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Background Checks? These 7 Guidelines Can Help You Overcome Anxiety

Failing background checks is a big concern for many job-seekers but that doesn't have to be the end of the road. Here are seven suggestions.

Right now, failing background checks is a major concern for many. Last year’s pandemic has so many people out looking for work, many with lingering financial issues.

Let’s face it…2020 was a year of tumult, boredom, and hysteria. It was a time of great uncertainty. Millions went through layoffs or applied for unemployment benefits. Others were forced to work from home whether they liked it or not. Many employees had toiled for years to store up benefits. Some sat at home, did nothing, and still got paid. Others watched their savings accounts dwindle.

After more than a year shot-through with so much turmoil, it will be challenging for everyone to get back to work in person. Challenging or not, it’s high time to apply for new jobs or return to your old one. The competition will increase. Those who wait around will have an even harder time getting back to work.

Everyone is feeling a bit more cautious these days. One thing you can be sure of is that more and more companies will be running background checks. If, for whatever reason, you’re afraid of failing a background check, here are some tips to help you meet any difficulty head-on.

1. Background checks will uncover any tax-related problems.

One thing you should do before you apply for any job and risk a background check is to fix any tax fraud issues. Were you on disability leave or workers’ compensation? Even unemployment comes with tax issues. You will definitely want to make sure that Uncle Sam gives your IRS records a clean bill of health.

If you deliberately or accidentally left out taxable income — or have any other tax-related issues — you may face tax fraud charges that will likely affect your employment prospects. When any company runs a background check on you, rest assured that tax issues will come up. They will be understandably hesitant to hire anyone with this red flag.

2. Share all workers’ compensation records.

Employers don’t tend to respond favorably to workers’ compensation claims, but they respond even less favorably if this information is intentionally left out of the interview process.

Truthfully, it doesn’t often reflect well on a job applicant to have received this kind of compensation. Expect the interview process to include a lot of questions as to why you received workers’ compensation. Details should be openly shared to set the interviewer at ease. You will want to provide the most accurate possible accounting and confidently invite them to contact the affected employer. If the affected employer disputed your claim, you should expect that to be problematic, too.

3. Don’t embellish. Keep your story consistent with background checks.

If you lie about your education, employment history, or the details of your accomplishments, they will show up in your background check. If you have embellished or been less than truthful about your previous jobs and/or education, it will be uncovered. Count on it.

Even if you accidentally messed up some dates, this will raise suspicions. Make sure that all of the details on your resume are 100% accurate. You will be pretty dismayed if a background check came back and the company has reason to believe that you have not been entirely forthcoming. On top of that, word spreads quickly about less-than-honest job seekers.

4. If you do have a criminal record, be transparent about it.

Any details regarding a criminal record will show up on a background check. If you’ve been to jail or even have a misdemeanor on your record, it will pop up. This is why it’s always better to be upfront, transparent, and honest.

Get these incidents removed from your record if possible. However, if you are not permitted to expunge a past crime, be honest whenever you apply for a job.

If you tell an interviewer that you have something on your criminal record during the application process, they will at least appreciate the honesty. Depending on the nature of the offense and the position for which you are applying, it still might impact your eligibility. However, it will always be better that you were honest about it. The company might have other positions opening up for which your past offense won’t be problematic.

5. Be upfront about past names (if any) and places you’ve lived.

Background checks will automatically provide information about past names and addresses to the employer. If you changed your name, for whatever reason, you should tell them upfront about the previous name. Don’t wait for them to find out on their own. Name changes are not necessarily a red flag.

However, if your background check comes up with a name change you haven’t mentioned, the company is likely to become suspicious. They’ll want to know why you changed it and (more importantly) why you didn’t tell them. Being transparent is always the best choice, especially if you have nothing to hide.

Not only will a background check provide information about past names to a prospective employer, but it will also show them your current address and any other past addresses. If your prospective employer expects you to reside in a certain area and you don’t actually live there, it will likely cost you the job.

6. Make sure you have any required licenses, certifications, or references.

Nowadays, even a cursory background check can provide a future employer with information on licenses, certifications, and references. The increased connectivity of these datasets represents yet another reason to be completely honest. Make sure that you actually hold the licenses or certifications you say you have. If any of them have lapsed, for whatever reason, be sure to point that out ahead of the background check.

