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  • Writer's pictureMatt Chung

How to Pass Employment Background Checks (Must Read!)

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Do you know that passing the interviews, getting the offer, and signing the contract does not guarantee you will have a job?

There is still one more step that could go wrong, and that is: "background checking."

In today's article, I'm going to share with you rock-solid tips to make sure that you pass your background checks with flying colors.

For those of you who are not 100% sure about what a background check is, it’s the process that gets kicked off once the job seeker has signed the contract and is waiting to join the company. Depending on the employer, the background checking process can take anywhere between a few days to a few months.

Usually, this is what the process looks like:

  1. When the company makes an offer, and the candidate accepts it, the employer asks a professional background-checking company to start off the process

  2. The background-checking company will ask you to provide a list of information

  3. They will check the details you provide, especially your compensation details as well as your CV, to ensure that they are accurate.

  4. Once their checks are completed, they will report their findings to the employer.

  5. If everything is cleared, all good. If there are some issues, usually, they will ask you for more information/documents to clarify. However, if there are too many discrepancies or problems deemed too severe, the employer may withdraw the offer.

In other words, if you fail the background check, the employer can and often will rescind the offer, putting the candidate in a predicament.

Based on my experience, most people will not provide false or inaccurate information on purpose. Instead, the most common reason for a failed background check is often careless mistakes that could have been easily prevented.

So how do we ensure that we get through this final step smoothly?

How can we make sure to avoid any mistakes and unnecessary surprises?

1. The first thing you need to check is that your resume is accurate.

As mentioned, one of the main areas of a background check is confirming the content of your CV; When it comes to background checking, I have found that the following details are the main areas of interest.

a) Dates

Please double-check that all the dates in your CV – especially employment and graduation dates – are correct.

When it comes to dates, you only need to mention the year and the month - the less detail you provide, the less room for errors.

If in doubt, refer to proof documents such as your employment contract instead of going by your memory. A common mistake is if the date was at the end or beginning of the month, it's easy to remember it wrong. For example, if your start date was, let's say, the 31st of March, it's easy (and very common) to remember it incorrectly as April. Again, the safest thing to do is to recheck the dates against a written record.

b) Job Titles

The other item you need to be careful of in your CV is the job title. Make sure you include your official title given by the company. I understand that sometimes the official title may not accurately describe what you have done.

For example, some companies have titles like Engineer Level 1, Assistant Manager, or Associate, all of which provide little idea about your actual work or expertise. In such cases, you can always indicate your actual or more accurate titles in brackets next to the official ones.

For example, if you are a Full-stack Java Developer but your official title is Software Engineer, you can write Full-stack Java Developer in brackets next to Software Engineer. Another example, If you were a Business Analyst, but your official title is Project Manager, again indicate Project Manager as your title, but within brackets, write "Business Analyst."

Suppose you do not include your official title. This can become quite tricky during background checking because your supporting documents only contain the official title, which can lead to a lot of back and forth, explanations, etc.

You can save a lot of hassle simply by following this tip.

c) Certificates

When it comes to certification, just remember one thing. Please check if all your certificates are still active. If they have expired already, indicate them in your resume to avoid any misunderstanding.

2. Compensation

Compensation is the most sensitive element of background checking. You must double-check the salary details before providing them.

The compensation figures should neither be rounded up nor rounded down. If your salary is, for example, 78,205, write it exactly as is ($78,205). Not 78,200, not 78,000, and certainly NOT 80,000.

The best way to do this is to check your payslips or other written documents first before inputting any number. More often than not, the background-checking company will ask you to provide supporting documents. So have the supporting documents ready, and based on the documents, indicate your numbers.

One question I sometimes receive is: Is it OK to round down my salary? Clearly, I am not trying to inflate or lie about my number, right?

The answer is ABSOLUTELY NOT!

The point of the bg check is not only about not inflating salary; it's about providing correct, accurate information. I personally know of some firms that have withdrawn offers due to inaccurate salary (even if it was lower than the actual figure) because they question the lack of detail. You never know the policy of each company, and this is a classic case of "better safe than sorry.”

Again, only supply accurate figures based on supporting documents.

3. How about more serious situations such as DUI, bankruptcy, or criminal records?

Well, with these kinds of issues, it really depends. It depends on factors such as when the record was made, how serious the offense was, the circumstances, and whether the records are still valid.

In most cases, it is safer to disclose such information upfront because chances are, the background checking company will know about it – this is the kind of information they are paid to identify.

Of course, if you reveal such info, you run the risk of the potential employer withdrawing their offer too, and there may be times when you are not required to divulge it either.

Thus, if it's feasible, my recommendation is to seek legal advice in these situations.

Before we finish, I have one final bonus tip. And that is to keep & file all your supporting documents. Documents such as:

  1. Payslips

  2. Employment contracts

  3. Any letters indicating promotions or changes in titles

  4. University degrees, transcripts, certificates

  5. Reference letters, etc.

If you have these documents ready to go, you can save a significant amount of time AND hassle because you can easily confirm all your details before providing them and supply whatever documents that are requested by the background checking firms.

Thank you for reading.

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