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Chances are, if you made it to the background search of the hiring process, you are within a stone's throw from landing the position.  However, it could be a long throw.

Too many, underestimate the background search phase of the process and take no steps to prepare.  Yes, there is much that can be done to improve your background.  The time to do it is not when you in the process.  The time is now.

This piece is written under the assumption that the agency conducting the background search is doing a thorough and complete job.

What is the Background Search?

A background search is a complete investigation of a person's life.  No stone should be left unturned.  Usually, one detective is assigned to one applicant.  This allows for a more thorough investigation. 

What is Investigated During a Background Search?

Everything.  Following are some of the resources and functions which may be researched during a thorough background search:

National Crime Information Center (NCIC)  National Law Enforcement Telecommunication System.  NLETS
Registered Sex Offender Registry and Database District Attorney and Prosecutor’s Office Records
Physicians Records  All Public Records
County Clerk’s Office    County Criminal Records Bureau   
Expungements Private Investigators Records if applicable
Vital Records Complete Warrant Check
Family Background Search Employment Background Search
Bankruptcy Records Personal Background Search
Online Background Search (Activity in Forums, message boards, etc.) Everything Else You can Imagine

A background investigation is a a criminal background search, a personal background search, a medical, credit, employment, education, life history, social acquaintance, and family background search.  Ideally, no stone should be left unturned.  Issuing a shield, service weapon, and all that come with them is an immense responsibility.  No stone should be left unturned in a background search.

Some of the documents you may have to provide to the detective conducting your background search may include but are not limited to the following:

Birth Certificate Death Certificate (Family)
Marriage License Divorce Decree
College Degrees Other Educational Certificates
Drivers License Professional Licenses

Who May Be Contacted in a Background Search?

We don't care about the people you list on your application.  Of course the persons you listed in the reference checks section will vouch for you.

We will ask each of them for the names of three people with whom you socialize.  Then, we will ask them for three more names.  Ideally, we will go several levels down into your background and come up with persons who you did not expect to be contacted.

Former boyfriends and girlfriends are another interesting source of information.  

Asking everyone contacted about previous employers is another way new information is obtained.  Sure hope you listed them all on your application.

The goal of this part of the background search is to determine if the applicant omitted any information from the application.

What Can I do to Improve My Background?

By now, you should have an idea of what to expect.  While agencies differ in how thorough they conduct background investigations, you should prepare for the worst case scenario.

Improving your background means mending fences. 

Make a list of potential problems in your background.  Generally, this list will contain people who may not speak highly of you.  Once you have completed this list, contact these people and try and repair what is broken.  This may mean having to swallow a lot of crow, but it is necessary. 

If it is an old employer, pay them a visit.  Perhaps the situation can be improved with just a discussion.

If it is an old friend, give them a call.

If it is a former boyfriend or girlfriend, send a letter. 

Do whatever you have to do to clean up any mess that may exist.  Reaching the background search phase of the hiring process is too important to hold grudges.

Should I List Arrests that were Expunged?

In a word, yes.

Most agencies will give you an application which asks if you had an expungement for an arrest or conviction.  You are not applying to a job just out of high school.  Do not get cute, and do not play games.  When you are turned down for a law enforcement job for lies uncovered during a background search, you will have to explain this to every other agency to which you apply.

Even if the application does not ask about expungements, list them.  Hopefully, it will give you points for honesty.

What Will Disqualify Me During a Background Search?

First, for those of you arrested for minor offenses, relax.  Many officers on the job today had things pop up during their background investigation including arrests.

Generally, what will be measured will be the seriousness of the arrest, the amount of time since the arrest, and what you have done since the arrest.  Felonies and high misdemeanors will obviously look worse than minor offenses.

Disqualification will most certainly result for lying on your application, serious criminal offenses in your background, and any convictions for domestic violence offenses.

Again, it comes down to making an effort to improve your background by improving weak areas.

There is much more we could write, but you get the gist by now. 

You should prepare for your background search as you prepare for an exam.





Background Search


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