Failed A Background Check After Job Offer? | What To Do Next

A woman using her computer and talking on the phone while conducting a background check.

A background check is one of the crucial parts of securing a job. Employers want to ensure that the details candidates provide during the hiring process are credible. Therefore, you might think you’ve secured a job already and would get a notification that you failed the background check. In such instances, the employer has to contemplate whether or not to proceed with your application based on the nature of the background check failure.

If you’re worried you might have such an issue, you may want to first find out what shows up in a background check. If there are still things you are worried about, it’s crucial to understand what your next steps should be if the company rejects your application. In this guide, we will show you the possible reasons why you might fail a background screening and how to prepare for subsequent applications.


What To Do After Failing A Background Check With A Potential Employer

When you fail a background check, the first thing to do is to introspect and assess why you failed. Often, there are common reasons for background check failures. These include criminal records, falsifying details on your resume, or any other red flag. Therefore, once you find yourself in this situation, respond to the employer to understand why you’ve failed.

It’s essential to note that employers have different operating policies. While some might be strict concerning background check failures, others are more lenient and will offer you a second chance, especially if the red flag isn’t huge. Whether you get a second chance or you’re contemplating applying to new places, here are some key things you must do when you fail a job background check.


— Conduct A Personal Background Check

An employer is required by law to let you know why you failed a background check. Nonetheless, it’s essential that you assess yourself thoroughly to determine what the employers may have found out. Often, you’ll have an idea of the reason. However, if you don’t, then you have to review your application once again.

Start by checking the details in your application and reviewing their accuracy. Focus on the significant pieces of information that are tangible enough to cause a red flag if inaccurate. If there are mismatched records, you’ll have to correct them accordingly.


— Embrace Honesty

As much as you want to sell yourself as the ideal candidate, it’s more important for you to be honest. Employers want candidates that are honest about their abilities. This accounts for why there are interview stages following the application process. The interview session provides you the chance to further convince your potential employers that you’re deserving.

Therefore, all your details should be accurately filled in. You stand a high chance of passing your background check once you’re honest. If you have a criminal record and the employer asks about it, answer honestly. Employers might not be allowed to automatically deny your application because of a criminal record if that fact doesn’t affect the nature of the job.


— Apply To Expunge A Criminal Record

Some crimes might make it difficult for you to secure a job, especially if you’re contemplating employment in some corporate industries. In these instances, you might consider expunging the criminal record from your file. This is most suitable for misdemeanors.

You should know this is a possibility based on the nature of the crime. If you’re eligible and your application is successful, the criminal record will be sealed. Consequently, only law enforcement agencies will have access to the record.


— Draw A List Of Jobs You Can Get

When you have certain crimes on your record, securing some jobs becomes extremely difficult. For instance, if you have been convicted of theft, it might be almost impossible to get a job in the finance department. Therefore, if you’re looking to improve your chances of employment, your best strategy is to draw up a list of jobs you can secure despite your criminal conviction record.

Find suitable jobs you can apply for. These would be jobs that don’t have stringent requirements on criminal records. Doing this also helps you understand where to focus your energy.


7 Common Reasons For Failing A Background Check

A pair of handcuffs on top of fingerprint record sheets.

Different reasons can account for your background check failure. Understanding each of these reasons will offer you valuable insights into preparing your application. Most importantly, you’d see a justification for keeping things entirely accurate and honest when shooting an application. In this section, we discuss some of the most common reasons for failing a background check.


#1. Falsifying Education Details

Job applicants tend to include certain details in their applications to improve their chances. Often, this arises from the need to beat other candidates and position yourself as an ideal candidate. However, you will be crossing the line once you include a falsified detail in your application. Discrepancies in your education qualifications are some of the common factors that cause a red flag in your background check.

Employers have ways of verifying your education details. This is why background checks are often conducted after you’ve been offered a conditional offer. At that stage, there are just a few applicants left in the process, making it convenient to do a detailed check on each candidate.


#2. Criminal Record

The National Conference of State Legislators estimates that over 75 million Americans have criminal records to varying degrees. Consequently, it’s often the standard procedure for employers to include a box in your application where you indicate whether or not you have a criminal record. When assessing candidates for a job position, this is one of the essential things employers check. If you’ve lied about your criminal history, it’ll raise a serious red flag if the employer finds out.

As earlier established, this is not difficult to check. So long as your records are public, your employer can conveniently access them. Preferably, be honest about your criminal record and allow your employer to determine whether or not you can still be hired regardless. You should note that getting a job offer despite your criminal record will depend on different factors, such as the nature of the crime and industry standards.


#3. Poor Credit History

Some jurisdictions have laws preventing employers from assessing a candidate’s credit history. However, in places where this is allowed, employers might review a candidate’s credit history. If you have a poor credit history and high debt, an employer might be concerned about your financial credibility.

This background check often occurs with candidates applying for jobs in the financial department. After all, employers in such spaces want individuals with a high integrity level.


#4. Falsifying Employment History

When employers spot impressive work experience, it might be a great factor that improves a candidate’s application. Therefore, it becomes a problem if your potential employer finds out that such history is false.

