How to apply for a job in the era of background checks

How to apply for a job in the era of background checks

Searching for a new job can be a challenging and often cumbersome experience. From refining your resume to interviewing for jobs, the job hunt process is often lengthy and in-depth. Employers expect transparency from applicants and consider a number of factors such as work experience, skillset, values, and personality when finding the perfect employee for their team.

In order to put your best foot forward when applying for jobs, it is important to remember the various ways that employers can gather background information on both your past experience and you as a person. In this article, we’ll chat about the various ways employers can do background research on applicants and how you can best prepare to put your best self forward. 

As a general rule, the more senior and higher paid role you are applying for, the more extensive you can anticipate an employer’s background check will be. But for first-time job applicants, don’t be fooled. Many employers who employ persons entering the workforce also conduct similar background checks, particularly if your role is customer service-based. 

What is a personal audit?

The first step when applying for a job should be to conduct a personal audit. A personal audit is a process of reviewing your available public data to understand what prospective employers will see. There are a number of areas that you should review when conducting a personal audit, including:

  • All social media channels, including YouTube and Pinterest
  • Google your name and review multiple pages of search results
  • Conduct a background check, using an online service like


A full personal audit is beneficial to any applicant prior to applying for jobs as many employers begin their background research process even before shortlisting applicants. 

What is the difference between a background check and a reference check?

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During the employment application process, two types of information gathering might occur. Employers may conduct a background check, a reference check or both. 

A background check is a process that employers use to verify and gather personal information on applicants. This process is often done discreetly and without the consent or participation of the potential applicant. In today’s age of online content, background checks can often provide in-depth information on any particular applicant. 

By contrast, a reference check is when an employer asks applicants to provide third party sources to corroborate the applicant’s resume and to provide a reference on the applicant’s character, work ethic, and skill set. For many employers, both a background check and reference check are conducted before hiring an employee. 

Scanning your online presence

When scanning your online accounts as part of your personal audit, it is important to think about the type of job you’re applying for, the values of the company, and how your online content may be perceived by others who have no context on the situation or who you are as a person. Some critical things to watch out for include:

  • Photos of illegal or illicit activities such as excessive alcohol or drug use
  • Swearing or inappropriate language
  • Strong, controversial opinions
  • Any language that appears to be racist, homophobic, or otherwise prejudicial to a person, place, or thing
  • Revealing photos
  • Comments that are disrespectful or speak badly about people, places, or former employers

Don’t forget to include all online presence in your personal audit. Some sites or platforms to remember to include in your search are Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and a general Google search. 

Conducting your own background check?

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There are a number of free and paid online services that can conduct a background check on potential employees. To understand what future employers see on one of these platforms, we recommend conducting your own background check as part of your personal audit. A website like is a safe and reliable way to securely conduct a background check on yourself, including contact information, criminal records, and personal financial information. 


Whether you’re applying for your first job or senior executive position, it is important to understand what employers see when they conduct background checks online.  A background check can provide potential employers with a wide range of important information on applicants, including criminal records and financial information, in addition to personal opinions, values, and beliefs. 

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