How does a Job Applicant know when they've failed a background check? 

3 min read
Thu, Dec 14, 2023

How does a candidate know when they've failed a pre-employment background check? Hopefully and legally, they should be told by the employer who ran the background check for employment. Let's dive into why a candidate might fail a background check and the obligations the employer has to notify them. 

How does a Job Applicant know when they've failed a background check? 

What are common red flags on a background check?

Red flags on a pre-employment background check can vary depending on the nature of the job and the industry, but there are some common ones that tend to raise concerns.

Criminal Records: While not all criminal records automatically disqualify a candidate, certain types of offenses, such as violent crimes or offenses directly related to the job, can be a cause for concern. Employers want to ensure their employees' and customers' safety and well-being, so they may be hesitant to hire someone with a serious criminal history.

Employment Discrepancies: This involves checking the accuracy of the candidate's work history, including job titles, dates of employment, and reasons for leaving previous positions. Inconsistencies or gaps in employment can raise suspicions about a candidate's reliability or honesty.

Education Verification: Employers want to ensure that the candidate's educational background matches what they have claimed on their resume or application. Falsifying educational credentials can be seen as a sign of dishonesty and can lead to a candidate's disqualification.

Depending on the job, other red flags may include a negative credit history, such as a history of bankruptcy or excessive debt, and poor driving records, especially for positions that require driving responsibilities.

Job-Related Background Checks Ebook

How Long Does a Pre-Employment Background Check Take?

Employers should be communicative throughout the hiring and screening process, so candidates have an understanding of the factors that can affect a hiring timeline. The true answer regarding turnaround time depends on the background checks required for the position being hired and the consistency of the process developed by the employer's HR department. On average, a background check can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.

For example, some employers may opt for more extensive checks that delve into multiple aspects of a candidate's history, such as criminal records, employment verification, education verification, credit history, and driving records. These comprehensive checks can take longer to complete compared to more basic checks.

What Happens When HR Sees a Red Flag on a Background Check?

The presence of one or more red flags does not automatically mean a candidate will fail a background check. Employers typically consider the relevance of the red flag to the position being applied for, the severity of the issue, and the candidate's overall qualifications. Employers are also legally bound to follow a process regarding the results of an employment background check. 

Pre-Adverse Action: Once the employer identifies a potential issue, they are legally obligated to notify the candidate and provide them with a copy of the background check report. This notification is typically done in writing and may include information about the specific red flag that was found.

The purpose of Pre-Adverse Action is to give the candidate an opportunity to review the information and provide an explanation or clarification if necessary. This step is crucial in ensuring fairness and giving candidates a chance to defend themselves before any final decisions are made.

Once the candidate has had an opportunity to respond, the employer will review the provided information and consider it alongside the rest of the candidate's qualifications. 

Adverse Action:  If, after careful consideration, the employer decides that the red flag is too significant or relevant to overlook, they may choose to take Adverse Action. This means that the candidate will not be offered the position based on the background check findings.

The employer must legally provide written notification, usually in the form of a letter outlining the specific reasons for the decision. The letter will also include information about the candidate's rights to obtain a copy of the background check report and dispute any inaccuracies.

It is crucial for employers to handle the Adverse Action process with sensitivity and professionalism. They should ensure that the candidate is treated respectfully and provided with all the necessary information to understand the decision. This helps maintain transparency and fairness throughout the hiring process.

Ultimately, Adverse Action serves as the final step in the background check process. It allows employers to make informed decisions based on all the available information while also adhering to legal obligations.

While the background check plays a significant role in the final decision, it is important to note that it is not the sole determining factor. Employers consider a range of factors such as the candidate's skills, experience, qualifications, and interview performance when making their decision. The background check is just one piece of the puzzle in the hiring process, albeit an important one.

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