Many job candidates falsify work experience to improve their chances. However, this is one of the quickest ways to fail a background check. Employers will consider it a valid reason to deny a job offer. After all, if the job experience is a significant reason why you’re being hired, it follows that you won’t get the job if such experience is untrue.

But if you have no falsified work history, then you can proceed to learn how to accept a job offer.


#5. Problematic Driving Record

Depending on the nature of the job, your potential employer might consider your driving record. If you turn up with numerous tickets and violations, it may be a point of concern. This is especially true if the job you’re applying for involves driving.

Employers always want to mitigate their risks. Therefore, you might be denied employment to avoid a laundry list of legal and insurance issues. For instance, reckless driving can lead to constant accidents, which might adversely affect the company’s finances.


#6. Failed Drug Test

Some companies have pre-employment screening policies to test candidates for illicit drug use. If this is a company’s policy, then a candidate who fails the drug test will likely be denied job employment. Therefore, before applying to a company, you should read up on their policies. Many companies don’t conduct this test. By assessing your options before applying, you can conveniently sidestep this issue.


#7. Dishonorable Military Discharge

Another reason why you might fail a background check is if you have a record of dishonorable military discharge. Understand that employers seek to assess the integrity of potential employees. Since the military has a high regard for integrity, a dishonorable discharge might be an issue for your potential employer to worry about. Depending on the cause of the dismissal and the nature of the job you’re applying for, such a red flag might amount to a failed background check.


Common Outcomes Of A Failed Background Check

A company can react to a failed background check in different ways. Whether a company has offered you a conditional offer or otherwise, a failed background check gives the employer the right to withdraw such an offer.

However, this is not always the case. Since the company has the right to withdraw the offer or not, they can choose to offer a second chance. Often, this happens when the failed background check doesn’t affect the core of the job. For instance, if you have misrepresented your work experience in a manner that doesn’t affect your ability to deliver on the job, the employer might still be willing to speak with you.

Nonetheless, it’s important to know that employers value honesty. A crucial reason why failed background checks lead to offer withdrawals is that employers become doubtful irrespective of the degree of misrepresentation. They start to contemplate whether or not you have the integrity they require.

But since it’s a matter of discretion, especially where it’s not a criminal issue barred by industry standards, the company might still work with you. But before then, the employer will notify you and send a pre-adverse action notice. This notice informs you that the company has the results of the checks and is currently contemplating its next line of action. You’ll also receive a copy of the background check from the human resources department or hiring manager.

This period will involve an exchange of letters, which can take some days. When the company decides, you’ll be notified accordingly. But if there are discrepancies, then be prepared and don’t be surprised to find that the company has decided to deny you the job. This means they are taking adverse action against you, which they are required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to inform you of.


How To Approach Future Employment Background Checks

An employer and employee shaking hands after a successful job interview.

When you fail a job’s background check, it’s an indication that you must prepare thoroughly for your next application. Therefore, it’s important to find ways through which you can approach future employment background checks in a more prepared and honest manner. Below are some crucial steps you should take.


— Run A Background Check

The most effective way to prevent any surprises in your background is by conducting one yourself beforehand. Doing this allows you to understand the loopholes in your application and what to remove. It will provide you with insight into what your prospective employer will see and give you time to prepare the best way to explain the things you can’t fix. If you’re contemplating running a background check, here are the steps to follow.


— Select A Background Check Company

The first step is to find a service provider. There are numerous agencies offering this service, but not all of them run personal checks for individuals. Therefore, you must find a company that fits the bill.

It’s important to ensure the company you choose operates with standard procedures and is in compliance with FCRA. Operating in compliance with this agency means the company has to handle your information and privacy in line with best practices that protect you.


— Choose A Package

You’ll find different background check packages. Often, what distinguishes the packages is the extent of the check. If you’re looking to have an extensive criminal background check, you should consider a package that verifies your details across all federal, state, and local levels.

You should also consider the nature of the job you’re applying for. If the job is in the financial industry, you’ll want to choose a package that pulls your credit report. Verifying these details alongside your employment and education certifications will set your application straight.


— Conduct The Background Check

Once you’re ready to conduct the check, fill out the form by providing the relevant details. They will require:

  • Your full name as it appears on your ID
  • Social security number
  • Your address 
  • Previous employment experience
  • Past school details

Once you’ve provided the relevant details, the company will conduct your check. You should receive your results within a few days. Taking this approach will help you stay ahead of background check surprises.


— Review Your Application

Once you’ve conducted your check and know if there are errors to fix, the next step is to review your application. You’ll have to adjust your application to reflect the things you’ve learned. Suppose you have inaccurate work experience; you’ll want to adjust that accordingly.

However, if the report from your background check reveals you have a criminal record, then your next step should be to determine whether the job still fits the bill. This means you should assess whether the criminal record adversely affects your chances of securing the job. You can do this by reading the company’s policy and also searching for jobs you can get even with a criminal record.

Your answer will depend on the field in which the company operates and the nature of your crime.