All of your references should be current and easily verifiable. Whoever you’ve listed should be given the courtesy of knowing that you are out interviewing and using their name. if even one of your references is sketchy, you should assume that your prospective employer will ferret that out. They’ll discover whether or not that you worked for the person or were colleagues with them. You should not embellish references in any way.

Many people are surprised — some unpleasantly — when they find out that a background check now includes information on licensure, certifications, and references. Head off future snags in the interview process with a radical commitment to full transparency. So-so credentials that are easy to verify will beat impressive resume items that turn out to be less than accurate every time.

7. Even a bad driving record will show up during background checks!

A poor driving record may not affect your eligibility for a job. However, it’s yet another window into your character and integrity. This will be especially true if you aren’t forthcoming about it.

Obviously, this factor will be especially pertinent if you’re applying for a job that involves operating a vehicle or other equipment. Driving records include tickets, accidents, and more information than most realize. The good news is that you can expunge a lot of these details from your driving record. You might want to take steps to do so prior to diving into the interview process.

Moving Forward in the Coming Year

If you’re looking for a new job, your key in the coming year should be a focus on transparency. Everyone has been through a lot. The last thing employers want to deal with is deception.

Revisit your resume and references with an eye to maintaining full integrity. This holds true whether you have a criminal record, poor driving record, employment gaps, average education history, lapsed professional licenses, or lack impressive references. With competition increasing in job applications, more companies will be using background checks to narrow down the number of applicants and prospective candidates. Be ready!

With any luck, the end of the pandemic is at hand. Many of us need to return to work in person. If you have anxiety about background checks and what they will reveal to an employer, do your best to get out ahead of it before you apply to jobs.

With millions of people going back to work and companies needing employees, it’s necessary to look your best when it comes to applications, interviews, and hiring. Honesty goes a long way this year.


5 Steps to Outshine Your Competition In a Job Interview

An interview is a business transaction wherein the objective of the hiring manager (the person who has the authority to hire) is to make a selection among job candidates called in for interviews. A candidate has two challenges: first, to convince the hiring manager that he is the ideal candidate for the position, and second, to outshine the others (i.e., the competition for the job). Following are several suggestions.

First, prepare for the interview by working with a seasoned interview coach. An interview coach can practice with you certain mock-interviewing techniques, thereby helping you to not only answer difficult interview questions but also recognize traps and avoid saying the wrong things. As an interview coach, I need no less than five hours to get someone ready for the big test. If the result is to get the job, then the fee paid for such a service is merely a drop in the bucket.

Second, prepare your SARBs: situation/action/result/benefit. These are short vignettes about your experience, describing for the interviewer how you solved problems on the job and the results and benefits to employers. They are the tools you bring with you to the interview. If presented well, the examples will convince the hiring manager you’re the right person for the job.

Third, research the company. Spend some time in the public library investigating as much as you can about the company. You cannot overdo this aspect of the job search, and neither should you underestimate the importance of showing the interviewer you understand–on either a macro- or micro level–the issues the company faces.  Knowing details about the company improves the “cultural fit-factor”.

Fourth, use your personal connections via LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to discover as much information as you can about the people you’re going to interview with. While doing that, attempt to find something in common with them. This is very important, because people are known to hire candidates with whom they can build a relationship even during the interview process.

And fifth and last but not less important, make sure the position you’re interviewing for aligns with your own needs and desires. Consider your skills and attributes and traits. Evaluate the organization’s work environment, the commute, the compensation, and the benefits. Pay attention to your gut feeling. If it feels good, make sure you clearly show your enthusiasm. This is what the hiring manager wants to “buy.”


America’s Dream Job

According to a recent survey made by MidAmerica Nazarene University with 2,000 Americans, only 25% of Americans currently work in their dream jobs. These 25% of Americans have either high salaries, born during the baby boomer generation, have PhD degrees or live in the Southwest area. However, what about the rest of the Americans? What do they want from their jobs?

