Job Talk: Someone stole my identity, ruined my record
Dear J.T. & Dale: If someone were to do a background check on me, he or she would think I'm a terrible person. However, all the bad stuff was committed by someone who stole my identity. According to the police and district attorney, they need me to have this on my record in case the ID thief uses me again. I am trying to find work, with no success. I can forget ever again working as an engineer or as an accountant, even though I'm a bachelor of science in electrical engineering and a CPA. I'm trying to apply for menial work at retail stores, but the electronic applications ask for a Social Security number and permission for a background check. Where do I go from here? — Greg
DALE: Do NOT give up on your career, Greg. For one thing, you have the option to simply quit putting yourself in a position to have your background checked. You could, for instance, offer your services as an outside CPA to engineering firms. While someone might check your references before hiring your services, I'd be surprised if they did a background check. Notice that I said "hiring your services" — that's a different level of inquiry than bringing you on as an employee.
J.T.: If you do want to seek regular employment, you'll be up against a credibility issue: your word against the "factual" background check. What would be useful is finding a third party to tell the whole story. Perhaps a high-profile person in the community would champion your cause. Perhaps the DA's office or someone in the Police Department would be willing to back up your contention in a letter.
DALE: If so, you'll be in a good position once you get past interviewing to the actual background check. Typically, the background check comes only when the company has decided to hire you. So, if you aren't getting interviews and job offers, you can stop blaming the identity thief. Start making real connections, not just sending out resumes and applications, and you'll find that you can work through or around the background issue.
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Dear J.T. & DALE: The point I want to address is how bad staffing agencies are these days. What I mean by "bad" is being contacted by an agency and then getting no follow-up. Recently, after the third week of no response from the staffing agency, I called the recruiter, only for her to say, "Oh, I'm so sorry, I thought I had contacted you to let you know." How unprofessional is that! I'm to the point where I don't have the desire to work with any of these staffing agencies. They are so unprofessional. — Melinda
DALE: Perhaps we should consider what it means to be "professional" here in the New Economy. When using that term, people normally are referring to someone living up to the standards of the profession. In this case, the standards of civility have changed radically in the past decade or two, leaving behind the old courtesies.
J.T.: Many companies that hire staffing agencies are taking advantage of what they see as a buyer's market for employees, and are making staffing agencies jump through hoops, sometimes pitting recruiters against one another. Given all the demands and pressures coming from their clients, while getting thousands of requests from job seekers, calling job searchers to let them know they didn't get the job isn't high on their priorities list.
DALE: Indeed, employees of staffing agencies who devoted a considerable amount of time to updating job applicants might find themselves in the job market. The owners of the staffing agency even might call them "unprofessional," judging all that time spent on courtesies as detracting from their priorities.
J.T.: However, rather than give up on staffing agencies, here's a better idea: Be more proactive. Don't make it the staffing company's job to call you; accept the fact that you'll do all the contacting. If they know you for your follow-through, patience and attention to detail, they'll be more passionate about selling you to their customers. Make their jobs easier, and you'll be remembered for all the right reasons!
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