Background checks are conducted by employers to screen potential employees for a new job. Employers typically look at an applicant's employment history, education, criminal record, credit history, and other activities. Below, we have listed common red flags that might disqualify an applicant during a background check.
What Can Disqualify You on a Background Check?
You have a poor employment history.
While gaps in employment history may not necessarily be cause for concern, a pattern of unemployment or a string of short-lived jobs may suggest that an applicant is unreliable and not worth investing in. This, however, does not extend to internships, training, or seasonal work, which is seen as an advantage for entry-level positions.
You lied on your resume, or there are inconsistencies.
Dishonesty is a huge red flag for employers and might cost you a job opportunity. If they discover that you lied about your education, skills, or qualifications, it will likely be detected during a background check, no matter how well-written or embellished your resume may be.
Employers almost always contact references to verify details about previous jobs, such as the time period you worked there, and to gain an idea of your duties and work ethic. Likewise, a background check can also determine when and where you obtained your degree.
You have a criminal history.
A criminal record is one of the first things that employers check when screening applicants and often leads to job applicants being disqualified. However, depending on an employer's hiring standards and the severity of the crime committed, an applicant might still be hired, as long as they make their criminal history known to the employer. That said, minor misdemeanors or incidents that occurred a long time ago may be overlooked, but serious crimes will likely put you out of the running.
You received bad references from previous employers.
A good recommendation goes a long way to ensure that you're hired for that job. It allows employers to learn more about your character, work ethic, and overall suitability for a role. But what happens when a former manager badmouths you or gives you a less than shining review? It all depends on the company.
One bad reference may not hurt your chances but multiple bad references will definitely disqualify you. Having said that, because of the risk of defamation lawsuits sought by former employees, many workplaces do not provide information other than work dates, job title, and salary.
You have a poor credit history.
Credit checks are usually only performed for financial and federal jobs. So if you are going to be dealing with money extensively, a poor credit history is considered a liability as it might impact your ability to handle money responsibly.
You failed a drug or alcohol test.
Drug and alcohol tests are also job-dependent, such as those that require candidates to drive, work with machinery, or perform highly technical duties. If a candidate fails a drug/alcohol test, they might become a liability to the company.
You have a bad driving record.
As with credit history and substance tests, your driving history will only be checked if the job requires you to drive. A poor driving record may include multiple citations for speeding, driving under the influence, or a conviction for reckless driving.
You have questionable social media activity.
This is a tricky area as there are many rulings and laws in place that protect job candidates' rights when it comes to social media.
While social media screening is not a necessity on a background check, it is legal, and many employers peruse social media, or use screening services, to gain an understanding of a candidate's character beyond the interview.
Employers typically check for hate speech, foul language, or any negative material that may reflect badly on the company and present potential problems in future.
You are not entitled to legally work in the United States.
Potential employees must be legally eligible to work in the United States. During the hiring process, all citizens and non-citizens are obliged to complete an Employment Eligibility Form (I-9). Job applicants must present documents verifying their identity and employment authorization to the employer.
What causes a red flag on a background check?
What will disqualify you from federal employment?
People with criminal records or who were previously incarcerated may apply for federal jobs. However, certain federal laws may prohibit you from applying for certain jobs. Read more at usajobs.gov.
Should I be worried about a background check?
A background check is a prerequisite of the hiring process and cannot be avoided. As long as you are honest on your resume and understand your rights, you will not have anything to worry about. Be sure to review the background check laws in your state before applying. Remember that legally, you are allowed to request a copy of your background report if the employer disqualifies you based on their findings.
What jobs don't do background checks?
Most remote jobs do not request background checks, but ultimately this depends on the employer.
How do you know if you passed a background check?
The employer will contact you to let you know that your background check is clear. Alternatively, if you are hired you'll know that there were no issues.
What do employers look for on a background check?
- Employment history.
- Academic and/or professional qualifications.
- Criminal records.
- Credit history.
- Social media activity.
- Driving records.
- Substance use.
Can I leave a job off my background check?
Yes. You are not obligated to include every job you've ever had on your CV, especially those held 10+ years or aren't relevant to the job you're applying for.
How can I pass a background check?
Background checks cannot be passed or failed. They are dependent on the employer's hiring standards and what they deem to be acceptable.
Can an employer fire you after they hired you because of a background check?
Yes. Owing to at-will employment, an employer may fire you at any time.
How much does an employment background check cost?
The cost of an employment background check varies according to what is being screened, but you can expect to pay between $5.00 and $25.00.
Will I pass a background check with a misdemeanor?
A misdemeanor will likely come up during a background check, but you can still be hired for a job depending on your potential employer's hiring standards and the type of job you're applying for.