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The Best Way To Handle A Failed Background Check After Job Offer

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While most people pass their background checks when applying for employment, some don’t.

If you’re wondering what will happen if you fail your background screening, or if you recently failed one and want to know your resources, read on.

A failed background check isn’t always the end of the world.


What Happens if You Fail a Background Check?

Several things can happen if you fail a background verification, depending on the reasons for the failure.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have certain rights when you fail an employee background check.

The potential employer will send you a pre-adverse action letter, informing you of what the background check uncovered (such as a criminal record) and giving you a chance to respond.

An employer can’t categorically rescind a job offer due to a criminal record, but it does depend on the nature of the job.

For example, if you are working with children, they may have a right to refuse employment to a job applicant.

Reasons You May Fail a Background Check

Why would you fail a background investigation for employment?

It’s critical to figure out why you failed, so you can take the appropriate steps to fix the issue.

Here are the most common reasons people fail a background report.

You Lied on Your Resume

When an employer conducts a background check, they often verify your employment history by contacting the companies you listed on your resume.

If you said you worked for a certain employer, for example, and the screening wasn’t able to verify it – or if they found out you were lying – you may get a failed background check result.

Your Potential Employer Made a Mistake

Sometimes, a background check result can be an error.

The background check company may have made a mistake on the background report, in which case you’ll be able to correct it.

Mistakes happen – national databases have a 41% error rate.

It’s worth looking into if you are otherwise the perfect candidate for the job.

Criminal History

There are laws preventing discrimination against those with a criminal conviction, just like there are laws against discriminating against people based on national origin.

However, there are some jobs for which an employer can refuse to hire someone with a conviction.

That may include jobs that involve working with vulnerable people or with large amounts of money.

It also depends on your state.

For example, a prospective employer in California who already employs five or more employees is not allowed to ask about the criminal past of a job seeker before making a job offer.

The Fair Chance Act protects these rights and gives everyone a fair chance in the hiring process.

Education Discrepancies

Other than a conviction record, if they find discrepancies in your education during the employment screening process, you may fail the screening.

An example would be claiming to have attended a specific university when you never did.

Poor Credit History

Yes, employers do care about your credit history.

If you have poor credit, that may be a sign that you make poor financial decisions, and it could also mean that you’re less responsible overall.

It could also mean you don’t live up to what you promise (for example, paying a loan on time).

Damaged Driving Record

Employers may also check your driving record.

If you have multiple infractions, it could be a sign that you are reckless, and companies may be wary of relying on you.

Furthermore, if you have a DUI on your record, employers may wonder whether you are prone to alcoholism, which could interfere with your ability to be productive and get to work on time every day.

If your job requires driving, a damaged driving record can be a deal-breaker.

For example, nobody wants their delivery drivers to get into accidents – it may cost them a lot of money in damages and liabilities.

False Employment History

It’s never a good idea to lie about your employment history.

Potential employers do check.

A lot of people exaggerate their employment history, thinking that it can do no harm.

However, if you misrepresent the actual company you worked for and reported to, projects you worked on, or the exact position you had at a specific company, it could be a red flag to employers.

Be honest rather than invent credentials.

Employers value honesty as a trait in employees.

Many potential hires will throw out resumes that are dishonest.

Failed Drug Test

Many companies have a zero-tolerance policy for drugs.

If you fail a drug test, it can seriously ruin your chances of getting a job.

Companies don’t want employees involved in illegal activity or who are suffering from addiction.

If you consume drugs on the job, it could also hinder your ability to work or even put others in danger.


Declaring bankruptcy isn’t always the end of the world.

However, employees may shy away from hiring people who have declared bankruptcy.

Desperate people may be more prone to theft or fraud.

Military Discharge Dishonorable

Generally, background screening companies don’t ask about military history.

They are only allowed to ask limited questions about an applicant’s military history – and only if it’s relevant to the job.

As a general rule, they may not ask about the reasons for a discharge.

However, if you were court-martialed, it may show up in the National Criminal Information Center as a “dishonorable discharge,” depending on whether the military entered it at the time or not.

How to Know if You Failed Your Check?

According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, employers who disqualify you based on a failed background check need to inform you.

So, if you fail a background check, you will know about it.

What Will the Employer Do if You Fail Your Background Check?

The employer will notify you in writing, as required by the law, that they are disqualifying you due to a failed background check.

The first letter will be a pre-adverse action letter.

They won’t take any action yet – rather, they will give you a chance to dispute the results.

Once you’ve had that chance, and the employer has reviewed your response, they may send you an adverse action letter, reiterating that you are no longer required.

They may also inform you why.

The potential employer will also tell you which agency performed the check and give you its contact information, so you can obtain a copy of the report.

How to Respond if You Failed a Background Check

There are two things you should do if you fail a background check.

The first is to contact your potential employer and explain the discrepancies.

Ask them to give you another chance.

Furthermore, you should contact the background check screening company directly and dispute inaccuracies.

What Are the Future Consequences of a Failed Background Check?

There may not be any future consequences at all, but it depends on the reason for the disqualification.

Not all employers care about the same things, and what is a deal-breaker to one might not be a deal-breaker to another.

However, if there was an inaccuracy in your report, you must fix it so that it doesn’t cause you any problems in the future.

How to Dispute a Failed Background Check

Once you’ve reviewed your copy of the report, you can contact the screening and credit reporting agencies to fix inaccuracies.

Errors can occur due to mistaken identities, identity theft, or other mix-ups.

The credit screening company must respond to your dispute within 30 days, so send a second official letter if they don’t reply.

How to Avoid Failing a Background Check

Even if you failed your most recent background check, that doesn’t mean you have to fail your future background checks when applying for other jobs.

Here is how to avoid failing a background check in the first place.

Know and Exercise Your Rights

The first step is to know your rights under the law.

For example, if you have a criminal history, employers can’t discriminate against you unless it’s directly related to the job.

So, be upfront about it and let them know that it shouldn’t be a problem.

Understand Company Policy

Know company policy before applying.

For example, if the company requires you to have a certain degree, don’t apply if you don’t have it.

Making up a degree isn’t a good idea; it’s best to find another job.

Order Your Own Background Check

Did you know that you can order a background check?

Many people don’t realize it, but you can request a background check on yourself.

Why would you do that?

The biggest benefit is that you can uncover inaccuracies that you didn’t know existed.

That gives you a chance to correct the inaccuracies.

If the background check uncovers bad things that are accurate, it will give you a chance to inform employees in advance and explain why it won’t be a problem.

Be Honest From the Start

If the background check will uncover things such as a poor credit score, be upfront about it from the get-go.

Beat your potential employer to it, and let them hear it from you.

That way, it won’t sound as bad, and your employer will see that you are honest, with nothing to hide.

For example, explain why you have a poor credit score and how you are working to fix it, paying back your loans responsibly every month.

Ask for a Chance to Explain

If your employer uncovered something on your background check that you didn’t know existed, ask for a chance to explain.

Many employers will be glad to hear your side of the story.

Some won’t care, but it’s worth a shot – you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Appeal the Background Check

Finally, dispute and appeal the background check.

Write a professional letter that makes your case.

Don’t be nasty, and don’t make excuses for yourself.

Own up to any true aspects of the report, but politely explain why it’s not an issue and why you are still the best candidate for the position.

Just because something happened in the past, that doesn’t mean it should stay with you forever.

Final Thoughts

Failing a background check doesn’t always mean you won’t get the job.

Take the necessary steps to dispute the results and explain the situation to your potential employer.

Furthermore, even if you don’t get this job, you can still get another one – a failed background check isn’t a death sentence for employment.

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