employment

15 Ways Employers Check You Out Before Saying, "You're Hired!"

iStockphoto.com |  busracavus

iStockphoto.com | busracavus

You want the job. You're qualified for the job. Why can't the company just give you the job?

Did you really think it was going to be easy? Employers want to know who they're hiring, and they're going to be intrusive in checking you out before extending an offer. And companies have many ways to vet job candidates before bringing you on board.

  1. The Resume - Your resume is a spelling test. It's a grammar test. It's a Microsoft Word publishing test. It's an honesty test. Reviewers make several judgments about you just based upon that simple 1 or 2 page resume.

  2. Interviews - These grueling meetings often include the hiring manager, peers, human resources, internal customers, or anyone with a stake in the hiring decision.

  3. Criminal Background Checks - Employers want to know you can be trusted with the keys to the company car, or if you're going to take it straight to the chop shop the first time you drive off.

  4. Employment Verification - Did you really work at the company, in the role you indicated, for the pay you detailed?

  5. Credit Checks - Another measure of trustworthiness. How do you handle your finances? If you've declared bankruptcy or have overdue bills, what does that say about your ability to manage company resources – in other words will your expense report be padded to cover your personal expenses?

  6. Physicals - It's rare, but not unheard of to be sent to the doctor for an evaluation if either your job involves a great deal of physical activity, or if you're considered critical to the organization.

  7. Skills Testing - The job requires you to be good at Microsoft PowerPoint - would you be willing to take a timed exam to see just how skilled you really are?

  8. Psychological / Personality Testing - These come in many flavors, but the purpose is the same - to see how well you’ll fit within the culture of the organization, and your predicted behaviors and predilections.

  9. Polygraph - The lie detector. Legal in several states, another test of your trustworthiness. Don't be surprised to take one of these when applying for positions in security or law enforcement.

  10. References - The company speaks with former supervisors or coworkers to find out more about your work habits.

  11. Informal References - This is when somebody at the company says, "Hey, I know somebody who used to work with that guy at my old employer! Let me get the skinny!" Then they do this without the applicant's knowledge or consent. It’s a gray area, but it happens more often than you’d think.

  12. Deep Background / Character Investigations - Applying to a position requiring access to top secret data? You might get an investigator poking around, asking your neighbors about your most personal details.

  13. Asking Around After The Interview - The hiring manager may ask the folks in the office who interacted with you how you behaved. Better have treated that receptionist with dignity and respect...

  14. Your Social Media - Who says they won't find those pictures on Facebook from your drunken escapade in Tijuana? And do you know what comes up in Google when somebody enters your name? How's that picture on your LinkedIn profile?

  15. Drug & Substance Testing - About that trip to Tijuana...


There's a lot of information about you out there, and companies won't be shy about gathering as much as they can before deciding whether to offer you a job. Be prepared.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.

Should I List My Hobbies On My Resume?

Look at those fish! I recommend pairing them with a fine chardonnay. (iStockphoto.com/mel-nik)

Look at those fish! I recommend pairing them with a fine chardonnay. (iStockphoto.com/mel-nik)

You have many talents! You can pull off the triple axel during your weekend figure skating meets. During last month's lunker competition, you used your well-honed fishing strategies to snag an 18-pound bass. And your mixology skills are to die for – just wait until people try your latest invention, the Double Cranberry Tom Collins!

No question, your mother's proud of you. And she should be, Bubbelah! You're amazing!

But would a potential employer be equally impressed to see your hobbies on your resume?

Hobbies and resumes can be a tricky combination. The purpose of a resume is to sell to a hiring manager and recruiter your ability to do a job, and to highlight your ability to stand above the crowd.

So, before including your championship Tiddlywinks credentials on your CV, ask yourself a few questions:

1. Will my hobbies help me highlight my skills and abilities to a potential employer?

I have a friend who was a competed in Scrabble tournaments (if you don't know Scrabble, it's a board game where you use tiles to build words for points; the most points at the end of the game wins) - he was nationally ranked, and he traveled the country to match skills and play the game against the best players. Think about the skills involved in playing Scrabble - it's highly analytical, requires both verbal and mathematical skills, and makes you think on your feet to solve problems, and I'd consider including it on the resume for this reason. Likewise, an engineer who competes in robotics tournaments shows that he or she is inventive, analytical, and driven.

