new employer wants me to give notice before I’ve passed the background check

A reader writes:

I received a great job offer, contingent upon passing a background/credit check/drug test. I was told that the background check takes up to 10 business days (they use lexis-nexis). I have been upfront with my background (nothing major) and credit past to both my hiring manager and HR. I stated to them in an email that I could not give notice until the background check clears and I get written confirmation of this. However, they did not agree with me on this since they need me to train with a woman who is moving out of state 3 weeks from today.

I am in a rough spot because I really, really don’t want to give notice until the background check clears, but if I wait 10 business days from the day I submitted my paperwork, I will literally be giving my current employer 3 days notice. I feel terrible, but I also don’t want to be in the position of giving proper notice but then having the new company rescind the offer due to not passing the background check. This is a horrible position to be in.

I have a good relationship with my current employer and am a well-like and highly trusted employee so I am SUPER concerned about burning bridges. But I also don’t want to be without a job. I am afraid if the offer is rescinded after I give notice then I would have to peddle backwards and I don’t know as though they would trust me again.

I’m not sure what to do. Do I risk having a job to give proper notice and not burn bridges or do I potentially burn bridges but be confident that I will have a job regardless of what happens?

Say this to them: “I’m sure you can understand that I can’t resign my job until I have a firm offer from you. As soon as the offer is firm and without contingencies, I’ll be able to give my employer two weeks notice, but I can’t risk resigning my job without the new one being certain.”

An employer that does not understand this — even though, yes, it inconveniences them — is an employer to be wary of.

{ 189 comments… read them below }

  1. Charles*

    Any employer who doesn’t understand that you must give proper notice could also pull some crap on you without blinking an eye.

    Any employer who wants you to resign without guarnateeing you a job could also pull some crap on you without blinking an eye.

    I don’t mean to be rude OP, but, it doesn’t sounds like such a great job offer to me.

    1. Jamie*

      I’m with Charles on this one.

      The disregard for accepted professional standards is a huge red flag.

    2. Anonymous*

      Amen, Charles, Jamie, and of course, Alison. This:

      An employer that does not understand this — even though, yes, it inconveniences them — is an employer to be wary of.

      rings so true to me. Before working in my field, I worked as a news writer for about a year. The fact that the pub wasn’t doing well (nothing like today, but still slipping) prompted me to pick up some coding skills and get into tech. Alas, my first job played games with the start date. They wanted me in July, then August, then not until September – and when they finally settled on that as a start month, they demanded I start the next Monday. It was mid-week, so that was what, 2 days’ notice?

      I loved my bosses and colleagues at my then-job, and was NOT burning that bridge. So we haggled for a two-week notice period, but the start-date shenanigans were just the tip of the iceberg of horrible that was working there.

      Think twice about working for this company, OP.

    3. Anonymouse*

      Me three. What happens if your check doesn’t go through for any reason? Then you are an unemployed person who is looking for a job b/c you failed a background check. BTW, you left your job voluntarily so no unemployment for you.

      Make no mistake: This company is asking you to take an enormous risk for very little reward. Unless there is a whopping signing bonus that will sustain you for 6 months while you look for another job, run. Run away!

    4. Vicki*

      Of course, sadly, any employer could pull some crap on you without blinking an eye… at any time, for any reason.

      But yes, I agree with Alison. If they don’t understand why you’re hesitant, there is something wrong.

  2. KayDay*

    I agree, I’d be wary of an employer insisting that I not give proper notice, or who expected me to give notice without a final, non-contingent offer.

    But there might be a solution since they also did give you a clear reason why they need you in so soon: “they need me to train with a woman who is moving out of state 3 weeks from today.” Is there any chance that you could either take a vacation day or two on short notice, or call out sick from your current job to go in for a day or two of training?

    (I get that this may not work with your current employers’ policies, but it might be worth asking).

    1. Kristi*

      I don’t think OP should offer this option. It feels like it weakens her hand in negotiations. This problem/challenge is the prospective employer’s, and not hers, to solve.

      Plus, what if the time table were different and she was offered the job a week or day before the trainer moved out of state? Would they ask her to skip giving notice so she could start immediately? If they really want the OP, they’ll act accordingly and figure it out.

    2. Your Mileage May Vary*

      Also, if it’s the sort of place that does background checks, there may be confidentiality agreements too. Would you want to train someone at your company who was not yet an employee and possibly expose yourself to all sorts of legal trouble?

  3. Sarah M*

    It is understandable the crunch the new company is under, but that is unacceptable to me. I was put in a similar position, and it was awful. Not a place you want to work for, because think of the on-the-job pressures they will put on you.

    You should reconsider this company.

    1. Sarah M*

      Also, what if you give notice, and fail the background check? What a horrible place to be!

      1. Anonymous*

        i think that’s the point of the question. OP is concerned that she might not pass and then they snatch the offer away from her.

    2. Charles*

      Let me apologize beforehand Sarah M, I don’t mean to be rude or nitpicky; but this isn’t an “understandable crunch” to me.

      The company should have know that the “trainer” was leaving, they should have known that the background check would take so long, and then they should have known what an unprofessional thing to ask of the OP.

