The Work Game: Job applications are becoming more and more like an electronic video game, trying to negotiate obstacles at every turn _lowres

Associated Press file photo by Seth Wenig -- Rather than putting a pencil to the paper, job applications are becoming much more electronic and much more like a video game with electronic obstacles at every turn.

Job applications are becoming more like a game.

You’re trying to win the ultimate prize — a job — but there are obstacles at every turn.

And they all start when you put your name on the dotted line, giving your would-be employer the go-ahead to look into your past.

Today, 96 percent of human resources offices run background checks on potential hires, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

They double-check your résumé, call former employers and schools and search the Internet and social media sites like Facebook for any activity that could embarrass their company, says Alexis Anderson, a former human resources professional and executive director of PREACH, a faith-based nonprofit that teaches financial literacy.

Why so much snooping?

“No one is hiring you to be you,” Anderson says “They are hiring you to be them.”

Anderson and Anna Nowak, director of the East Baton Rouge Parish Library Career Center, routinely give advice on what companies check and how you can be sure your application is helping — not hurting — your chances.

Credit report

Credit checks are a routine part of hiring. A 2010 SHRM survey found that 13 percent of companies inquired on the credit of all job applicants and 47 percent ran checks on selected candidates.

They’re not looking at your three-digit credit score. Employer credit reports can give a window into your financial life — and any vices, Anderson says. Lines of credit from a casino may make you appear reckless, and certain kinds of debt can raise flags.

“If you’ve got 40 people looking for you for child support, I’ve got drama coming to my workplace,” says Anderson.

R é sum é

Many human resources offices aim to whittle down the number of applicants before sending a few finalists to the manager who does the hiring.

The résumé helps them. If a candidate’s job history fits the requirements, the next step is to call and confirm that the education and career history on the résumé is true.

“I’m not interested in everything you’ve ever done in your life,” Anderson says. “I’m interested in whatever you’re lying about.”

Anderson and Nowak advise job seekers to connect directly to people doing the hiring. If appropriate, call the manager of the department.

“HR is not your friend,” Nowak says. “We will recommend trying to go around HR.”

References

It seems like common sense, but Anderson recommends you call the references you list on a job application to ensure your former managers and co-workers like you.

When they call references, Anderson says human resources professionals are looking for the three C’s — character, consistency and competitiveness.

For character, they want to know if you can get along with others. As for competitiveness, they want to know if you work hard to keep your skills up to date and relevant. Consistency means you come to the office when scheduled.

“Ninety percent of life really is showing up,” Anderson says. “I’ll take the C person who is giving an A effort.”

Driving record

This isn’t just for truckers and cab drivers. Hiring managers often request driving records whether the prospective employee will drive a company vehicle or not, Anderson says.

“How you do some things is how you do other things,” she says, explaining the point of view of a human resources professional. “If you’re a speeder, when you come to work you’re still a speeder.”