Business Column: Past mistakes can haunt job seekers

WILLIAMSBURG — It's probably true that we've become a less trusting society. It certainly seems to be true in the case of employers looking over job applications.

According to Allison & Taylor Inc., a reference-checking and background company, employers are more likely than ever to check references and run background checks. In some cases that includes taking a look at applicants' social media footprint.

"We run reference checks and background checks on everyone we make an offer to," said Anna Martin, vice president for administration at the College of William and Mary.

She said the college doesn't use social media tracking formally.

"It's not something that I do or HR does institutionally. I have had individuals come to me with information that they've gotten by Googling someone," Martin said.

Neither does Colonial Williamsburg, another of the area's largest employers.

"Checking social media history is not a routine part of our background and reference checks. Our focus continues to be checking work references in the traditional manner, such as talking with former supervisors and colleagues," said human resources director Pam Reiss.

According to a recent study on careerbuilder.com, 43 percent of hiring managers who currently research candidates via social media said they have found information that has caused them not to hire a candidate. That's up 9 percentage points over last year.

Of 2,100 companies surveyed nationwide, 39 percent use social networking sites to research job candidates, up from 37 percent last year.

If you're my age and you had any fun in high school or college, you can be forever grateful that it happened before the days of digital cameras and the Internet.

The Internet is forever. Although there are companies that will help young job applicants "scrub" their Internet records. One of the ways to do that is for the scrubee to generate posts on positive topics, hopefully pushing those beer bong photos down off the first search engine page.

Past job references can be a problem as well.

According to Allison & Taylor, 50 percent of their clients receive poor-to-mediocre employment references.

"Even if you don't anticipate an issue, never assume that your background check – when run by a prospective employer – will be problem-free. Over your adult life, many parties have the ability to provide information that will ultimately appear on your report. If any of that data has been entered in error (e.g., by a clerical person who has incorrectly entered your Social Security number or someone else's), you might find that there is something far worse on your report than a speeding ticket you got many years ago," according to Allison & Taylor.

A simple background check using your Social Security number can turn up everything from a criminal history to an old bankruptcy.

"If any of the feedback from these checks reflects something unfavorable, it is highly unlikely that an employer will tell you that this is why you were not hired," according to Allison & Taylor. "Instead, the more likely scenario is that you will be told that they have made 'other arrangements,' or you will simply never hear from then again."

One of the services Allison & Taylor offers employee clients — they also work for employers — is preemptive background and reference checks to find out if there is a problem. Because there may be remedial steps — including cease and desist letters to whoever is providing the unflattering information — that can be taken.

Business notes:

•According to a report to Williamsburg City Council, seven new businesses came to town in June: Grow Happy LLC (901 Richmond Road); Happy Homes (416 Merrimac Trail Apt. 6); Home Theater Concepts (1204 Jamestown Road); Quarterpath Inn & Suites (614 York Street); Real Estate Depot LLC (1101 Professional Drive, Ste. C); Red Coats Inc.(115 Visitors Center Drive); and StixandBones LLC (124 Berkeley Lane).

Cruise Holidays of Williamsburg, located in the Shops of New Town, was chosen as the 2014 Cruise Holidays Golden Anchor award winner in May. Franchise owners Bill and Theresa Reinagel were honored in a special ceremony during the Cruise Holidays annual convention in New Orleans. Theresa Reinagel was also named as an outstanding sales achiever, placing her among the top 5 percent of all Cruise Holidays travel agents.

LeClairRyan announced that four attorneys from its Williamsburg office were recently honored by Super Lawyers magazine. Susan Childers North was chosen as a "Super Lawyer" in the field of employment and labor law and as one of the "Top 50 Women Attorneys" in Virginia. Brian Muse was chosen as a "Rising Star" in the field of employment and labor law. Will Sleeth was chosen as a "Rising Star" in the field of estate & trust litigation law. Naomh Hudson was chosen as a "Rising Star" in the field of personal injury medical malpractice defense law.