Feature: Employers Get Personal-What Should You Do?

Feature: Employers Get Personal-What Should You Do?

Feature: Employers Get Personal-What Should You Do?

Personal used to mean private, but not any more, especially in a job search. Employers are increasingly factoring individual background information into their assessment of job candidates. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, half of all employers were doing so less than a decade ago. Today an astonishing 96% of all companies-small as well as large-are conducting background checks on job candidates. It is now the norm in the hiring process.

What’s behind this surge in investigative activity? Several factors are playing a role:

  • First, with much publicized incidents of workplace violence and the ominous threat of terrorism, employers are increasingly concerned about the security of their workers. As a consequence, they want to be sure that the workers they hire are who they say they are.
  • Second, the legal and financial costs of negligent hiring decisions can cripple and even ruin otherwise healthy companies. In our litigious society, hiring someone who then harms other employees or customers is often a quick ticket to the courthouse.
  • Third, the cost of performing background checks has dropped dramatically due to an increasingly crowded field of vendors who are staffed and equipped to do them efficiently. As costs go down, even small employers are able to afford them.
  • And finally, technology has made it far easier for employers to acquire personal data and will likely make it even easier still in the future. For example, the U.S. Social Security Administration is testing an Internet program that will enable employers to verify candidate names and social security numbers in a single day.
  • These factors ensure that personal is now public or, at least, available to any employer who asks. Whether you’re looking for a job today, plan to do so tomorrow, or think you might at some point in the future, this trend will affect you. The question you have to ask, therefore, is: How should you react to this new reality?

    First, take a deep breath. These background checks do not represent the arrival of Big Brother or Big Sister. They may feel a bit intrusive at first, but in the long run, they protect the vast majority of us who have nothing to hide and nothing that would preclude our employment with any organization.

    Second, understand what’s going on. A background check involves an employer’s acquiring information from appropriate sources (i.e., government, officially sanctioned commercial organizations, other employers) regarding your:

  • name and social security number;
  • credit history;
  • criminal record, if any;
  • driving record, if relevant to the job; and
  • employment references.
  • The employer must have your permission in writing to check with these sources and must commit to protecting the confidentiality of the information it acquires.

    Third, appreciate the importance of this information. In a nutshell, it can affect your employability. An unfavorable credit report or a disagreement between the information you have provided on your resume and what the employer uncovers in a background check can hurt and even derail your prospects for a job, even if you are otherwise qualified to perform it.

    Fourth, know how to protect yourself. Assuming you are who you say you are and your credit, criminal and driving records are no more blemished than the average person’s, the biggest danger in a background check comes from the errors that can and do creep into the personal information that others collect about us. The key to protecting yourself, therefore, is preparation.

    As a minimum, you should:

  • Review your resume to make sure that it’s completely free of exaggerations, misstatements and/or errors. Recruiters have been exposed to the results of countless studies that confirm the presence of inaccuracies in a majority of resumes they receive. For that reason, they use background checks to confirm the data on your resume and see any disagreement as a red flag that casts doubt on your honesty and credibility. To make sure your resume passes muster, pay particular attention to what you list as the:
  • dates of your employment with other organizations,
  • names of your previous employers,
  • position title(s) you held with each of those employers,
  • dates and type(s) of academic degrees you’ve earned, and
  • educational institutions from which you received those degrees.
  • Review your credit history. The Fair Credit Reporting Act authorizes you to receive a free summary of the information in your credit files maintained by each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. This summary may be obtained from a single source by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. (This service is being phased in this year and will be available to all U.S. citizens by September 1, 2005.) Your credit score is a dynamic figure, however, and often changes, so it’s very important that you recheck your credit report every year. I suggest that you set a date-your birthday, for instance, or the federal income tax filing deadline of April 15th-to help remind you to do the check. Then, of course, if you find errors, you should aggressively pursue the appropriate credit bureau’s procedures for correcting your record.

    Background checks are here to stay, so it’s important that we get comfortable with them and learn how to use them to our advantage. There are two keys to helpful reports: vigilance and accuracy. They are the beginning and end of effective preparation.

    Thanks for reading,


    P.S. WEDDLE’s Newsletter grows only by word-of-mouth. So, please … tell a friend or colleague (or two) about the newsletter. We’d be very grateful, and they will be too.

    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    CareerBuilder.com released the results of its survey of more than 2,500 workers and managers, conducted late last year. It found that almost half of the respondents (48%) do not look forward to going to work. Almost a quarter (23%) said they are dissatisfied overall with their jobs. Is this simply more evidence that work is a four letter word? Perhaps. But, it could also mean that many of us have yet to recognize the freedom we gained with the arrival of the World Wide Web. How’s that? Well, for years, career counselors have been telling us that we need to take charge of our careers. Employers aren’t going to hold up the career ladder anymore, so it’s up to us to find our own way forward. In today’s job market, however, that path looks a lot more like a schoolyard jungle gym than a straight (and narrow) ladder. Sometimes, we can advance our careers by going forward, but other times, we may have to move sideways or even back a step or two to get to our ultimate goal. And, that’s where the Web comes in. It gives us access to the information, insights and skills we need to make those judgments and set our course. For the first time ever, you and I can get the tools we need to erect our own vision of a career; all we have to do is exercise our independence and take the first step.

