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If you have a criminal conviction on your record, you probably know just how difficult it can be to find an employer willing to take a chance on you. Even if you are the most qualified applicant for a job from an experience or credentials standpoint, even if you charm and impress your prospective employer in the interview, your application can still be thrown out due to an unflattering background check.

However, job seekers with a criminal conviction or two on their record aren’t the only ones who have to worry about a background check ruining their employment chances. On the contrary, even if you think your background is squeaky clean, some background check reports can tell a different story.

Myths About Background Checks

Many people believe that background checks are a lot like credit reports, with a central database where every individual has a unique ID like social security number, making it easy to check what record belong to whom and which consistently returns accurate reports. But criminal records, civil court documents, warrants, sex offender registries and other resources used to compile background checks are scattered far and wide. Private criminal database companies have stepped into this void to create national criminal databases that can be searched instantly using a name and an address.

Public Records are NOT a Substitute for a Background Check

Unfortunately, no public court documents contain a social security number or other unique identifier. Most will have the full name and either a full or partial date of birth to help in matching records with searches, making it possible that someone else’s record is reported when they search for you.

Running a Background Check on Yourself

With that in mind, job seekers are well advised to run a background check on themselves before beginning to pursue employment opportunities. Even if you have never committed a crime or gotten so much as a speeding ticket, you can never know what employers are seeing on your background check report unless you take a look yourself. The internet is flush with vendors prepared to offer self-background checks for a modest expense, and such services are worth it for what they can help you discover.

So what are you looking for with a self background check? It depends. There is a good chance that your background check report will look exactly like you expect it to, clean, empty and with nothing out of the ordinary that will raise a red flag for potential employers. If that is the case, then you are all set to move forward with pursuing employment opportunities and scheduling interviews.

However, there is also a chance that, in running a self background check, you will find that your background report is returning either out-of-date information or information that is not about you. It is not uncommon to hear tales about job seekers who missed out on the job of their dreams because their potential employers’ background search pulled up the wrong record. And while various laws and regulations are in place to prevent that from happening, it still happens. If you have a common first and last name, there is a good chance that a criminal record exists that carries your name. As a result, a background check meant to look into your record could turn up crimes and convictions that belong to someone else.

So run a background check on yourself and fix any inaccurate information that may be causing you to miss out on jobs. It’s a hassle to call county and federal courts and go through the process of addressing incorrect background information, but the effort and time will be worth it to control what potential employers are finding when they look into your background.

AUTHOR BIO: Michael Klazema has been developing products for pre-employment screening and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for a background check blog and community. He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.