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How to Clean Your Background Check

by Ellie Williams, studioD

At many companies, a clean record is a condition of employment. If you have serious criminal offenses in your past or poor credit, it could cost you the job. By reviewing your records prior to applying for jobs, however, you can correct any errors and ensure you present yourself in the best possible light.

Criminal Records

Contact the appropriate local, state or federal agency for a copy of your rap sheet. This might include your county court clerk’s office, state police agency and possibly the FBI. Criminal records sometimes contain offenses that should have been expunged, duplicate charges or information belonging to someone else. If you discover errors, contact the designated state or federal agency. The Texas Department of Public Safety, for example, operates an Error Resolution Unit dedicate to resolving issues on individual criminal records. To correct your record, you must submit certified documents proving your record contains inconsistencies.

Credit Report

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you’re entitled to receive a free copy of your credit report from each credit reporting agency once a year. Credit reports sometimes list accounts that have been paid off or closed. In the case of identify theft, a report might contain significant errors you won't discover unless you run your report. Even the smallest mistake can jeopardize your chances of landing your dream job, so it’s important to address each one. If you uncover errors, submit a formal dispute to the credit agency along with any documentation that supports your claim.

Personnel Records

Most employers will contact your last employer as part of the background check, but might speak to someone from human resources who only knows you from your personnel file. Ask to review your file first, especially if your state law guarantees you access. If you find any errors, contact the human resources department to dispute the incorrect information. If you kept a copy of all performance reviews and other documents, submit this to the company. You can also present this documentation to prospective employers to ensure they don’t base their assessment on faulty information.

Other Considerations

In addition to official records, many employers contact your listed references in addition to anyone else they can find who can speak to your character or professional qualifications. This could include colleagues, friends and in some cases neighbors. Let them know they might get a call from an employer, and verify what they’ll say if asked about you. Increasingly, employers also go online, reviewing everything from social networking profiles to blogs. Remove anything that could damage your professional reputation. You can also hire third-party services to run a thorough background check on you and report the results. Many check official records, contact your references and review your online presence.

About the Author

Ellie Williams has been a journalist since 2001. Her work has been recognized by her state's press association and by her local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Williams graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications and humanities, with minors in French and theater.

Photo Credits

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