Almost half of the Americans want to own businesses. 41% of survey respondents said that they want to have their own businesses but they are not willing to work more than 60 hours in their businesses. Out of these survey participants, 12% of them said they want C-suite titles, 23% said they want a mid-level management role, and 18% said they dream of having an associate position within a company. Also, they prefer to work in California but drive less than 2 miles to work and work only between 9am and 5pm with no overtime commitments in a small company with less than 30 employees. Well although these are ideal conditions, they are very difficult to become reality especially thinking about the conditions in California. They also add that they can travel twice a month and want to work in the entertainment industry.

Americans would like to have 1-hour lunch breaks, want to have professional relationships with their coworkers, 52 vacation days a year and want to work 38 hours per week. Currently, most Americans work more than 45 hours a week and have 15 days of vacation. They also want to have the option of working remotely at least 11 days a month. Most of them currently get less than 6 days to work remotely. For the salary, men say they want a yearly gross salary of $444,958 compared to women who want a salary of $278,637, which is a vast difference of $166,321. Company perks are also important for Americans. Their dream jobs offer 401(k) matching, help with student loans, a gym membership, office snacks, and the ability to work remotely. The most important perks to women are similar but they also include having a flexible schedule and unlimited vacation time.

Finally, most Americans are not working in their dream industries. Those who are working in administration, finance, hospitality and food, industrial, infrastructure, insurance, marketing and advertising, professional services, real estate, retail, and those who are unemployed dream of working in the entertainment industry. Nonetheless, some of the respondents are very happy to work in their industries but not satisfied with their current jobs. These are working in the accounting, broadcast and journalism, construction, education, engineering, entertainment, government, healthcare, HR, IT, legal, non-profit and social work, science, and skilled labor and trade industries. You can access the full survey results via this link.


Worst Interview Mistakes

If you go to numerous interviews and still being turned down by employers, you may be doing the below interview mistakes. Employers may not be tolerated for mistakes, especially if there are too many applicants for the same position. Therefore, avoid the below common mistakes.

  • Not Dressing Appropriately: Know the dress code of the company you are going to interview with. Although a business attire will be the most appropriate for an interview, sometimes being overdressed may irritate the interviewer. Therefore, research the company culture and dress accordingly. If you don’t want to take any risks, then, it is safer to dress professionally. Remember that a good first impression is the key to get hired and for this reason, your outfit should reflect that you are serious about the job and show the necessary care to yourself.
  • Badmouthing Former Employers: If asked why you left your previous jobs, never badmouth your previous employers or coworkers. Even if you had problems with them, it is not professional to talk behind others’ back to strangers. This says a lot about your personality. No matter what problems you have with your previous employers, you always have to respect them. The interviewer will probably ask you why you want to change your job or why you quit from your previous job. Say that you are looking for something new, or you are ready for an advancement, etc.
  • Being Too Late: Being late for an interview is one of the worst mistakes you can do and don’t make the “traffic” excuse. If you think the traffic will be a problem, then, plan your commute accordingly. Leave the house earlier. If you arrive late to an interview, the interviewer may think that you are either irresponsible or have poor time management skills. Certainly, there may be times where unexpected circumstances may occur and you may be late but in these situations, at least call and inform others in advance.
  • Being Unprepared: If you go to the interview without researching the company and the position, how are you going to convince them that you are the best fit for this job? Being unprepared shows them that you are not serious about this job. When asked “Why do you want to work here?”, an employer expects a clear answer from you. Instead, if you look at the interviewer with a blank impression, then, an employer may end the interview at that point because s/he may think that this candidate is not the right fit for the organization.


What Employers Look For In New Graduates

September is usually a busy month for graduates or college seniors who are about to graduate. Many schools invite employers and recruiters during September in order to help their students get hired. However, finding that very first job is not always easy because there are many other students competing for the same positions in the very same companies. Therefore, it is important to know beforehand what employers look for in new graduates and below you can find them.

Problem Solving Skills: This is one of the most important skills employers look for in new graduates. Every day we come across with many problems because this is the nature of doing business. People who don’t give up when a new problem arises and can come up with possible solutions to solve that problem are the ones that will become successful and be one of the future leaders of tomorrow.  Throwing out ideas for solutions is ok but companies need people who can turn these ideas into reality. Ideas alone are not enough to solve the problems but execution of these ideas are. For this reason, a new graduate who have problem solving skills worth his/her weight in gold.

