Ask a Coach

Q: USAJobs is giving me two options for submitting my resume: using the USAJobs Resume Builder or uploading a resume. Which option should I choose?

A: It really comes down to your personal preference when choosing your resume format. Uploading a resume that you have created on your own allows you to format the resume in the way you see fit. It also allows you to highlight your experience in a way that meets your needs. When you use the USAJobs Resume Builder, you are instead putting forth your experience and relevant personal information in a standardized way. While this method does not allow for much individualization, it does make it easier for the Human Resources employee who is reading your resume to find and follow your personal information and experience. The Resume Builder also guides you in figuring out what information is important to include on your resume. Use whichever method works best for you.

Background Checks During the Hiring Process

Once you've had an interview and the company likes you enough to continue on with the hiring process, they'll check your references and then do some combination of background checks. The types of checks they'll do will vary, but there are several that are done regularly.

Criminal background

The one background check an employer will definitely do is a criminal background check. The employer wants to know if there are any convictions on your record. Although a conviction can prevent you from obtaining a federal job, this isn't necessarily the case with private sector positions. However, it's important to be honest on employment applications when they ask you about convictions; it is worse to lie or omit information than to tell the employer of a conviction outright.

Drug screen

Another background check that an employer usually does is a drug screen. This test is done for all different types of positions so don't be surprised if you have to do one of these tests before an offer of employment is extended.

Educational credentials

More and more employers are also doing some sort of educational credentials check. The employer wants to know if you actually have the degrees you indicated you have. Many people have lost positions by stretching the truth regarding their educational credentials so it's important to be honest. The company might also request an official transcript be sent to them, so if the transcript doesn't match up with what you put on your resume or application, you could be passed over for employment.


Another background check that's becoming very common is a financial or credit check. These are always done if you'll be working in the financial industry but are now being used for other industries, too. The employer wants to know if you make good decisions, and one way to check this is by checking your credit report. Employers are looking for red flags – patterns of behavior. A small credit blip every once in awhile is usually not a big deal, but consistently missing credit payments or defaulting on loans is a big deal. The employer will also look at your debt-to-income ratio to see if you make good decisions regarding spending choices versus your income. It's ok to let the employer know upfront if there are issues with your credit report; the employer might appreciate your honesty and won't get an unexpected surprise.

Social media

The last background check that's now being done with regularity is a social media check. Employers will check your Facebook profile, your Twitter account, your Instagram account and your LinkedIn Profile. They'll be looking for any red flags that would reflect character traits the employer doesn't find favorable. Especially with LinkedIn, the employer will compare what you put on your profile with what you put on your resume to see if they match up. It's important to go through your social media accounts before you start your job search to make sure anything that could be seen as negative is removed.