How To Know if You Failed an Employee Background Check With FAQ

Updated June 24, 2022

When applying for a new position, employers may conduct background checks to verify your qualifications. Depending on the employer, the field of work and the job title, the elements included in a background check may vary. Failing a background check can disqualify you from a position, so it's important to understand these factors and how to ensure your background aligns with your potential employer's requirements. In this article, we define employee background checks, discuss how to know if you failed an employee background check and answer frequently asked questions about the process.

Related: A Comprehensive Guide to Background Checks

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What is an employee background check?

An employee background check is a process potential employers use to verify your education, employment history and criminal record. These checks help employers to verify your identity and confirm you have the qualifications listed on your resume and application materials. Different employers have different policies for completing background checks. They may only investigate your education history, employment and criminal history or they may perform a more thorough check that includes your driving record and personal references.

Related: What Can Be Revealed in a Background Check?

How to know if you failed an employee background check

You can determine whether you failed an employee background check if you have any of the following seven disqualifying factors:

1. Inconsistent employment history

Inconsistencies in your employment history may disqualify you from passing a background check. Inconsistencies may include gaps in your employment history, inaccurate descriptions of duties and responsibilities, inaccurate employment lengths or false employer information. These items may disqualify you from passing an employee background check because of concerns about your work ethic and integrity. To avoid failing a background check because of these issues, be sure to include accurate, truthful information about your employment history and to briefly explain in your cover letter any lengthy gaps in employment.

2. Inaccurate resume information

If there's inaccurate information on your resume or application materials, you may not pass a background check. Employers often verify your employment history, education, certifications and skills to ensure the statements made on your resume are accurate. Be sure to only list employment history, degrees, certifications and skills that you truthfully hold.

Related: How Do Employers Verify College Degrees?

3. A criminal history

If you have a criminal record, it may cause you to fail a background check. Depending on the nature and severity of your crimes, having a criminal history is a common disqualifying factor. Employers often want to hire trustworthy, responsible individuals, particularly if you're applying for a job in a field that handles sensitive information or the well-being of others, such as law enforcement or health care. If you have minor charges on your criminal record, you may need to answer questions about the circumstances and provide answers that speak to your current level of responsibility.

4. Negative reviews from employers

Hiring managers may contact your previous employers for details about your work ethic and performance. If these references provide negative feedback about your employment, you may not pass your background check. Employers may want to know you work well with others, accept criticism, apply feedback and take initiative in your daily responsibilities. It's important that your references can verify these abilities. Be sure to provide hiring managers with the contact information of previous managers with whom you've had positive relationships.

5. Poor driving record

Having a poor driving record can be an indicator of irresponsibility and recklessness. Employers may check your driving record, particularly if you're applying for a position that involves operating vehicles. If you have a poor driving record, you may disqualify from positions such as:

  • EMT/paramedic

  • Police officer

  • Crane operator

  • Truck or trailer driver

  • Delivery driver

  • Bus driver

  • Taxi driver

  • Airline pilot

If you're interested in any of these positions but have a poor driving record, consider applying for similar positions or roles within the same field that don't require the operation of a vehicle. For example, if you wish to be a police officer, you may apply for a position as an emergency dispatcher instead. If you wish to be a crane operator, you may apply for other construction positions, such as carpenter or mason.

6. A failed drug or alcohol test

Depending on your potential employer, you may need to submit a drug or alcohol test. Different employers may have different policies on which employees need to submit tests, the types of substances for which they test and how frequently you'll need to continue testing after being hired. Positions that involve the operation of heavy machinery, handling of prescription drugs or ensuring the well-being of others may be more likely to require a clean drug or alcohol test. If you're applying for one of these positions, it's important to avoid alcohol and illegal substances.

7. Poor credit history

Some employers, particularly in the financial sector, may check your credit history. Poor credit history may indicate irresponsibility or issues handling finances, while a positive credit score may indicate responsibility and effective money management. To avoid failing a background check because of your credit history, try to practice healthy credit habits. These habits include paying your monthly credit bills on time, avoiding high interest rates and using your line of credit responsibly.

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

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FAQs about employee background checks

Below are some frequently asked questions about employee background checks:

Why do employers complete background checks?

Employers complete background checks to ensure you meet all requirements and to verify your qualifications. Doing so can help protect a company's interests by making successful hires. There are some industries where background checks help to ensure the safety and wellbeing of other employees and the general public. These industries often include health care, law enforcement, aviation, construction and manufacturing. Background checks can help employers ensure you'll be able to safely and successfully complete your responsibilities and protect the well-being of those around you.

Can you dispute the results of a background check?

If you feel there's been a mistake about your background check, you can dispute these results with the background check company or employment reporting agency. It's important to ensure that all the information in your background check is accurate and complete to avoid missing an employment opportunity due to errors. Common errors in background check results may include:

  • False criminal record information

  • Outdated information that should no longer exist in a background check

  • Mistaken identity

Most background check and employment reporting companies have websites that include information about how to dispute false or inaccurate results. If you feel your results are incorrect, consider asking your potential employer for the information of the company with which they completed the background check. Then, visit their website to fill out a dispute form and correct any errors in your results.

What are my background check rights?

You have several rights as an individual undergoing a background check. Understanding these rights can help you feel empowered to verify that the process is fair and compliant with legislation. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) provides you with the following rights:

  • Potential employers must notify you if a background check is the reason you didn't receive a job offer

  • You must receive a copy of your background check if you request one

  • You have the right to dispute any errors in your background check

  • The organization that completed the test must remove or correct any errors in your results within 30 days

  • Employers or potential employers must receive your written consent before running a background check

  • You may sue background check or employment reporting companies for any errors in your results

Do all employers complete background checks?

Most often, employers complete some level of a background check. Depending on the employer, the thoroughness of the check and the requirements to pass may vary. It's rare that an employer doesn't complete an employee background check during the hiring process.

Is social media included in a background check?

As social media becomes more prominent and accessible in society, employers are beginning to include social media pages in employee background checks. Social media pages can offer insight into your character, values and level of professionalism. Disqualifying factors on a social media page can include:

  • Hate speech

  • Vulgar words or images

  • Documentation of use of an illegal substance

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