There are six words which most job applicants absolutely dread. These words are “subject to passing a background check.” For many applicants, this seemingly innocent phrase feels like a declaration that they won’t get hired.
This is true especially for applicants who have a few kinks in their background. Most applicants think that the slightest blemish in their background will cause them not to get hired. So, what do some of them do?
Well, they attempt to beat the system. The come up with ingenious (and often disingenuous) tricks to hide their background information. Any HR who desires to make great hires needs to learn these tricks, and how to uncover them.
The starting point is to understand the kinds of things which applicants often attempt to hide in a run up to background checks.
The five most common ones are the following:
1. Social Media Indiscretions
Social media is now a central part of most people’s lives. As such, most employers conduct social media searches as part of their background checks. Sometimes, the silliest mistakes can cost an applicant a job.
A good example is an applicant who was scheduled for an interview via Skype. He made all the adequate preparations. He dressed professionally for the occasion: wearing his business suit, complete with a tie. When he was fully dressed, he took a photo and posted it on Twitter, with the simple caption “Ready for my Skype interview.”
The only problem is that the gentleman had only dressed up the upper part of his body. Despite his court and tie, he wasn’t wearing much from the waist downwards. He had only his underwear on and was in slippers.
His cheeky photo roused some delightful quips from his Twitter followers. It was generally taken in the spirit of playfulness. The only challenge is that, unbeknown to the applicant, the interviewer was actually monitoring his Twitter feed. When the interview commenced, the applicant was told that he wouldn’t get the job. His cheeky Twitter post was cited as the reason for his being dropped.
This story is the perfect illustration of how a seemingly harmless gesture on social media can cost an applicant a job opportunity. It is also the kind of story which makes applicants wary of social media searches.
As such, many applicants attempt to hide their social media accounts from background screeners. They do this especially if their social media feeds contain questionable content e.g. racist or sexist posts, nude photos, or drunk videos, etc.
There are a number of tricks which applicants use to evade social media searches. A few attempt to delete any incriminating posts, pictures or videos. However, most of them create multiple accounts. They have “official” social media accounts for their professional interactions. They then have personal accounts for all their other activities. Therefore, when asked about their social media accounts, they provide only the official ones. The personal ones aren’t provided. Their hope is that the background screeners won’t be thorough in their searches, and go hunting for the others.
2. Previous Sackings
Getting sacked from a job can present a major hurdle towards getting future employment. This is true if the dismissal was for disciplinary, ethical or even performance issues. As such, most applicants attempt to hide their previous dismissals.
The goal, in this case, is to prevent prospective employers from learning about previous sackings. As such, they attempt to create a situation where any background checks on previous employments will not reveal the sackings.
The most common trick applicants use to achieve this is not including the positions from which they were sacked in their résumés. They either leave the period blank or “stretch” the jobs held before and after the sacking to cover up that period.
If the period is extremely long, some candidates insert fake employment records. There are two ways they do this. The first, and easiest to detect is through “employment mill” services like CareerExcuse.com. Such services sell bogus work histories. They supply their clients with company names, job titles, starting salaries and even phone/email contacts of their so-called former employers.
The second way is to connive with their friends or relatives who are currently working, or previously worked with genuine organizations. These people agree to say that the applicant worked with the organization for a certain time period. They permit the applicant to list them as references. The applicant then includes the organization in their employment history, even though they have never actually worked there.
Background Screening Do’s And Don’ts For Staffing Companies (or any industry)
3. Long Periods of Unemployment
Many applicants often want to appear more experienced than they actually are. This is common for positions where experience is among the key requirements. In such cases, applicants often try to hide long periods of unemployment between jobs.
The tricks they use are often similar to the ones used by those attempting to hide their previous sackings. They can stretch the dates of their employment, they can purchase job histories from employment mills, and they can connive with their friends to create fake job histories with real organizations.
4. Substance Abuse Problems
Applicants know that most organizations are reluctant to hire people with substance abuse problems. They also know that through background checks can flag up such problems. As such, most take steps to hide such problems.
The first step is to clean up their social media image. They can do so by eliminating any incriminating posts, photos, videos or associations which point to alcohol or drug abuse. However, most simply misdirect employers from their real social media accounts to special accounts created for job applications. These accounts usually have nothing which points to substance abuse problems.
The second step is to cheat any pre-employment drugs tests. Applicants usually use a number of strategies to cheat drug tests from supplying fake or adulterated samples to having blood transfusions in the run-up to the test.
5. Criminal Background History
This is one thing which most applicants attempt to hide. This is because most of them believe that any criminal history is a license not to get hired. Many don’t know that many legislations offer protection to ex-offenders during the application process.
As such, many applicants with criminal records attempt to hide them. There are those who use legal means to attempt to have their records expunged or sealed from public records. Numerous lawyers claim to offer such services.
There are others who attempt to delete background information from websites which are typically used by background screening companies. Many companies actually use the same websites. Deleting records from the websites can hide them from sloppy background checking companies.
There have been extreme cases where desperate applicants have attempted to hire hackers to hack into public records and delete their criminal history. There is no evidence that anyone has successfully utilized this approach.
The bottom line is that applicants sometimes attempt to hide some things in a run up to background checks. In fact, unless an organization hires a skilled background checking vendor, applicants can actually succeed in doctoring their background info.
Unmasking the attempts to hide things takes a skilled, experienced and savvy background check vendor. Those who conduct background checks haphazardly can actually fail to uncover the deceit. This is why every organization needs to hire the services of a top-notch background checking company.