None of us like to think of employers sifting through our personal information. Some of us have more checkered pasts than others, but background checks can be scary for anyone. If you’re not sure what to expect or what the employer might find, it is scarier. The standards for “failing” a background check will differ across employers, but what do you do once you fail?
Why people fail background checks (and how to avoid it)
Undisclosed criminal backgrounds
It’s not always a deal-breaker to have prior criminal convictions. What’s almost always a deal-breaker is not divulging those convictions upfront. You will have a better chance of passing your background check if you explain your criminal background up front, especially if your convictions are non-violent. It shows that you have nothing to hide and have learned from your past mistakes.
Criminal records are the top things employers look for when they conduct a background check. You are most likely to fail the check if:
Your criminal record is extensive
You have a felony conviction
Your crimes are related to the responsibilities of the position
It’s tempting to embellish your resume to make yourself more appealing, especially if you’re slightly underqualified for the job you’re applying for.
Background checks will verify your education, your previous employment, and any certifications you claim to have.
If the history shown on the background check doesn’t match up with what your resume says, you are likely to fail.
Since embellishing credentials is one of the top reasons applications are rejected, it’s important, to be honest about your history and skill set.
Poor credit history
It’s not common for employers to run a credit check unless you are applying for a position dealing with finances. In this case, large amounts of debt, bankruptcies, or bad credit scores could cause you potential trouble. If you’re irresponsible with your personal finances, why would you be different from company finances?
Bad driving record
Again, many employers don’t care about your driving record unless it’s a job where you will be operating a company vehicle. In this case, any offenses on your driver’s abstract become important.
A few minor offenses like speeding or parking tickets are not likely to hurt your chances. Major offenses like DUIs, will. If you have charges like this on your driving (or criminal) record, divulge it ahead of time and thoroughly explain the circumstances of the offense.
Social media posts
There’s a good possibility that your potential employer will scan through your social media accounts. If your posts contain violent, explicit, discriminatory, or illegal material, it’s a huge red flag. Exercise caution when liking and commenting too. This activity is still highly visible and gives good insight into your character.
Inaccurate background checks
While it doesn’t happen often, sometimes background checks fail because of inaccurate information. Public records can occasionally contain errors, or sometimes the records are for someone else with the same name.
If you think your background check contains an error, you can re-run it yourself or appeal the failure. We will explain this option further on.
Fixing a failed background check
Know your rights
You are entitled to be informed that you’ve failed a background check, who the check was run through, and how to contact the agency that performed it. Background checks can be conducted through government agencies or through a public background check website.
You also have the right to copy the reports produced and dispute any findings you consider to be inaccurate.
Know company policy
It’s important to know what the potential consequences are of your failed background check. Some companies automatically disqualify you, whereas others will allow you to explain the failure. Others still will determine the course of action on a case-by-case basis depending on the nature of the results.
Order a background check on yourself
If you failed an employer background check, it could be worth running on of your own to see if you get the same information. It will give you the opportunity to make sure there is no errors present and that the employer has the correct information.
Your chances of passing are significantly higher if you disclose any negative information upfront. Past mistakes are forgivable, but lies aren’t. Honesty is always the best policy.
Ask for an opportunity to explain
If you’re not given one, ask to explain the discrepancies on your background check, especially if it’s a minor one, like a resume inconsistency. Regardless of the reason for failure, arguing your case can’t hurt.
Appeal the background check
You have the right to appeal the check if you feel it contains inaccurate information. You’ll need to know exactly what information is wrong, where it came from, and provide documented proof that it’s false.
The best way to start the process is to run a background check on yourself and build your case from there. The appeal will be with the agency that ran the check rather than your employer. While it can be an arduous process, correcting the errors attached to your name will be worth it.