Ability to Work in a Team: Team work is essential in corporations. You need to be able to work with others in order to reach a common goal. Therefore, it is important that each person understands what is expected of him/her. If one fails to fulfill his/her responsibilities in a team, then, this may create a domino effect and affect the success of the whole project. For this reason, employers prefer to hire graduates who can work together in harmony with a team rather than someone who likes to work by themselves.

Positive Attitude: Employees with positive attitude are generally more liked by other coworkers and perform better in the workplace. For example; you have two coworkers and one of them is a happy and energetic person and the other one is pessimistic and always complains about everything. Who would you prefer to work with in this situation? The person who brings everyone down or who cheers up everyone? I am sure the answer is clear. Therefore, always have a big smile on your face when you are networking in a career fair or in your interviews.

Communication Skills: We need to communicate with other people to do business because we need to pass along information to them and more importantly, we need to transfer this information correctly. Therefore, having good reading, writing and listening skills is very important in today’s corporate world. Good listeners understand the necessary information correctly and ask questions if they need to clarify a point. Good writers pass out the information to others properly and good readers do not miss any important points while reading the information. For this reason, employers pay close attention to communication skills of new graduates.


How to Stand Out From the Crowd

It is important to distinguish yourself from the rest of the crowd if you want to find a job which you are really excited about. You need to make an impression that will make people remember you. This impression both needs to be on paper such as on your resume and cover letter as well as in person. Below you can find some tips to stand out from the crowd.

  • Tailor Your Resume and Cover Letter: Your resume and cover letter should be tailored according to the job description. Short and to the point sentences are key to achieving success. Don’t forget that a person like you will read these and s/he doesn’t know you so that you need to bring out your abilities that will fit the most to the requirements of the position.
  • Network: It is about who you know nowadays. Therefore, use all opportunities to meet with new people in your field. You can do this by going to conferences, industry events or career fairs or by trying to message key people in your desired companies through social media. Many jobs are filled without even posting a job ad online. These types of jobs are advertised internally only and candidates are found through referrals of current employees.
  • Always be Prepared: You may never know where you will meet with a potential hiring manager. Maybe in one of the events you attend, you will come across with one. Therefore, always be prepared for an interview. Do your research about potential employers you want to work for and show your knowledge to the person you are interviewing with.
  • Be Yourself: No matter what you do, do not behave like someone else or do not try to imitate someone else. Employers should hire you because of who you are and this means a combination of both your skills and abilities along with your personality and character. However, always try to be friendly, positive, engaged and enthusiastic because these are the attitudes that will make you remembered among others.
  • Never Give Up: Don’t forget that you will get rejected and not once or twice but most of the time. However, don’t let it discourage you. Always keep looking for new options. It may take longer than you think but sooner or later you will definitely find a company that is willing to hire you and will make you an offer. The important point here is to always keep your momentum until you have an official offer that you are really willing to accept.


Do You Embrace Change?

It was astonishing to learn that a previously successful speaker could not easily transition to the newer way of doing business. Ironically, the newer way includes being social online, and we all know that is no longer new. You can guess he is rapidly moving backward and doesn’t know what to do.

“Recognizing a problem allows us to set goals and revamp activities.”

In each phase of career or business, and on occasion, we need to reflect on our starting point and how we got to where we are today. Then we should consider the current trend of the day. The question to ask ourselves include, “how can our work may be upgraded to reflect what is in vogue?” Even better is to mull over the early stages of the latest announcement to consider improved opportunity.

Long ago, I learned in science class about ‘survival of the fittest.’ The teacher was speaking of the decline of the dinosaurs. They weren’t able to adapt to environmental change. In our world, the survival of the fittest applies to all endeavors. Without embracing change in our business environment, none of us will survive.

As I continued to speak with Jim, he stopped to stumble over words as he admitted no thought was given to his client perspective. The question of why no one responded to his intense mailing was answered. Questions then revealed he never took the time to become acquainted with social media, the notion of branding, or anything more modern to stay in front of his intended clientele. My questions awakened realization as to why business appeared to be impossible.