      If it really is necessary for this moving-out-of-state woman to train the OP, then the company, not the OP, should be doing something to make it happen. Maybe (I don’t know if it is possible) pay more for a “quicker” background check? Ask the OP if she can take a couple of days off from her current job (say vacation days) and then once “training” is over go back to her old job and then give proper notice? There are several ways the company could handle this other than putting the OP in a tight spot. This “crunch” is their doing not the OP’s – they need to do something about it, not her.

      Otherwise, I agree with you 100%, Sarah M; especially the reconsider this company idea.

      (sorry, I don’t mean to be rude!)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’ll cut them slack on not knowing the person was moving — tons of people don’t give more than 2-3 weeks notice, in part because of all the advice telling them not to.

        But I totally agree that they should either pay to expedite the background check or deal with the wait.

      2. Sarah M*

        Understandable crunch = HR has serious pressure to hire and managers have no regard. I assume.

        1. Charles*

          Oh God, Yes,! There could be a very big “failure to communicate” between HR and the hiring manager! This happens so often how on earth did I forget it?

      3. Gene*

        Or offer to pay both the trainer and the trainee a good amount to do the training on off hours.

  4. Anonymous*

    maybe I’m reading this wrong but I worked for a company where we did give candidates firm offers in writing and said…this offer is contingent upon a successful background check. I’m guessing you do actually have the firm offer however you are concerned about the results. Are you just overly worried/anxious because it sounds a little scary? If you know you don’t have anything in your background which would set off red flags – don’t worry about it. You could also ask them what exactly they check for if that would make you feel better? Either way, I would tell them you need to give ample notice to your employer to respect them and the situation they will be in once you do leave.
    When I received the offer from my last company and it was all contingent it completely freaked me out and I was so nervous even though I knew nothing would come back…and then I found out – I was all worked up over nothing.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      But it’s really not reasonable to ask a candidate to quit their job (thus severing ties with their source of income) until the new employer is ready to commit fully.

    2. Alisha*

      Agree with Alison here. I’ve been background-checked a couple times for jobs, and it’s come back impeccable every time. However, my next background check could come up less than stellar, for any one of the following reasons:

      • If my college, which used paper record-keeping when I graduated, suddenly can’t find my transcript.

      • If I fudged a start month of a job I held years ago – say it started in May, but I put down April or June, because I can’t remember – and I am accused of intentional deception.

      • If management has changed at a previous employer and the new boss has no record of me working there.

      • If a reference is having a really bad week/month/year (spouse filed for divorce, about to get fired at work, death in the family, whatever) and his/her reference is not the best, or sounds less-than enthusiastic.

      Despite having aced several rigorous background checks, something can still go wrong – and does, as you hear about it all the time. I’ll NEVER ditch a secure source of income for a “maybe, if this complex process pans out” source.

      1. fposte*

        Don’t forget “If there’s some kind of mixup with somebody else with a similar name/SSN.”

        1. anon.*

          Yes, this. My father has someone with the same first and last name living in our city with the same birth year. The only difference is the middle initial and the fact that my father has never filed for bankruptcy or been prosecuted for tax fraud.

        2. ChristineH*

          Exactly. Hasn’t happened to me, but my first and last name are pretty common, so I’m a little paranoid about that. You never know.

        3. Natalie*

          A bank officer nearly gave me a heart attack when I was a teenager by mixing me up with someone with the exact same name and a street address a single digit off from mine. The other Natalie *** had apparently defaulted on an auto loan. Thankfully the loan was taken out when I was about 12, so it was pretty easy to clear up.

        4. Emily*

          My dad transposed two digits of my SSN when he claimed me as a dependent for the first time. I was only two months old at the time, but somehow, a brand new father’s typo has caused a few snags along the way. Of course, they’ve always been fairly easy, if tedious, to clear up with the IRS, the bank, or on my FAFSA, but would an employer who won’t be reasonable about your giving notice be reasonable about an erroneous background check?

    3. Womble*

      This is bad and dangerous advice. Just because you don’t *think* anything will come back bad, doesn’t mean it’ll be the case. Other people have given plenty of examples of why, but I’ll add mine in as well, just to show the limits of background checking insanity.

      I once failed a background check because the incompetent numpties doing the check CALLED THE WRONG COMPANY to verify my employment. They even listed the name of the wrong company in the background check result, which was similar (but clearly not the same as) the company I actually worked for. Would the hiring company engage a braincell or two and decide something was amiss in the background check? Nope. The only thing they cared about was the big red “FAIL” down the bottom.

      Oh well, I didn’t really want to work for them anyway. But if I’d really bet the farm on this new job and upped stakes with my old job first, I would have been in all sorts of trouble, and all due to an incompetent background checker.

      1. Alisha*

        Great point. I didn’t even think of this, but of my previous employers (FT and freelance):

        • Several have the same name as publications in other states.
        • One has multiple technical divisions/branches, some of which are in other states and countries.
        • One has the same name as another tech company on the West Coast.

