This may seem obvious, but it bears repeating – honesty is the best policy. The executive job search process is difficult enough – you don’t want to get inches away from an offer, only to miss out on the role of a lifetime. Below are some of the factors you should consider when deciding what should and shouldn’t be disclosed to a potential employer.

Executive Job Search - Background ChecksNegative Behavior or Debt Show Up During a Background Check

Most employment contracts today have some verbiage that refers to the offer of employment being contingent on a positive background check (including employment references). When searching for a new position, it is imperative that you can pass that background check and are not hiding anything that could surface in the future.

This also refers to potential employers checking your financial information. They want to minimize any risk associated with hiring an executive with a precarious financial history or large debt. Their thinking is that this person may be more likely to embezzle, be vulnerable to bribery, or influenced by other illegal actions. The media thrives on exposing these high-level executives that have put their companies at risk with financial misconduct. No company wants that type of media exposure!

Inconsistent Social Media Presence

Another important issue that affects executive job seekers today is social media. While it is expected that resumes, bios, and employment applications are part of the executive job search process, online profiles (like LinkedIn) and career documentation of candidates can carry equal weight in the minds of a recruiter or hiring manager.

As an executive, you want all documents, online or otherwise to appear cohesive. You don’t want to raise any red flags with inconsistent information showing up in your background, whether it is something from last week or years ago. This goes beyond a Facebook post with less than flattering pictures. Those posts should be monitored carefully and privacy settings guarded, especially during a job search. Remember, once something is posted on social media, it can plague you forever.

Burying Minor Legal Misconduct

It is not uncommon for an executive job seeker to have an old traffic ticket, a bankruptcy, or arrest for a college prank in prior years. Should you disclose these events from your past to a new employer?  Yes, because they may cause concern to a hiring authority if not disclosed in advance voluntarily.

Failed Drug Tests

An executive may be misled to think that only hourly or lower-level employees are asked to take a drug test before the employment process is complete. What you may not realize is these tests also screen for alcohol and prescription drugs, as well as illicit drugs. You may have experienced working for a boss with an alcohol or drug problem, so setting standards of drug testing before employment protect not only the employer, but the current employees as well.

If you have failed drug testing in the past, and it is part of your employment record, you could be questioned about this behavior and any treatment you may be involved in. 

Faking or Exaggerating a College Degree

Executives and even famous sports coaches have been caught in infractions of truth (such as not having a degree from a prestigious university) and have been fired over it. Don’t be afraid to disclose something like an unfinished college degree to a potential employer who considers the college degree important for the person in that position. You may be able to sway their consideration to hire you because of your stellar experience and accomplishments. You also may be able to negotiate an employment offer with the proviso that you finish the degree, and it’s a bonus if they help pay for it.

Remember: it is usually better to be upfront with any background indiscretions so when they pop up, the employer has knowledge of it, and is likely to consider the value you would bring to their organization and take negative information in stride.


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