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
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
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
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.
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