    ExecuNet found confidence rebounding among executive in its most recent survey of senior level employment prospects. Almost two-thirds (65%) of respondents were either “confident” or “very confident” that the job market for executives would improve in the next sixth months. That’s up as astonishing 71% over the same period last year. It doesn’t mean that finding a great job will be a piece of cake-executive job search campaigns still average over 6 months in length-but it does suggest that companies are finally starting to hire the leaders they need to grow. And, that’s good for everybody … because leaders need people to lead, so these findings may well be a harbinger of good news to come for all of us.

    Indeed.com launched a new product recently that offers some interesting data. The site is a “meta job agent;” it uses to technology to find, copy and count the job postings at hundreds of job boards and career portals. Using that data, it has created a ranking of cities with the highest number of job postings per capita. It is a great way to determine which areas are really booming and which are not, and no less important, where the competition for employment is likely to be lowest. To put it another way, the cities with the highest job postings per capita offer the least competition for your dream job. So, who’s in the top ten? As of today, they are:

  • Boston, MA 24 postings/1000 people
  • San Jose, CA 22.1 postings/1000 people
  • Washington, D.C. 20 postings/1000 people
  • San Diego, CA 17.5 postings/1000 people
  • Denver, CO 15.3 postings/1,000 people.
  • Rounding out the top ten are Las Vegas, NV; San Francisco, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; Hartford, CT; and Austin, TX.

    JobSpin has launched as a general purpose job board. The site posts job openings from employers nationwide.

    TheLadders.com announced the results of its recent survey of executive attitudes toward the MBA degree. Television shows such as The Apprentice would have us believe that the degree puts you on the fast track to success. But, is that really true? According to the survey’s respondents, not exactly. A majority (57%) described the MBA as “a nice addition, but not necessary.” Only 26% said it was “very important.” So, does this mean you can ignore graduate-level schooling? Not in today’s world. An undergraduate degree is often simply the price of admission. Beyond that, you must acquire advanced skills in your profession; while experience does some of that, there’s no substitute for in-depth education in your specialty area. To put it another way, get your graduate degree in your passion. If that’s business administration, then go right ahead and get an MBA; but if you’re working in another field (and love your work), get a degree that will make you an expert in that field. That’s the best way to promote the success you will enjoy and find rewarding.

    LinkedIn launched LinkedIn Jobs, which it describes as “the Intenet’s first relationship-powered job network.” The service connects job applicants with hiring managers, HR professionals and recruiters who represent the jobs that are posted at the site. Here’s how it works. When you see a job that is posted on the site, you are also able to access “background information” on the individual who posted the job so you can see if you know anyone among your LinkedIn contacts who could connect you to that person or someone who works with them. It’s an interesting way of getting in the back door and mimics the “application two-step” I described in my last newsletter. (Click here to visit the WEDDLE’s newsletter archive and read that column.) I have just one small concern: I’m not sure that recruiters and HR professionals are going to want to have background information or any other kind of information posted about them when they post a job. It makes sourcing prospective employees a little more personal than many of them are likely to feel comfortable with.

    Monster.com launched a new service to help people find volunteer opportunities. The site claims that 66% of its visitors intend to volunteer this year, and the new feature is designed to help them do so. Located at http://volunteer.monster.com, it is a collaborative venture with Idealist.org and BoardnetUSA.org, two well established organizations serving the volunteer community.

    Section Three: Site Profiles

    Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?

    1. You’re a registered nurse with experience in pediatrics. For the last three years, you’ve worked as a travel nurse, and now, you’re weary of all that back-and-forthing. Which of the following sites would help find a permanent cure for your situation?

  • NursingSpectrum.com
  • Nursetown.com
  • Nightingale.com
  • MedHunters.com
  • 2. You’re a software quality assurance professional looking for a chance to move into management. Which of the following sites would give you a bug-free search?

  • NoBugs.com
  • Dice
  • QAjobs.net
  • SCGuild.com
  • 3. You’re a seasoned facility manager living in Atlanta. The company for which you’ve been working was acquired by another organization, and you’ve been told to take your career elsewhere. Which of the following sites would take the heat out of your job search?

  • iHireRealEstate.com
  • FacilitiesJobs.com
  • IFMA.org
  • FMCenter.com
  • (answers below)

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2005 Guides and Directories



    A WEDDLE’s 2005 User’s Choice Award Winner

    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: Yes – All

    Distribution of jobs: National – USA

    Number of jobs: 200,000+

    Salary levels of jobs: $31-50K/yr, $76-100K/yr

    Offer a job agent: No

    Resume database: No

    How long are resumes stored: N/A

    Restrictions on who can post: N/A

    Other services for job seekers: Career and job search information on-site, Links to other sites with job search and career management information

    Answers to Site Insite

    1. All but Nightingale.com, the site for a financial management information company.

    2. All but NoBugs.com, the site of a pest extermination company.

    3. FMCenter.com, a site for FM radio listings.