Background checks. Oh, they matter.

Did you know that a potential employer could ask your neighbors about you? Under a background check, an interview of neighbors and friends is considered an ‘investigative consumer report’ and is perfectly legal. While they must inform you of their doing so, it is perfectly alright for them to ask about your character, style of living and other such questions.  

While most employers don’t check out their candidates this extensively, they certainly have the right to do so. If this worries you, you may want to check out why they’re doing such an extensive background check on you and what it’s all about.  

In the narrowing job market, employers are taking hiring more seriously. Fewer jobs means more applications for each opening they do have and presumably, they want the best of the best. This means that, while it’s more effort, background checks will possibly become more routine.  

Also, don’t forget the Google factor. The easiest way to quickly assess someone for a position is to Google them. Do you know what’s out there under your name? Remember, you are what Google says you are.  

One more thing. MySpace and Facebook are really great networking tools. But they’re also really great for potentially ruining your job search. It’s nice to go out and party every once in a while, but remember to have your friends NOT put up those pictures when you’re looking for a job. Even if you’re not, you don’t want your reputation made for you.

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Beware: The Internet Can Ruin You

We all know what social networking is right? You sign up for an account such as Myspace or Facebook, become “friends” with hundreds of people you probably never talk to, and update pictures of you and your friends looking like fools. Oh it’s loads of fun. Until you risk a potential job over it.

Today’s employers are researching the online persona of applicants and taking that into consideration over the traditional resume. Resumes tell a lot about a person, but most people embellish and lie to get ahead in the professional world. By going online to your personal profile an employer can see your sex, race, age, interests, and all those drunken pictures you have with your friends. An employer can be on the verge of hiring you, but if your Myspace profile raises red flags about your lifestyle and values then you might as well go back to the beginning of your job search. You are only going to be hurting yourself by adding “smoking weed” to your interests.

The solution: clean it up! I’m not saying that you have to have a boring profile and delete everything that defines you as a unique individual. Just be smart about your choices. When I got back from my trip to Russia I had listed Vodka under my interests. That obviously isn’t the gem employers look for in applicants and so I cleaned up my profile and deleted that interest. I also deleted any pictures of myself holding alcohol bottles or anything that might be too risqué and tasteless. My final step was making my profile friends only. It is now private and employers can only see my main picture and my age. Think of how you would want to be viewed by the people you work with. If you put anything vulgar or crude on the Internet it will most likely come back to haunt you.

Resumes, test scores, and grades are one way of learning about an applicant but the Internet is now the main research tool in eliminating job candidates. Don’t belittle the adult world – they are smart and they will find out your personal information if you let it run free on the Internet.

Your First Résumé: A Guide for Beginners

The following is a great example of how NOT to write your résumé. I may have exaggerated things a bit with “Joe Jobseeker’s” past work experience, but the other faux pas are unfortunately pretty common among amateur résumé writers.

After reading this through and seeing the many changes needed to make this résumé even remotely acceptable, take a closer look at your own to see if you’ve inadvertently made some of the same errors.

Let the learning begin!

This is Joe’s résumé. He spent about 10 minutes writing it and sprucing it up to bring it to what he feels is its full “awesome potential.” He’s a bit delusional. This résumé clearly needs a ton of help.

 

Page 2

1 Joe, first and foremost, your fonts are not consistent throughout the résumé. Formatting like underline, italics, and bold should be used sparingly. Also, the phone number is missing a digit, and the email address is far from professional.

2 Again with the crappy font. This is barely legible even at this large font size. Your objective is incredibly vague. Specify which industry you hope to get a job in.

3 Why is this entire thing centered? You need to make it line up on the left. The word “shoveled” is misspelled. Also, here come a few more fonts and bolding – ugh. Is this job even relevant? You were likely a teen when you did this job, and it doesn’t seem like you learned too much in the way of how a business is run from the stalls. Also, you can’t say that you fed slop to your boss. You can say “Brought boss his lunch” or something, but it still doesn’t seem appropriate.

4 Do not use an ampersand (&) in place of the word “and.” You’ve changed tenses with the third duty. Only your current job should be in the present tense; all past jobs should be in past tense (help customers vs. helped customers). Also, you shouldn’t say you were hired because your good looks helped you sell tires, even if it was true.

5 There’s a typo with the word “lined.” Use capital letters at the beginning of each line. You should leave “repeat” off because it seems like negative commentary about how repetitive this job was.

6 I believe you meant “groceries.” You changed tenses with the last two duties. Also, you should organize the order of your past jobs to be most recent to oldest. Managers want to know what you’re doing now, not what you did a decade ago (though they will read that far eventually, it doesn’t help your case at all to put the oldest jobs first).

7 Don’t abbreviate on a resume even if it is monstrously long and more than one page (like you did here: “w/” instead of “with”). Find other ways to make it shorter. Your last duty needs to be removed or changed to something a lot less specific like “Kept the customer restrooms clean.”

8 This font is much larger than anything else found in the rest of the document. I know you’re proud of your education, but it’s impressive enough without being in bold, size 24 point font. The year is formatted differently here than in the rest of the document. Also, the dash is different.

9 The way this section is written hurts you more than it could ever possibly help you. Those bullets when there are none anywhere else? Bad idea. Stay consistent. Also, format the sentences the same to say “I” in each statement or in none of them.

You should be as specific as possible about skills that you think an employer will see as vital. What kinds of computers can you use? What kinds of programs? Also, you don’t write “good,” you write “well.” I would suggest leaving this off completely if you don’t understand the difference.

Your disposition is not a factor on a résumé . It’s something they will notice during an interview. You can put that you are great at customer service perhaps, or that you can use many types of cash registers.

Overall Analysis: Where do I even start? The entire format of this résumé is boring and confusing. The margins on the page were obviously widened so you could put all of your contact info across the top, but then you skip two spaces between each job and completely waste space. This must be one page, but not with 1/2 inch margins and tiny font that kill a reader’s eyes. That said, following these edits will make this résumé a thousand times better. Then you can work on how to make your past jobs seem like great learning experiences instead of just what you had to do to pay the bills. But that’s another blog for another day.