Learn the ins and outs of personal background checks, including what shows up in a check, the benefits, and how to do a background check on yourself.
As an Independent, every aspect of your background –– including digital interactions, work history, and public records –– can influence your professional opportunities. To ensure you're seen in the best light, knowing what's out there about you is essential. Enter personal background checks.
In this guide, we’ll discover how to do a background check on yourself, its benefits, and what goes into a background check.
What is a background check? 🤔
A background check is a process used by individuals, employers, or organizations to verify your history, qualifications, or character by reviewing public records and other relevant data sources. This includes criminal records, credit history, academic credentials, employment history, and more.
A more specific verification is a personal background check, which you conduct on yourself to see what potential employers or other interested parties might find, ensuring no inaccuracies or surprises. This allows you to review and rectify any misinformation or errors in your public records.
What shows up in a background check? 🧐
Understanding a background check’s components is vital to gaining insights into your public information. While the depth and range of data revealed can vary depending on its purpose and the source, some common elements usually appear. The most common ones include:
- Criminal history: This includes felonies, misdemeanors, ongoing criminal cases, and any stints of being sent to prison as an adult.
- Social Security Number (SSN): This gives an overview of the information linked to your SSN, showing names and addresses tied to it.
- Employment history: Many clients run a background check to vet your work history for employment verification. This way, they ensure you really worked where you said you did and that you have the skills needed for the job.
- Education history: This verifies your time at high schools, colleges, universities, or trade schools. Employers contact institutions directly to confirm key details.
- Driving record: Employers may conduct a driving record check, often called a motor vehicle report, to assess your level of responsibility, safety, and whether you have any driving-related convictions against you.
- Credit history: This element, often indicative of your level of financial responsibility, doesn’t show your credit score. Instead, it shows your total debt amount, the portion of your salary for paying off this debt, and how often you or someone else requested a copy of your credit report.
- Online footprint and social media activity: Some employers may even check the images and posts you share on your social media platforms with the public to assess your personality.
- Drug tests: This entails information on recent drug use, if applicable.
- Sex offender registry check: This confirms if you’re listed on the sex offender registry.
- Professional license verifications: This process checks the validity of your professional licenses and certifications.
- Terrorist watchlist check: Employers conduct this to determine if you’re on any wanted terrorist lists.
- Civil records: This includes information on lawsuits, judgments, or other civil actions, if any.
- Military records: This details if you’ve ever served in the military.
- Global sanctions and watchlists: This checks if you’re on any international sanctions lists or other global watchlists.
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How to do a background check on yourself: 7 steps 🪜
Taking control of your personal narrative involves understanding the kind of information others can access about you. Running a background check on yourself is a proactive approach to ensure this information’s accuracy and to address any potential discrepancies. Three options exist for self-checks: a free background check service, a paid background check by a third-party provider, or information compilation on your own.
If you're leaning toward the third-party option and wondering how to get a background check, look for third-party services that run employment background checks, which comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Or, if you decide to take the reins, here are seven steps to follow:
1. Gather personal information 🏡
Begin by collecting all the necessary personal details like full name, previous addresses, and SSN. Resources such as your credit report or tax and public records help you cross-check this information.
2. Request your credit report
Obtain a copy of your credit report from major credit bureaus like Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Thanks to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction (FACT) Act, you’re entitled to one free report annually from each bureau.
3. Review criminal records 🔪
Visit your local police department or use online platforms to do a criminal background check on yourself. Ensure all information, especially any charges, is accurate.
4. Verify your driving record 🚘
Request your driving record from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to check for any violations or suspensions.
5. Vet your education and employment history 🏫
Verify your academic credentials with your attended institutions and your employment history with past employers. This ensures no discrepancies or false claims appear on your record.
6. Conduct online search 💻
Do a basic Google search of your name. This can reveal what kind of digital footprint you have, from social media posts to mentions in news articles.
7. Fix inaccuracies ⚒️
If you find any inaccuracies in your background report, contact the relevant agency or organization to correct the information.
Benefits of running a background check 💯
Gaining insight into what potential employers, landlords, or other stakeholders might uncover about you is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to running a self-background check. Here are a few key benefits of taking this proactive step:
- Accuracy and error identification: By running a background check on yourself, you can spot and rectify any errors or discrepancies in your records, ensuring incorrect or outdated information doesn't hinder opportunities.
- Preparedness for interviews: Knowing what's on your record can prepare you for questions or concerns that might arise during job interviews, allowing you to address them confidently and transparently.
- Protection against identity theft: Regular checks help identify suspicious activities or credit inquiries, acting as a line of defense against potential identity theft.
- Understanding digital footprint: It gives you an insight into your online presence, letting you know what potential employers or partners might find when they Google you.
- Peace of mind: Knowing exactly what your background check reveals offers peace of mind and a clear understanding of how you’re represented in official and public records.
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Understanding and controlling your narrative is more essential than ever in today's interconnected world. A self-background check not only clarifies what potential employers, partners, or stakeholders might discover about you but also ensures you're always a step ahead, ready to address concerns or rectify inaccuracies. Remember, knowledge is power, and taking this proactive step is indeed a commendable move.
Ready to channel this proactive mindset into a fulfilling freelance journey? Join Contra now and explore a wealth of remote opportunities tailored for you. And, for those looking to gain an edge, upgrading to Contra Pro provides advanced analytics, enhancing your visibility and increasing your chances of landing that dream project. Take control and let your professional journey reflect the best version of yourself.