You are on the hunt, looking through job listings trying to find your dream job. For most of us, the first step is to polish up the resume. We even update the LinkedIn profile and create additional networks online.
This is all good work that will pay off in the end. Don’t forget one last thing you must go through before your name is selected—the background check.
I ran a background check on myself and was surprised to see past employment and credit history, old social media posts, and tickets.
Employers know a lot more than you think.
In this article, we’ll teach you how to run a background check on yourself.
Let’s get started.
Why People Run Background Checks
Employers and landlords are famously known for always running background checks on applicants. We can’t blame them. It helps to protect them from fraud, theft, and nefarious individuals.
Businesses tend to get into trouble for employing people without the right documentation. A background check protects business owners from such run-ins with the law.
Moreover, some industries are heavily regulated by the government. Such sectors are forbidden from hiring anyone with a certain criminal conviction.
Property managers and landlords run a screening to steer clear of clients who dodge rent. They can filter these clients based on their credit history.
Criminal offenders with violent and sexual charges are generally not welcome tenants.
And then there is you. You need to run a personal background check for the following reasons:
- Depending on your background, you can expect and prepare yourself for the questions that people may ask.
- It allows you to correct information about your legal and financial records.
- It saves you the time you may have to spend going through tons of bank and credit statements.
- You generate a report with your history alongside any information that you care to provide.
What to Look at in a Self Background Check
The personal records contained in a background check are yours, so you have every right to see them. You also have the right to dispute and correct any information contained in those documents.
One way of running a background check on yourself is to request the documents yourself, one at a time.
Some of your information that you could find out this way includes the following:
Social security number verification
A background check has all names associated with a social security number. It will also bring up any legal name changes and marital status.
Getting this information is free. All you need to do is create a user account on the Social Security Administration website.
Each year the national credit bureaus can send you a free credit report. They are TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.
You can request a free credit report on this site if you live in the U.S.
A credit report will list the following information:
- A summary of your payment history and any debts incurred. Any payments that you missed or made after 30 days or later will be recorded in this report. Also included are accounts, if any, that lenders turned for collections.
- You can get a list of previous and outstanding debts. These include current loans and credit card accounts and the ones that you have closed.
- It has bankruptcy claims filed within ten years. Also, it includes tax liens against your property and civil judgments.
Background checks will list addresses associated with your name and social security number. This information comes from credit card statements and magazine subscriptions.
Typically, the addresses span the last seven years of residences. You can further use the addresses to cross-reference other records. Sometimes they are partly useful for criminal history and motor vehicle checks.
When you get this report, the information listed here must be correct.
You can check your address history through the White Pages directories online. However, if you are a frequent mover, the information you get will not be too reliable.
You can walk into your State’s Department of Motor Vehicles and request a copy of your driving records.
You can also conveniently request a copy online.
If you had a driving license in other states within 25 years, you should ask for a record of those too.
A criminal background search brings up records of convictions, imprisonment, parole, and probation.
If you were arrested within the last seven years, it would turn up in your records.
If you want a job with a salary of at least $75,000, the FCRA requires employers to check for arrest information beyond the FCRA limit. However, they must declare that they are doing so in the background check consent form.
Some states give employers leeway to look for arrest records with salaries as low as $20,000.
There are states that outlaw disclosing information about any non-conviction arrest.
If you have a conviction or an arrest for disclosing, find out how it appears on your background check. Request your records from the courts and corrections departments.
Education and Work History
Background checks seek to verify the legitimacy of your education and employment history. The search will verify if you attended or graduated from the schools listed in your resume.
They will also verify if you received the degrees you claim to have.
The search will also verify if you worked at companies that you claimed in your resume.
- Specialized Lists
Intense background checks go as far as to check your name against lists that are not available to the public.
The lists may include the following:
- Sex offender watchlist: Local and State authorities man this list
- Terrorist watchlist: List for suspected terrorists managed by the federal government
- NCIC Database: The National Crime Information Center search covers 12 databases built by U.S. law enforcement agencies. It contains the names of terrorists, fugitives, gang members, and outstanding arrest warrants.
- The NICS system: Contains the names of individuals barred from purchasing or possessing firearms. If your character seems similar to another person on the list, you may experience delays in approvals.
The Process of Running a Background Check on Yourself
Now that you know where to look for background information, you can do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you.
Ultimately, your decision lies in the kind of search parameters you want to use.
You can do a background search on yourself by using the following simple methods.
Online Public Records Databases
Public records databases show whether you have a criminal record. You may also discover thy you mistakenly have a criminal because your name is similar to a convict’s name. This will not look favorable to employers and landlords.
Public records don’t show all criminal records, but they are still a wealth of information.
Use the following steps to find information in an online public database:
- Check your name against all the public records and national government databases. Don’t let your clean record discourage you from searching your name on the national sex offender public website, NSOPW.
- Check the global terrorism, FBI fingerprint, and State and county criminal databases.
