Even some of the most successful executives may have one or more mistakes in their pasts that can create problems in today’s especially rigorous and scrutinizing hiring process. A rebellious period in your youth can haunt you for many years to come. An astounding statistic is that nearly a third of Americans have been arrested at least once by the time they turn 23. Everyone knows that a felony can count against you big time, but even misdemeanors can trip you up pretty badly.
So what can you expect in terms of background checks/screening before you garner that wonderful executive job offer? A criminal record may disqualify you out of hand, but if addressed honestly and proactively, in many instances you may still be able to win the offer.
Equally important to preparation of a powerful executive resume and LinkedIn profile, proactive connections with recruiters, colleagues, and hiring managers, and thorough research on the companies that interest you is researching yourself. Run all of the background checks that the hiring company will be likely to do, have any inaccuracies corrected as quickly as possible, and be prepared to address any issues head-on when they come up–better yet, before they knock you down.
Here are the types of checks that may be run on you:
* Law Enforcement and Court Records Report: $65 will get you a copy of your “rap sheet” in any state. Although your potential employer will not actually look at this, they will be looking at convictions and any pending cases against you. Any charges that occurred when you were under age or that have been dismissed are candidates for you to request they be sealed or expunged.
* Your Credit History: Nearly half of companies will check your credit report (except for in 9 states where it is banned), as your financial behavior is considered a strong indicator of your level of responsibility and honesty (particularly for positions with any kind of financial or fiduciary responsibility). You can get free credit reports annually from all three major credit reporting agencies. Go through them carefully and request correction of any inaccuracies.
* Your DMV Record: Pulled almost certainly if the position you are applying for entails driving, your DMV record may also be pulled because it is considered an indicator of personal responsibility and compliance with laws. You can ask for a copy so you will know what they are going to see, although there’s not much you can do to change it. For instance, DUI’s can be sealed, but any license suspension will still appear as a red flag.
* Employment History Checks: It is easy for a potential employer to verify the accuracy of the work history information you provide on your executive resume, so think twice about changing your beginning/ending dates of employment, skipping significant jobs, or worse yet making up jobs.
* Academic Background: We’ve all read or seen on TV the horror stories of people summarily dismissed from jobs of long-standing due to fabricated education information provided in the hiring process. Just don’t do it. And if you ran into trouble at college, be sure to request and review a copy of your academic records and ask them to correct anything inaccurate or perhaps even if the incident can be expunged. You can also ask them specifically what kinds of information they provide when an employer inquiry is made so you can be prepared.
If you do have any significant criminal history, your best strategy is to confront it up front in the interview with your potential employer, when you have their attention and can explain, versus being dismissed out of hand based on a report with no opportunity to defend yourself. Speak as positively about it as you can, first impressing them with your experience and expertise, and then bringing to their attention what happened, what you learned from it, and why you are a different person today.
You may wonder what prompted me to write this particular blog entry. I rarely run into this situation, but worked recently with a highly accomplished and talented executive who had actually served prison time. He has gone on to great success by proactively addressing the issue.