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Digital footprint & Background screening in the hiring process

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The American pre-employment screening process


The practice of digital footprint and background screening in the hiring process…

 In today’s competitive job market, you must secure your place among the top candidates for the job by making sure you will pass your pre-employment screening (background & digital footprint screening). The American pre-employment screening process changed dramatically at the beginning of the 21st century. The days when employers just verified resumes and education history are long gone.

Background Screening is one that most companies perform before or during their hiring process. It refers to the process of investigating the backgrounds of potential employees and is commonly used to verify the accuracy of an applicant’s claims as well as to discover any possible Criminal Records/ workers compensation claims, or employer sanctions. An employer is basically trying to establish whether you will be a good fit for the job and what type of risk you might pose to that organization. Today, most employer background checks focus on employment history, educational background, credit history, motor vehicle history and criminal background.

A digital footprint screening basically means to search for an applicant’s reputation and visibility online. Your reputation reflects how trustworthy your brand (brand you) is. In other words, the evidence of your interactions on the Web, tweets, Facebook, pins, blog posts, status updates, bookmarks, reviews, search results, and other online interactions. Looking at your digital Footprint allows recruiters to pre-screen you by doing an assessment of your character online.

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 Possible Areas of Inquiry

 According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a consumer rights organization, pre-screening background verification and post-interview background checks can include:


 State licensing records/ Driving Records/ Vehicle registration/ Social Security Number/ Education records/ Court records/ Workers’ compensation/ Bankruptcy/ Character references/ Neighbor interviews/ Medical records/ Property ownership/ Military records/ State licensing records/ Drug test records/ Past employers/ Personal references/ Incarceration records/ Sex offender records/ Credit records/ digital footprint

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Checked your credit report lately? 

Employer credit checks are preventing the nation’s hardest hit job seekers from entering the workforce, a new study shows. According to Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, credit checks shouldn’t be used at all. ”There are so many different reasons why one’s credit report is simply inappropriate for use by employers to make hiring decisions. They’re making a value judgment that says your financial health determines your character. They’re using it for character assessment, which is totally invalid.” she says. The fact of the matter is that employers are using your credit report and your digital footprint for character assessment as part of a pre-hiring background check. And yes, a blemish in your credit report or in your digital footprint can keep you from landing a job.

Checking your credit reports is crucial to your financial health. Your credit reports may contain errors that can negatively affect the your insurance rates, your ability to get a loan, mortgage, or even a job.

What about your digital footprint?

The reality for job-hunters these days is that their personal lives bleed into their professional lives, and the Internet does make it more easily accessible. So, review your Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts to weed out material that may damage your job search. A welcome wake-up call to many to clean up their digital footprint. However, no online presence at all, can be counterproductive in a world that is ever-increasingly reliant on digital. Anonymity is no longer an option. This goes for any brand (you are your own brand). You ought to be head marketer for the brand called You.

Faced with online information overload we are becoming more selective about the information we choose to consume and will increasingly come to depend on recommendations from our peer network and social graph. As other users interact with an established online identity, it acquires a reputation, which enables them to decide whether the identity is worthy of trust.

So we can conclude that having a digital identity facilitates credibility and trust and building your network of connections enables you to become part of that recommendation system.

 Know Your rights

 Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), businesses must obtain an employee’s written consent before seeking an employee’s credit report. Employers that decide not to hire or promote someone based on information in the credit report must provide a copy of the report and let the applicant know of his or her right to challenge the report under the FCRA. Likewise, under the same act, employers that decide not to hire or promote someone based on information in the background check must provide a copy of the report and let the applicant know of his or her right to challenge the report under the FCRA.

Although a Microsoft’s 2010 study revealed that 86% of U.S. hiring managers have informed candidates they were rejected based on what’s been found online about them, other studies show that employers can easily get away with saying that the person was not hired because someone else was more qualified, not because of the information found out in the background check, in which case they don’t have to provide a copy of the report and an explanation of the applicant’s rights under both the FCRA and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act.

So how would you ever know if there was inaccurate information in your background check report if no one tells you?” The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse recommends that you take pro-active steps at the start of your job hunt, including ordering a copy of your credit report and checking court records, state department of motor vehicle records and your personnel file at past employers for accuracy. This can be accomplished by paying a large background-checking firm to run a background check on you so that you’ll be prepared for anything that might turn up.

The process

 Pre-screening and verification 

Resume screening, digital footprint screening and post-interview background checks are three strategies that are involved in pre-employment screening. The first step will be to screen the resume from a list of prospective applicants. Today the practice of screening a resume may generally be divided into three steps, the first pass or scanning for keywords derived from required skills or activities in the job description, the second pass which includes reading the resume to evaluate the candidate against the job requirements and the final pass, a qualitative review of the candidates job history.

