Background check problems are not a fun topic – no way around that!
But, it is super important if you are a candidate with a hiccup in your background. How you choose to deal with and discuss your issues can make or break your chances of getting hired.
So, let's just dive into it!
How To Talk About Background Check Issues
Everyone has a past – we didn't all make great choices as teenagers and young adults – or even older adults. I am thankful cell phones weren't prevalent when I was a teenager!
So, this doesn't come from a place of judgment. I have no interest in shaming you or making you feel bad about something you did in the past.
Number one rule – be honest. Don't lie, don't lie by omission and don't try to skirt around the truth. Here's the deal – if you have something in your past that makes you ineligible to be hired, it'll get found out.
So, tell the truth. You can certainly explain the circumstances or talk about how you have taken responsibility for your actions. But, you can't do that if you lie or leave it out. If you miss your chance to be honest, it's gone.
Now you have an issue in your past and you lied.
I have had people tell me before there is nothing that will come up – and then it turns out they have had numerous speeding tickets. Or, they've been convicted of something or have had DUIs.
I can't imagine what is going through their heads. Do they think it won't be found? Do they assume they aced the interview enough that it won't matter?
I have interviewed phenomenal candidates, but there hasn't been one yet who was so fantastic they could be found as a liar and still get the job. If a recruiter or a prospective employer asks you if anything will come up in a background check – tell the truth.
Let's say you are interviewing for a job and it comes out you need a spotless driving record…and you don't have one. Speak up – you only get one chance! You lose your power to talk about a difficult subject the way you'd like as soon as you aren't proactive.
If you know there is something in your past, you should be the one to bring it up. It won't always mean you'll get the role, but it does mean 100% of the time you are honest and that will gain you respect.
When you read a job ad, you should be aware when your skills and experience might not match up with the requirements. You should also be able to tell when something in your background check will preclude you from getting the job. My advice – if it is something that can't be overcome, don't apply.
If you can't drive a car and the role demands 30+ hours a week of windshield time – why are you going to apply? You can't change your past and the company won't hire you a chauffeur. If you apply and interview and then it comes out – you just wasted everyone's time.
You know your background and you know what's in it. If it can't be overcome for a role, you have to sit this one out.
If you made a mistake and you've made amends, great! If you can honestly look someone in the eye, take responsibility and talk about how you've changed or resolved the issue, then do it in the best light possible.
Again – be honest, but you can certainly market it better than “Yep, I messed up.”
Be sure you can discuss specific steps you've taken to remedy the issue and I would be ready with a bunch of references who can give you a glowing review. I don't mean your water cooler friend from your last job – I mean people of influence who can discuss how you fixed the issue and the progress you've made.
Practice talking about the issue and try to come up with the wording that puts you in the best light – while acknowledging what happened.
You can't polish a clump of dirt.
No matter what your intentions are or changes you've made, sometimes the deal is not going to go through. If you can't get a license, you probably aren't going to be an Outside Sales or Territory Sales rep. If you have been convicted of theft, it is going to be a hard sell for someone to let you have access to cash or the books.
No two ways around it, sometimes you make a mistake that will affect you for the rest of your life.
My best advice is to follow all the above steps, but be honest….with yourself. You might need to think about adapting to a different career. Or at least a different role within the residential building products industry.
Or maybe you can figure out a way to shift some duties while taking on something else. Whatever it is, I wouldn't keep applying for roles you know you won't get. Getting your hopes up and your heart stomped on over and over is no good for anyone.
Can you come back from background check problems – yes! Many people have done it. Sometimes it takes time, sometimes you need someone to believe in you and take a chance. No matter what, you need to be honest and proactive if you want a chance to have either of those things happen.