Read the business news and glance at online postings to gain the thought of the day. Even if you are just starting out in your career, you want to become comfortable with the idea that embracing change enables transitioning into new directions. It’s the only way you will advance your career and stay on target with your audience.

Answer these questions:

  • Have you pushed aside new ideas; is it time to revisit them?
  • Do you scoff at or keep up with trends?
  • What do you see ahead that could make a big difference in your work, and is it time to pursue?

Promise yourself to never concern yourself with friends laughing at your silly ideas. Your goal should always be to move forward and stay ahead of the curve. Remaining in a comfort zone with others will only produce regret later on. Instead, remain focused on your vision, and be willing to work alone until the rest of the crowd looks to you for help. By educating yourself on the new, you are positioned to either create new services to sell or advance your career. In either case, you will be seen as a thought leader as you develop admiration of your personal brand.

Sales Tips:

  1. Embrace change and lead the way.
  2. Learn from leaders in the field.
  3. Take additional classes to enhance your learning.
  4. Create new services that complement what is in place.
  5. Learn to communicate in the newer styles to remain credible and in demand.
  6. Be willing to learn from all generations to implement the best.
  7. Adapt everything you learn to your style.
  8. Prioritize new strategies regarding effectiveness and time to devote.
  9. As you embrace the new, be certain all systems work harmoniously.
  10. Celebrate Success!


Develop Leadership Capability by Taking Responsibility

Have you ever been in meetings where someone backs away by essentially saying ‘that’s not my job’ although it is? Taking responsibility for areas related to your job is essential for maintaining credibility. At the very least, offer to make an introduction to the person in charge. When you wish to advance your career or your business, owning up to responsibility and being inspired to learn is what separates the successful from the rest of the crowd.

Negotiation is a large part of leading successful meetings. Receive everyone’s perspective to find a meeting of the minds. Although at first glance we may disagree with insight, upon further conversation and investigation, new appreciation along with an agreed upon conclusion for the better solution will arise.

By encouraging the give and take of conversation, the better ideas emerge for implementing solutions. And out of all the competitive vendors out there, this approach will serve to build credibility that gives the leading edge. And as far as job interviews go, developing a give and take in the conversation with the hiring manager will see similar results as opposed to those who just sit and answer questions. In either case, you end the meeting with integrity and most often on the road to getting the sale.

It’s possible at some point so much pressure was put on you to make a sale, that you transported the pressure to your prospective client. If this were the case once upon a time, consider the results. Most likely the ending wasn’t a happy one.

Take time to review sales that were lost. Was the loss due to: * Were you pushing too hard to get the sale? * Did you try to gain perspectives of all the people involved in the decision? * Was an attempt made to try to get to know the people on a professionally personal level?

Now think back to your better conversations that led to eventual sales.

  • What were the elements that worked so well and how may it be duplicated time and again?
  • Recall your favorite clients and what you may have in common.
  • Are there clues you might seek out in the future for how to develop more inspiring conversations?

By gaining an understanding of what motivates your prospective clients, they will become motivated to do business with you. Best of all they will be an admirer of your personal brand.

Sales Tips

  1. Listen more than talk.
  2. Ask for insight into the reasoning used.
  3. Ask for clarification on anything you do not understand.
  4. Find out how the person chose their career path and what they hope to accomplish.
  5. Share why you are in your field and what you enjoy most.
  6. Exchange experiences as they relate to the conversation.
  7. Gain added insight for ideas that are new to you.
  8. Lead the conversation from the current problems faced and how solutions are seen.
  9. Add to the ideas for solving the issues.
  10. Celebrate Success!


Do You Honestly Convey Limits Upfront?

Reputation management and personal brand development begin with good first impressions. But an overlooked fact is that most try so hard to please, they are not honest about what they can and cannot do. The improved approach is to convey limits upfront in terms of capabilities. The scope may refer to both time allotment and expertise.

Abe Lincoln’s words come to mind, “You can’t please all of the people all of the time.” Our health comes first, and it is the only way to maintain our strength so that we may serve others well. The better solution is to lay out the parameters for everyone to know what they may expect.