The next phase of the recruitment process is the digital footprint screening. Employers search the Internet to see if there are negative online postings about these job applicants. Applicants whose resumes pass this scrutiny may then be interviewed by company employees online or over the phone.

A preliminary telephonic or web-based interview is held to identify the range of discrepancy within the resume and the interviewee. Basically, questions asked in an interview should directly relate to functions that a person has to perform on the job. Such a move also helps to identify whether the resume is professionally written, elaborated or involve curriculum vitae or resume fraud.

After a phone interview, applicants may be offered an in-person interview, or they may never hear from an organization again.  Applicants who perform well in an in-person interview may then have their resumes handed over to private investigators for  post-interview background checks.

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 3 Main reasons for fail pre-employment screenings

Employment applications have gotten longer and sometimes people are confused about how to answer a question. But even an inadvertent mistake can get you in trouble if that information on your application doesn’t agree with what’s uncovered in a background check.

Reason #1: Failure to Disclose a Criminal Conviction

The Fair Credit Reporting Act does not restrict employers from asking questions in a job application form. So, while a background check can’t include an arrest record, for instance, there is nothing to stop an employer from asking if you’ve ever been arrested.

Remember the question on every job application”Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” … Let me tell you what this question means to employers, what they really want to know is if you are honest and trustworthy. They can and will find the answer when they conduct the background check, so if you say no, and you have a criminal conviction on your record, what you are really saying is that you are not honest and cannot be trusted. 

If you do have a criminal conviction and you answer yes to the question, be open and honest. The employer will see that you are taking responsibility for what you did and moving on with your life. It’s wise to apply for positions where your conviction is unrelated to the duties of the job you are applying for. You would be surprised to know how often employers are willing to overlook criminal records with applicants that have good solid experience and really want the opportunity to grow beyond their past failures.

Reason #2: Inaccurate or Incomplete Employment History Document and/or Misleading Education Claims 

An employment history document must include: Ex-employer’s name, address and telephone number, exact dates of employment, job title, your beginning and ending pay rates, and your reason for leaving as recorded by the employer. Your information should match exactly the information that your ex-employer is going to release when asked.

Gathering up all of this information is quite a task, especially if you have job-hopped quite a bit. What if you don’t have an employment history document with all the details of all your previous work experience? The answer is, have a professional background screener compile one for you. This strategy will help you to avoid failing a background check for providing inaccurate or incomplete work history information.

Providing fictitious, exaggerated, or otherwise misleading information on a job application or résumé in hopes of persuading a potential employer to hire an applicant for a job they may be unqualified for, or less qualified than other applicants, is almost always grounds for immediate dismissal from the job or else denial of that job. That is why it is so important to be very specific in stating your education credentials.

Reason #3: Social Media Faux Pas

Make sure your tweets and Facebook posts don’t jeopardize your chances of getting a job or tarnish your professional reputation. What happens online  stays online… forever! Anything you DO share online about yourself or someone else, no matter how seemingly disconnected, can and will eventually come back to haunt you. People are increasingly using social media without thinking of the consequences in which their posts could result…You can delete it, but if it was copied, it can stay online forever…


Although Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn provide access to the other to allow you to do most of your work from one platform, integrating these three social networks isn’t such a good idea. It’s far too easy to send a message that won’t go down well with your contacts on at least one of these sites. Professionals, in particular, must properly monitor their social networking sites, as they could lose job opportunities and credibility.

Many recruiters will look at your Twitter feed, Linkedin profile or Facebook page so think before you post. Constant negativity, like ranting about your colleagues and/or your boss, can hurt your chances of being hired…

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Social media networks are also being used to screen candidates

Employers rely on LinkedIn to conduct online searches of candidates. A wide range of other social media networks are also being used to screen candidates, with Facebook and Twitter leading the way.


With Facebook’s timeline, every action you’ve ever taken since you created an account, from likes to comments to forgotten photo albums, videos, and events are all viewable with a simple scroll. And guess who is using this info? Yes, your prospective employer.


Twitter, a social network that was meant to promote real-time global conversation has turned into a vast market-research enterprise. Employers and institutions are now able to search and analyze up to two years of Twitter updates.

 The bottom line is…

In order to be safe, you need to know exactly what a prospective employer is going to find on your background check report. A professional background-screening firm, such as Everify.com, can do all the legwork for you. Get your report online and be prepared for anything that might turn up. If there is inaccurate information in your background check report you can dispute. Many employers will give five to 10 days to dispute that information and once the information has been corrected, consideration will again be given to that applicant. Being proactive when it comes to both protecting and promoting your all-important digital brand is key.

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