We’ve all got skeletons hidden in closets. There are past indiscretions that we’d rather no one know about, something stupid we did when we were young, something stupid we did last week, a lie we’ve carried for years…

I’m definitely not one to judge (I have a skeleton closet just like the rest of us), but I would like to offer up a bit of advice for those of you navigating a job hunt while working with a recruiter.

Place your trust in me – your recruiter! I promise I won’t lead you astray, and my end-goal is the same as yours – to secure an offer letter with your name on it!

Oftentimes an interview process requires you to bare your bones in a very formal and vulnerable way. There’s so much probing into your past with questions like “Why did you leave that job?” and “Please explain to me what you were doing when you were out of work from 2006 – 2009.” If you successfully navigate the interview(s), you turn the corner only to find documents awaiting your signature releasing a company to perform a criminal background check, credit background check and drug screen as a contingency of employment.

It’s no wonder that some candidates take a defensive approach to the interview process – which, by the way, is a surefire way to NOT get a job offer.

It’s true; I work FIRST AND FOREMOST for my clients. They pay my bills. Any recruiter who tells you otherwise isn’t being truthful. But I still have your success and best interests at heart. I’m your proxy, and I’m trained to present the best version of you that you are. LISTEN to me when I try to give you interview tips and pointers. TAKE NOTES when I’m giving you intel on a company or a hiring manager. AND TELL ME THE TRUTH about any of those pesky skeletons that might present themselves in the interview process. What I’m getting at is this: If you’re not sure if you can pass a drug test, TELL ME. If you know your criminal background check is going to pull something up, TELL ME (the same goes for a credit check).

The only way I can be an effective advocate for you is if I can tackle these skeletons head-on and proactively. Heck! I might even be able to ease that pit in your stomach.

Drug Test
Remember, I’m not here to judge or to make you feel uncomfortable, but it’s wise to let me know if you have any doubt whatsoever about passing a drug screen. I’ll be honest, if you take a drug test and don’t pass it – things don’t typically bode well. But each company has a different type of test that they use. If I know that ABC Company only uses a 3-panel urine screen, I’ll tell you! If I know that XYZ Company uses a hair-follicle test, I’ll tell you! This doesn’t get you out of taking a test, but it should give you a better sense as to whether or not you’ll pass it. It’s no secret that a follicle test can detect drug use in the past 6 months, whereas urine tests can only detect as far back as the last couple of weeks. Even if you know there’s no way you’re passing a drug screen regardless of the kind of test being administered, it’s still always best to be honest with me. I’ll appreciate it, my client will appreciate it, and perhaps the door will stay open for further discussion down the road. You lie, or choose to not tell the truth – you’ll have burned bridges for the price of one.

Criminal Background Check
This is an interesting one because it can be quite nuanced. In the spirit of honesty, I’ll tell you if you have a felony on your record or if your charges are violence-related – there’s not much we can do. But most misdemeanors, we can work with. Most of the time companies are looking for very specific things that might show up on a background check that would directly interfere with your ability to do a good or honest job. If you were interviewing for an accounting job and you have a misdemeanor related to larceny or falsifying documents, then you can probably guess things will not be swaying in your favor. If you’re applying for an accounting job and you have a misdemeanor DUI/DWI then you probably have a fair shot of moving forward in the process. Even hiring managers realize that no-one’s perfect. Even hiring managers lived a wild and crazy youth (well, some of them). I can’t tell you how many times a misdemeanor DUI or possession conviction has showed up on criminal background checks that were bypassed simply because they were 5-plus years past with no further incident.

Some other things I want to tackle on the background check front are “sealed” records and pending charges. If you were promised that your records were sealed, you need to do your due diligence and MAKE SURE that the courts actually sealed them. There have been a number of times that my candidates’ criminal reports came back and convictions that were supposed to be sealed were not. Something new I learned this year is that pending charges/open cases WILL pull up on the report as well. This is just another reason to be fully transparent with me – your recruiter. I can usually give you reassurances or help you with a gameplan. I can DEFINITELY proactively handle the situation on the client side and (hopefully) mitigate any catastrophe.

Credit Checks
Credit checks aren’t usually performed unless you’re in a position to be handling a company’s finances. A lot of times the criminal background and credit-check consent are on the same form, leading people to believe that both are being checked no matter what. If your job isn’t accounting/finance-based, your credit will remain unchecked (usually). Though, if you have any questions about it ,ASK ME! If your credit IS being checked, employers are typically looking for things like current bankruptcies, foreclosures or incredible amounts of credit-card debt. They operate under the assumption that you shouldn’t be able to handle their finances if you can’t handle your own. Though, as you’re learning, there are always exceptions to that rule. The biggest one is divorce. Divorce can wreak havoc on otherwise decent credit. SO, tell me your circumstance and I can proactively work my magic.

What you need to realize is that even seemingly black and white matters such as formal inquiries to your background can operate in a very grey area, and it’s my specialty to operate within that grey area for you. PLEASE utilize me (and all recruiters) as an ally. You DO have someone in your corner, and I know how to fight for you AND your skeletons. I know we all wish we could lock our secrets up and throw away the key, but it’s not realistic. You have to learn to swim with the current rather than against it, and I’m the person in the boat throwing you a life vest.

Corey Kruss is Senior Recruiter – Engineering/Operations Professional Placement & Staffing at TxMQ. Her email is corey@txmq.com.


(Image by Mike Mozart)

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