Michael Sterling

Job Seekers: What Will Your Background Check Reveal?


If you’re in the market for a new job, especially one which handles money or sensitive information, you can expect a background check. What will your background check reveal?


Security threats are very real today and so is the liability for businesses. Whether you’re dealing with sensitive electronic data or not, there’s a strong likelihood that potential employers will run a background check on job candidates. This is true for anyone from cashiers to CPAs. If you handle or have access to any customers’ money or financial information, your criminal and credit history are of interest to employers.


I work exclusively with Public Accountants and find many are surprised to learn that firms plan to run a full, professional background check prior to making an offer of employment. This often includes finger printing. The cost of the check is typically paid by the potential employer. Having a steady work history and glowing references does not make candidates exempt from the process.


Public Accounting firms have extensive financial information regarding each of its clients. Who the firm entrusts with that information is critical to the safety of the firm’s clients, as well as the firm’s reputation, legal liability and future profitability.


Criminal and Credit Checks


Many candidates fully understand why a criminal background is necessary, but get prickly about having their credit history reviewed. If your credit history is blemished by late payments, missed payments, a bankruptcy or IRS issues – most likely you won’t be getting the job. How financially savvy you are with your own finances is of key interest when you will be advising and handling clients’ financial needs.


Moreover, if your credit report shows you’re a high credit risk – that’s a leading indicator for fraud. Fraud stems from a combination of need and opportunity. If a candidate is hurting financially, the need is seen as high. The opportunity relates to having access to accounts, social security numbers and a wealth of other financial details on a daily basis. In short, firms aren’t going to give someone with potential need an opportunity.


Credential Check


Here’s something else you need to know – your credentials will be checked. Adding CPA, CFP, CIMA or any other certifications to your resume which aren’t true, will come back to bite you.


I’ve seen candidates extremely embarrassed by being exposed as liars. If you’re CPA isn’t active – say so. Simply note on the resume that you are willing to take the steps necessary to reactivate the certification. Then, be prepared to do it!


What Will Your Background Check Reveal?


If you have a criminal history, you’re likely aware of that. If that activity is going to preclude you from a specific employment process, don’t apply. The same is true for legal U.S. work status. However, not everyone is fully aware of their credit report. Have a free credit report run yearly at minimum – but certainly have one completed prior to starting a job search for a financial position. You should also look up your certifications and insure those are reflected accurately. If your CPA shows as inactive or blemished, contact the appropriate state’s Board of Accountancy. Identify and, if possible, resolve the issue.


Today, everyone has a digital footprint. Our education, employment, criminal and credit history are all verifiable. Some aspects can be easily confirmed with a few key strokes. Be aware that employers will check. If your personal background isn’t a match for a professional position, find a career or position in which those issues won’t be a barrier to employment.


Career Wellness


Interested in more career nutrition? Check out the Career Wellness section of the SterlingFreeman website. 


Seeking a new Public Accounting opportunity? SterlingFreeman recruits exclusively for Public Accounting. View our full list of premier public accounting positions nationwide. And connect with me on LinkedIn. I welcome your comments. 


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