— Discuss All Discrepancies

Suppose you have already submitted your application before receiving your background check report. Then you should leverage the interview stage to discuss any discrepancy. Essentially, your goal here should be to explain why certain things are the way they appear on your application.

Explaining these discrepancies sufficiently can be all you need to win the employers’ hearts. Apart from indicating honesty and integrity, it also removes the element of surprise when your potential employers run their background checks.


The Bottom Line

Failing a background check can be quite disappointing, especially after you’ve had your hopes up. Therefore, when applying for a job, understand the requirements and the nature of the job, as these are core areas that determine employers’ hiring decisions. Also, ensure you provide accurate details without adding fluff that might make some parts of your resume false.

A good place to start is to conduct a personal background check to stay one step ahead of your employers. This will provide you with the needed insights to review your resume accordingly and prepare to explain any further discrepancies during the screening process. You also need to understand the summary of your rights to challenge any discriminatory process.

With this guide, you should have a better understanding of how a background check works and how to approach subsequent jobs if you fail an initial check.


Frequently Asked Questions

Why do employers complete background checks?

A background check is an attempt to verify the details provided by a job candidate in their application. Each company’s background check policy must conform to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) rules and regulations. The prospective employer conducts this check to ensure that the candidate has provided accurate information in their resume. This is crucial to employers because candidates are often considered for job positions based on their experience or educational qualifications. Therefore, it becomes problematic when the experience or previous work history of a candidate is false.

Nonetheless, companies make it clear that this check will only be conducted after a candidate has been considered for a job offer. This way, companies limit the number of job candidates they spend their resources on. Therefore, when you apply for a job, prepare for the background check stage once you receive a conditional job offer from the company. Whether or not you pass the check will determine the next step from there.

Suppose you fail the test, the company will provide you with the details of the background check failure. You’ll also receive a pre-adverse action notification, which indicates that the company is currently considering how to proceed with your application. Crucial background check failures that will likely lead to the withdrawal of job offers are criminal history and falsified work or educational qualifications. Therefore, if you have a criminal record, you should understand the job you’re applying for and whether your record is an issue or not.


What do employers see when conducting background checks?

Employers conduct background checks to determine the accuracy of the information you provide in your application. Therefore, these checks are designed to assess your work experience, educational history, and criminal record. Most service providers offering background checks have extensive packages that cover all the important things employers need to know about their job candidates.

Employers may also conduct a credit check depending on whether or not the laws permit such. If they are legally allowed to do so, the credit report will show the employers your debt state and how well you fulfill your financial obligations. Employers will only be interested in this report if your work has to do with finances.

Your criminal record will also be accessible. It is one of the crucial things employers look out for since many employees tend to lie about it. The only way to prevent your employers from accessing this is if you seal your records.

One thing to understand is that it’s not difficult for employers to verify the key things on your resume. These include your work experience, educational qualifications, and criminal records. Therefore, if you misrepresent any of these, thinking your employers won’t find out, you might be working against yourself.


Are social media accounts included in a background check?

They can be. The simple answer to this is that it’s legal. However, it’s quite important to conduct an adequate social media screening, as anything improper may be grounds for a discrimination lawsuit. Therefore, many companies focus on the core details in your resume, such as work experience, educational qualifications, and criminal history. This helps the company narrow down the background check to things that directly affect the candidate’s ability to deliver on the job.

Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that companies won’t screen candidates’ social media. Most companies want employees with non-discriminatory worldviews, especially considering the dynamism of workplaces. Additionally, some companies have policies guiding social media usage. Companies like this might be interested in checking a candidate’s social media to understand their thought process and the values they hold dear.

Furthermore, it’s crucial to understand that a social media platform such as LinkedIn is a professional place to further gain insights into a candidate’s experience. Therefore, companies might look into this purely for professional reasons and verify some of the details the candidate may have provided in their resume.


How often do candidates fail background checks?

Enough for companies to have a background check policy. The simple answer is that potential employees fail background checks many times. This happens because many employees lie on their resumes to appear more attractive to employers. The two common areas in which employees fluff their resumes are work experience and education. Therefore, employers understand that the best way to check for these lies is through a background check.

Employers also include criminal history as part of the areas to look at during a background check. Most application forms have a section for candidates to indicate whether or not they have a criminal record. The employer won’t fact-check this until the candidate has been offered a conditional job offer.

Nonetheless, many candidates pass their background checks swiftly. To pass this check isn’t difficult. Once you’re honest in your resume, you should have no problem. Additionally, if there are discrepancies in your resume, explain them to your employers at the interview stage. This prepares their minds for when the background check results are ready. If your explanation suffices, they will likely have no problem with it.


How long does a background check usually take?

The results of a background check can be ready in two to three days. Sometimes, however, results can take a few weeks, depending on the circumstances of the check. If you pass the check following your results, the company will proceed with your application to the next stage. Following a successful background check, since you likely already have a conditional job offer, the company will make the offer official.

However, if you fail the background check, the company will notify you accordingly and provide you with the details of the results. The employers will also let you know whether they are withdrawing the conditional offer or offering you a second chance.