Do-not-Hire Lists: What They Are and Tips if You’re on One

Updated February 20, 2023

Illustration of a person holding a pen and checking over a document, perhaps a resume or a business report.

Many companies use do-not-hire lists as a way to limit job applicants from the hiring process. It's important to know that even if you're placed on one at some point in the application process, there are ways to get off of them.

In this article, we discuss what to know about do-not-hire lists, including a few ways to help get yourself off of them.

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What is a do-not-hire list?

A do-not-hire list is a master list of prospective job candidates that human resources or recruitment departments flag in the hiring process. These departments add the job candidates to an applicant tracking system to ensure they do not get hired within the company.

Related: Writing an ATS-Compliant Resume (With Optimization Tips)

Reasons for being on a do-not-hire list

Being placed on a do-not-hire list impacts your potential employment with an organization, so it's essential to understand what a do-not-hire list is and the reasons you may be on one. A human resource department will often flag a candidate and place them on a do-not-hire list for the following reasons:

1. The job interview didn't go well

There are many reasons why a job interview doesn't go well. One of the most common reasons is that a candidate may not have prepared for the interview by researching the company and the position. Being unprepared could make you look as if you're not taking the role or the company seriously.

Another reason is that you may not have a good connection with the person who was interviewing you. Even with a great interview, the company can feel that you don't have the experience or qualifications they are seeking.

Related: How Hiring Managers Review Resumes

2. There was false information on a resume

It's important not to place false information on a resume. When an organization looks into your work history and they see falsified information, that is a red flag for them not to hire you. Companies have strong ethical standards and it's important to be honest about your experience and job credentials.

Related: 8 Resume Do's and Don'ts To Improve Your Job Prospects

3. There were insufficient job references

Having a job reference is an integral part of the hiring process. References give an employer a glimpse of what you would be like as their employee by learning about your work ethic from former employers and coworkers. Asking someone to be a job reference for you doesn't always mean they may be the best person to represent you to prospective employers, especially if It was a company that terminated your employment.

While employment privacy laws can limit what former employers say, sometimes not giving a sufficient amount of feedback about your performance can concern a company with hiring you. References who do not follow up with contacting your prospective employer can harm your chances since the prospective employer will not have a complete picture of you as a potential employee.

Read more: References: Types, What To Include and How To Get Them

4. A background check didn't go well

Employers will run background checks on all prospective hires. A background check helps them see if there are any discrepancies with what you have shared during the hiring process. If there's any information that comes out from the background check that you did not include in your application or interview, especially if there is a connection to any legal issues you may have had, the organization will likely add you to the do-not-hire list.

Read more: Q&A: What's Included in an Employment Background Check?

5. There were mistakes with instructions during onboarding

Once hired, there are a lot of steps to follow during the onboarding process. Typically there are forms to fill out, like tax information, further background checks and possibly a drug test.

These items are time-sensitive. Not completing these tasks may give a company reason to doubt your ability to follow directions as their employee and they may decide not to continue with you in the hiring process by adding you to the do-not-hire list.

6. You used another job offer as leverage

When you're in the market for finding a new job, sometimes other opportunities pop up while you're in the middle of the hiring process. If you're lucky enough to get multiple job offers and you decide to use that as a negotiation tool, a company may look at that negatively and choose to add you to their do-not-hire list.

Related: 11 Reasons You're Not Getting Hired (and What To Do About It)

How long does a do-not-hire list last?

The length of time for being on the do-not-hire list depends on the reason. If an employer has placed you on the do-not-hire list because of a lack of experience, then they may be willing to retake a look at your resume after a few years once you've gained experience and revisit the potential for employment.

There are reasons for having a permanent placement on a do-not-hire list. An example of being permanently placed on a do-not-hire list would be if you didn't present yourself professionally during the job interview, you lied or your background check came back with any information you did not include in your application.

Related: Common Interview Mistakes and What To Do Instead

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What to do if you're on a do-not-hire list

It's essential to understand what to do if you're on a do-not-hire list. If you can have positive and open communication with the employer, ask them if they're willing to discuss if and why they've added you. Use the line of communication to discuss why and how they decided to place you on the do-not-hire list.

Related: How Long Should I Wait After an Interview To Follow Up?

Here are some other measures you can take if you're on a do-not-hire list:

  • Have a friend put in a good word for you: If you happen to know someone who works at the company you're trying to get into, have them put in a good word for you. Having a reference that works in the company and who can attest to your character can help the employer rethink your placement on the do-not-hire list.

  • Give it some time: Let some time pass. Perhaps you weren't a good fit with the hiring manager or you didn't have enough experience. By letting time pass, maybe that hiring manager won't be with the company. With time, you have the opportunity to acquire more skills that'll help give you a better chance of getting hired next time.

  • Ask for feedback: Asking a prospective employer if there's anything you can work on for future consideration is a professional gesture. It shows an employer you're willing to do anything to improve yourself. Using constructive criticism can make you better for the future, whether it's with the company you're seeking employment with or elsewhere.

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