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3 Reasons You Might Fail a Background Check at Work

By Maurie Backman - May 25, 2018 at 7:13AM

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Found your dream job? If you don't pass your background check, you might lose out on it.

You sailed through the interview process and landed a job offer. Great! But before you make plans to set up your new desk and meet your new coworkers, you'll need to get through one more hurdle: the background check.

Though the practice is more common in certain industries than others, an estimated 72% of employers run background checks on new employees before hiring them officially. And while you might think you've got nothing to hide as far as your history goes, here are a few reasons why you might fail a background check and lose your dream opportunity.

Background check form


1. You have a criminal history

Maybe you were convicted of a crime years ago and have had a clean record since. Depending on the scenario at hand, that could cause a company to rescind its offer. That said, an employer might consider moving forward regardless depending on the nature of the crime and its relation to the business at hand.

So what can you do if you know you have a criminal past? Your best bet is to come clean about it. Most employers will ask whether you've been convicted of a crime on your job application, so it pays to be honest and ask for an opportunity to explain what went wrong. Attempt to cover it up, however, and you might lose out on the job.

2. You have a poor credit history

You'd think your credit score would be a personal matter having nothing to do with your job prospects. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. In most states, employers are allowed to access your credit history, and if yours spots a potential red flag, it could withdraw its employment offer. This is likely to happen if the job in question is one where you'll be tasked with handling money. After all, if you can't be trusted to manage your own finances, how can you be expected to manage your company's?

That's why it pays to work on boosting your credit rating before applying to jobs. If you know your score isn't great, try paying down some outstanding debt as quickly as you can. This will reduce your credit utilization ratio, which is one of several key factors that go into calculating your score. You also should take a look at your credit report and make sure it's correct. An estimated 20% of credit reports contain errors, and if you spot one and fix it, you'll be less likely to lose out on a job opportunity because of it.

3. You lied about your education

Maybe you went to college for a few semesters and never quite finished your degree. Or maybe you skipped college altogether, but lied about it on your resume. Bad move. As part of your background check, employers will often seek to verify that your educational credentials are what you claim them to be. If a company that wants to hire you discovers that you don't, in fact, have that bachelor's degree, you might instantly have your offer pulled back.

The solution? Don't lie about your education. If you only attended three out of four years of college, say so. You never know when a company might be willing to work with you -- for example, hire you on the condition that you complete your degree within two years and allow you the flexibility to work classes into your schedule -- so be truthful with regard to your credentials and play up other skills on your resume instead.

As a job seeker, the last thing you want is to lose out on a great opportunity because of a background check. So don't let that happen. Know what red flags companies look for, and take steps to either address or come clean about them to avoid surprises on the employer side. It's a far better bet than doing nothing, crossing your fingers, and magically hoping for the best.

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