A client recently brought this subject up because of an experience she has had that made her wonder whether something that was actually pretty innocent might boomerang on her in her job search. If you are in a job search now or considering one, this is something you should seriously put some thought into. Otherwise, an item in your past that you never even thought of being concerned about might smack you in the face when you least expect it. In a job search, that’s especially not a good thing.
My client had a short sale of her home a few years ago. That’s something that has happened to a LOT of people over the past several years, since the housing market and the economy started skidding south in a huge way. Figures I’ve seen suggest that a large proportion of homeowners today have mortgages that are “under water” (the home is worth less–sometimes substantially less–than they still owe). If the homeowner loses his or her job and can’t keep up the mortgage payments until the situation might have a chance to improve, a short sale could become the only viable option.
Caution: If you’re in that boat, make sure you talk with a highly reputable and respected real estate broker about it; sharks and vultures can spot an easy mark from miles away. I’m no lawyer, so I don’t know all the ins and outs of a short sale, but I looked the subject up online, and it seems that a short sale can impact your credit record but not as much as a foreclosure. (If you’re interested, here’s an informative article about short sales versus foreclosures.)
How does this relate to background checks when you’re in a job search? If a prospective employer runs a background check on you–or, more likely, hires an outside service to do it–a foreclosure could cost you the job opportunity. I’m not sure a short sale would have that same effect, but you might want to check to make sure.
If you are concerned about your situation and can afford it, the wisest course of action could be to pay a reputable service to run the check on you, just as an employer would do. That will tell you what employers are going to see and could give you an opportunity to take steps to offset the impact. Try to find out at what point a prospective employer is likely to initiate a background check on you. Maybe you can find a way to take the initiative and let the employer know you have had an issue in the past but have worked past that and are back on track.
For example, if you or your spouse lost a job–or both of you did, which is not unheard of–that could have compounded the economic problems our whole country has been experiencing. It doesn’t necessarily suggest that you are a poor risk as an employee! You want to impress upon prospective employers that you have great value to offer and are enthusiastic about the possibility of doing that at their company, in the job you are applying for. If your record of contributions at previous employers is strong, that’s what you want to emphasize, because that’s much more relevant to the prospective employer than an innocent glitch in your background check.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m only familiar with one company that runs background checks: Allison & Taylor. They also do a lot of reference checking, and you can hire them to do that for you as well. According to their website, their fee for background checking is $99; for reference checking it’s $79. However, you might want to research online and see who else provides similar services, then do a comparison of what they offer and what kind of reputation they have, before you decide.