be eliminated from consideration for working for your previous boss.

  • I completely LoL when I say the name search in the image above as Thorin Oakenshield. I found funny since I am a Hobbit and Lord of the Rings fan.

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