Just as with a sales call, it is best to confirm all of the requirements for working together to be certain everyone is in agreement. Now, the first impression is of potential leadership along with admiration for integrity. The upfront disclaimer also applies to job interviews. By answering questions truthfully, one is far more likely to be hired.

Without an upfront agreement, frustration and overwhelm take hold. The next step to the downward spiral is that quitting will quickly come to mind. With an understanding in place, as you reach a time limit or requests are out of bounds, it is easy to remind those involved of your initial arrangement.

Admitting to what you can and cannot do is a bold step, and not everyone is comfortable with taking it. In particular, when it comes to getting the needed job or the sale, no one wants to put any negative vibes in the atmosphere. However, people can detect the lack of honesty. For the intuitive, they can hear and see what is not being said. Be advised that the best sales strategy of all is to be upfront with your parameters of what you may and may not put into action.

Consider these questions:

  • Is it time to rethink the strategy for commitment?
  • Have clients declined further interaction?
  • How are your first impressions transforming into future work?

As offers come and go, compare and contrast the ones that worked best versus those that prove to be a poor experience. Use these occasions as lessons to improve upon future opportunities. Less time will be wasted and better results will be enjoyed.

Sales Tips

  1. Establish criteria for accepting offers.
  2. Be honest with yourself about what you are able to do well.
  3. Communicate to others your expertise and time available to help.
  4. Avoid over-extending on any commitment.
  5. Preserve your reputation for delivering fine work.
  6. Take care of yourself first in order to serve others well.
  7. Continually review co-hosted projects to see which perform the best.
  8. Leverage the ventures that you enjoy the most plus had the better results.
  9. Strive for doing excellent work in a time efficient manner.
  10. Celebrate Success!

Following these guidelines will lead you to the Smooth Sale!


How to Continue Moving Business Forward

For most people new to a business, the knowledge of how to keep business moving forward is an unknown. The other side of it is a complete lack of understanding as to the importance the individual and their personal brand plays when it comes to achieving success. The same may be said for advancing one’s career.

There are five steps of which to take note to keep business or career on track:


Be a dedicated goal setter and always strive to attain the seemingly impossible. Not only is each goal to be verbalized, but it needs to be well-defined with the understanding of all that is entailed to see it through to completion. Each step closer keeps one motivated.


All goals and projects need a date agreed upon for completion. We all know that on occasion life gets in the way. For this reason, a safety net for action is to accompany the timeline. One example is to set aside an evening each week to do catch-up work.


Everything intended is to be thought out in detail. Examine the pros and cons and what might happen “if…” Be prepared to deal with the good and the bad that may occur. As you review details, an improved route may be detected. Preparation is everything. If you work with a team or co-workers, the clarity provides a game plan for everyone to be on the same page. It also provides the opportunity for each member to provide input and most often, a more robust plan comes to light.


Actual, factual facts are essential for every instance. When it comes to business, alternative facts are not an option unless one wants to go to jail. As these are presented to the team, further ideas blossom to improve upon the original. Statements such as, “We will be the largest and the best…” don’t fly. If there is not valid evidence for how this is to materialize, it could be a possibility, but not yet a fact.


Before entering into any agreement, do research to ensure everything is above board. Truthfulness is the biggest differentiator for selecting projects, partners, employees and anyone else you may encounter. Reconcile whether the person you are about to accept as a type of partner is honest or do they typically gloss over the truth?

Come to Terms Whether You:

  • Research the people with whom you are to meet?
  • Are you comfortable asking the hard questions such as inquiring about the budget?
  • Are your conversations inviting and open-ended to gain varying perspectives?

Asking difficult questions of others brings to light the information you need to know about a job or potential collaborative partner. Diplomacy in asking is always the best route. Once everything is out on the table, you are far more likely to hear, ‘Yes’!

By being open to everyone’s opinions and creative ideas, and asking a great variety of questions, you are able to negotiate a better outcome or improved path in a friendly manner. Answers lead to improved understanding and give way to new ideas.

All of the above leads to helping move your business and career forward, and finding the Smooth Sale!


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