2. Did I attain substantial achievements in my hobby?

It can help an employer's perception of you if you achieved the pinnacle of your pastime. Let's say you were selected for your country's Olympic curling team – even if you chose not to participate due to other life obligations, you can demonstrate that you exercised the discipline to be ranked "world-class" in something. This isn't limited to athletics, either. Perhaps you won a creative writing contest. It can count.

3. Did I hold any nonprofit leadership roles?

Maybe you sit on the board of a local charity. Or you're a Boy Scout Troop Leader helping youths develop themselves. Perhaps you give seminars to unemployed professionals on dressing for success. These all demonstrate a commitment to the community at large, but also show opportunities to hold leadership and management positions.

4. Could my hobby be potentially applicable to my line of work?

I've heard of situations where people have hobbies which weren't officially in a job description but helped a job seeker get a job. Salespeople who indicated they play golf or tennis come to mind - many deals get done on the course or court. Likewise, I know of an individual who listed photography on their resume, and received an offer for an engineering role because they had a VERY niche position available which involved photographic equipment. Or experience as a mixologist (i.e., bartender) might be of help if you're applying for any position in the food, hospitality, or alcohol beverage industry.

5. Would listing your hobby work for you - or against you?

Remember, an employer reading a resume can be judgmental – fairly or unfairly – and including a hobby which a hiring manager or recruiter might find objectionable (or just plain silly) can be a risk. Try to be conscious of potentially controversial hobbies; for example, some individuals might find mentioning bartending objectionable if they're teetotalers. And while it's impressive that you own the largest collection of Pez dispensers, an employer might view it as frivolous and a waste of space on the resume.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.

We're All Replaceable - Are You Prepared?

I recently read an opinion piece in the New York Times by Dan Lyons, who worked at a software company where it was a matter of routine to . In the article, he details how involuntary turnover (i.e., getting fired or laid off) was the norm. The fact that you could be fired on any day for any reason was routine.

Rough and tumble corporate cultures are nothing new. There was an article last summer, also published in the New York Times, about the bruising culture at Amazon, where they detailed the employees' tears that seemed to be the norm, at least at the time of publication. I myself have worked in an environment where the management model was capricious, to say the least.

While not every company is a meat grinder, the truth of the matter is that deliberately tough work environments exists, and employers aren't necessarily selling themselves as best-in-class places to work. They demand results, and the agreement is simple: We give you a paycheck, you work in the environment we choose to foster.

Websites like Glassdoor will show you reviews of companies' work environments by former and current employees. My guess (and it's just a guess) is that this increased level of transparency has led some companies to embrace the fact that working there isn't going to be a Shangri-La. It's kind of freeing for executive leadership, in a way -  if people know you're not too worried about employee engagement, you can focus that energy on producing results.

Going back to the opinion piece mentioned at the beginning of this post, the detail that really caught my attention was that Lyons' employer evaluated employees in their appraisals with a metric called VORP - value over a replacement player.

This is a baseball statistic that general managers use to decide when to trade or cut their players. In other words, if there's a second baseman on the market who can do the same jobless, or deliver better stats for the same pay, it tells the GM that they may want to make a change at second.

This, according to the article, is transparent to employees, they can tell immediately how much the organization values them. What's scary about this, in my opinion, is that Major League Baseball is a truly elite work environment - at any given point, there's only 750 positions available at the highest level. And these players are paid elite money to deal with the uncertainty - and the level of performance they are expected to deliver.

The average MLB player knows the odds - there are hundreds of thousands of people competing for his job. And his career averages 5.6 years in length. Longevity isn't necessarily part of the equation.

But the fact that this practice has entered the mainstream should serve as a wake-up call to employees in general. We are all replaceable. There is always somebody ready to come along and do our job.

The best thing to do, is to be prepared.

  • Be self-aware. Are your skills up to date? How about your soft skills, do you get along well with others? Your employer and coworkers are aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and you should be, too. If you realize you're lacking in a certain area, work on developing your skill set. Make the time, it's worth it.
  • Know where you stand. Have regular touch-bases with your manager. Engage in open dialogue about your performance and expectations. Make sure you're both aligned.
  • Keep your resume current. And your LinkedIn profile, too. Change may come faster than you anticipate, and not necessarily on your terms. You need to be ready in case opportunity knocks.
  • Always. Be. Networking. The worst time to start building up your connections is when you need a job. You should have that network in place and give it some TLC. Pay it forward - help people in your network when you're in a position to do so, so that others have a reason to give you a solid. Be nice to people, it pays dividends.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. He is a Human Resources professional and staffing expert with almost two decades of in-house corporate HR and staffing firm experience, and is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC).

Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.