- To check for any federal case records against your name, use the online index for federal court records.
Go through all the public records to make sure no criminal charges were filed under your name.
If you find anything incorrect in your search, you ought to dispute it.
We are living at a time when social media is a potent tool. One wrong post or comment can permanently ruin years of work and a good reputation.
According to a study, 7 out of 10 employers use social media to research their potential hires. At least a half of these employees refuse to hire someone based on social media posts.
Nearly half of employers check on their employees’ social media activity. 34% of employers admit to giving warnings or firing employees based on social media posts.
Now that you have this information, you should go ahead and screen your social media presence.
Here is how to perform social media research on yourself:
- Start by Googling your name and State of residence and then see what comes up on the search engine. If something unpleasant shows up, that’s your cue to clean your online footprints. If you don’t want to do this yourself, some companies specialize in this kind of thing.
- Analyze all your social media profiles. Do they look presentable? Are all your pictures and comments respectable?
- If you wonder whether some of your posts are really as dodgy as they seem, they probably are. Delete them or switch to a private account.
The following information should not appear on any of your social media platforms:
- Don’t have offensive comments, e.g., racism, threats, or lewd sexual references. It would help if you also did not make jokes about these topics.
- Don’t reference or picture/ video evidence of drug use.
- Don’t have proof of violence or bullying tendencies.
- Don’t use inflammatory comments about politics and religion.
Carefully monitor your social media posts. Turn your platform into an asset that promotes a positive image of yourself. The internet, when used carelessly, can be a hindrance to job opportunities. It can also ruin your good name.
Searching through court records
You would think that the government would have a database with a record of every crime committed. But sadly, it doesn’t.
Individual courts often keep the records of criminal cases that they have tried to themselves. The records are usually unavailable anywhere else.
To conduct thorough background research, follow these steps:
- Compile a list of courts with authority to preside over your area of residence
- Check if any of the courts with jurisdiction over your area have any of the records online. If this is not the case, personally visit the courts and request for yours.
- When you get your file, go through the details to confirm whether everything is correct.
- If anything in your records is not misplaced, get ready to dispute. You can file a dispute personally or through a lawyer.
Your Credit Report
Credit reports speak testimony of how financially responsible you are. If you applied for a financial job, these records would feature prominently in a search.
However, since the credit history is so easy to get anyway, you should request the information. The following steps make it easy to obtain credit information on yourself.
- The FCRA act obligates national credit reporting companies to provide an annual copy of your credit report upon request. If you request one from each company every year, you get three credit reports. It costs nothing.
- When you are requesting a credit report, you are required to fill in your name. SSN, and address.
- Sometimes you will be asked to verify your phone number or an old home address.
- If you spot anything suspicious, ask the credit company. You might have fallen victim to identity theft.
Employers will always verify your education, work, and references contained in the resume. Sometimes you may forget the first date you reported at your previous job or the day you cleared school.
You must reach out to your references and verify every last bit of information in them.
The following step will help you review your references:
- Call or email your work references and ask them to verify your work history. Confirm the position held, the date your first reported, duties you did, dates of promotions, and the last day of your employment.
- If you attended higher education after high school, ask for a copy of your records if you do not already have them. Verify if the information contained is correct. Some schools allow you to request school records over the school website. If you encounter wrong information, ask the school to fix it.
Why It is Important to Run A Background Check on Yourself
In the previous years, employers had the means to run background checks. They had access to information about the potential hires that the job hunters did not have.
Employers still have access to a broader depth of information.
Looking at yourself from the perspective of your potential managers improves your chances of landing a job. If you know the kind of information your employers see, you can better prepare to address any concerns they may have.
Running a background check can help you avoid inconsistencies in your job application. Something as simple as an application free from errors can help you stand out. If there is a gap or mistakes that the hiring manager cannot make sense of, they may discard your application.
If you find errors in your background search, you are allowed to dispute and have them removed or updated. Most online platforms have customer support channels, allowing people to request corrections.
Some people request deletions from sites to reduce their online footprints. Although the process of updating or deleting may take time, it is worth the wait.
Running a criminal background check allows you to see what your employers see. If you have a criminal record and want to know if it will show up in a background check, you can.
In most cases, criminal background checks have a time limit to what can show up in the search. However, if your charges are recent, they may turn up.
Running your arrest records may show information you had completely forgotten about. Learning everything beforehand gives you time to prepare for an interview.
Online searches tend to bring up old social media posts or earlier blog posts. Employers tend to be sensitive to the effects of social media on a company’s reputation.
If you find any old social media accounts, restrict their privacy or delete them. Your safety online begins with social media privacy.
After I conducted a background check on myself, I cleared up some information and prepared for questions. Now, you’ll be able to do the same.
Online background checks may not provide everything your future employers will, but what you find, you can control. It is a good idea to find out what kind of information is floating around in the digital world about you.