        I’d hate to give up a secure income on a prayer, only to discover that I failed my background check because someone used Google to find the company information instead of referring to my application, and assumed my work history was a lie.

        To others’ points, I recently learned about a reputation management start-up, BrandYourself, inspired by the owner’s failed background check – a criminal making the news shared his name. While my name is pretty rare, people with names like “Dan Thomas” and “Kate Davis” can run into problems for sure.

      2. Charles*

        “incompetent numpties”

        Yes, what a great term for some folks – not a background check related issue; but, my senior year of college my student loans were called.

        This happened despite the fact that they wrote to me “in care of ” the school’s program that I was attending during my junior year. I sent back their form, completed, with a letter from the Program’s Director stating that I was, in fact, attending school. Still, they called the loan while I was in school during my senior year. (some folks just can’t read? or don’t want to?)

        I had to scramble to get another source to finish paying off my last semester of college because some “incompetent numptie” consider me to no longer be attending school. I actually dropped one class because I didn’t need the credit and didn’t have to money to pay for it, bummer.

    4. MikeA*

      I disagree. While I have also received firm offers contingent upon background checks and have never had a problem I always wait until both the background check and drug screen are complete before giving notice. If the new employer doesn’t like that, then I walk away. People are human. Drug tester’s are human and some background check companies are often a joke and outsource their work to foreign countries with people checking on you that can barely read or speak English. Mistakes do happen and you could be one of them. Just last year the background check Hireright was fined $2.6 million by the FTC because of faulty practices. While it’s true that most employment is “at will” a bird in the hand is still worth more than two in the bush. Do not give notice until the new company gives you a clean bill of health.

  5. Anonymous*

    The offer of a job is not a real one – someone is playing a dreadful game with you. If the office politics is so evident before you join I can’t imagine what hellish life awaits should you even dare to take the -so-called post. (That I suspect is not even ‘vacant’). If they need someone/anyone so urgently they can do without the background check – clearly its not somewhere where there is any succession planning.Stay clear.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, to be fair, I don’t think they’re playing a game with her. I think they assume she’ll pass and everything will be fine — but they’re not the ones taking the risk.

    2. Jamie*

      Succession planning is a very good point. Very few people up and move out of state without a lot more than 3 weeks notice.

      Either they didn’t know because the separating employee didn’t tell them or they knew and waited until the last minute.

      Either way I’m seeing at least one more red flag here. There could be mitigating circumstances, sure, but there’s cause for concern.

      1. Your Mileage May Vary*

        Well, I can see reasons for the 3-week notice. Either they have known they were going to move for the last six months and didn’t put in their notice until they had 3 or 4 weeks left to go (which is reasonable) or they have a spouse that’s in a job where they need to pick up and move right away (military, for instance).

        I’d be a little more worried that the company has no one else that can train the new hire. OP, have you asked what will happen if you have questions after your trainer has decamped?

        1. class factotum*

          Things may have changed since I was a kid and my dad was in the air force, but we never moved on a minute’s notice. Nothing happens quickly in the huge bureaucracy that is the military.

      2. Sarah G*

        The departing employee gave more than 3 weeks notice. The company has already been through the entire hiring process, folks! That can take months, certainly at least a month from my experience. The employee could’ve easily given 2 or more months notice.

  6. Student*

    If they made the drug test and background check requirement clear early in the hiring process, then they expect this to be mere paperwork formality. Are you taking drugs? Do you have something that might make you not clear a background check, like a conviction for a major crime? Have you got really, horribly abysmal credit that can’t be explained away easily in a bad economy? Then you shouldn’t have applied for the job.

    The fact that you’re treating a paperwork formality as if it will lead to the job being revoked will probably make them think you have something to hide. While it may be unintentional and misleading, your letter sure makes it sound like you expect there to be a problem. They’re insisting that this isn’t a big deal because it shouldn’t be.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The fact that she wrote “I’ve been upfront with my background (nothing major) and credit past” makes me think that it’s not entirely black and white, or at least that she has cause not to feel 100% confident. And even if she has cause to feel 95% confident, she shouldn’t risk her current livelihood on something that, however they spin, is still not a certainty.

      If they think that means she has something to hide, they’re not particularly rational or empathetic people.

      And someday I will post a screed against drug testing.

      1. Joey*

        I’m looking forward to your rant on drug screens which im guessing will be specific to non safety related jobs. Ive never heard anyone successfully debate how the positives outweigh the negatives.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Here’s the short version: If you’re concerned about employees being in some way incapacitated during work time, do performance testing. This will catch it if they’re under the influence of alcohol and legally prescribed drugs too, or even being compromised by something like extreme fatigue, and it’ll catch it in real time, none of which drug tests do.

          If you’re concerned about what employees do on the weekends, on their own time, in the privacy of their own homes, that’s not an employer’s business.

          In other words, test for what actually matters, not what one moral code happens to dictate.

          1. Jamie*

            I agree with this in spirit – although depending on what performance testing is, specifically, I would advocate for mandatory testing after workplace accidents.

            I’ve had guys drive a forklift through a wall and I would have ordered testing even if it wasn’t mandated…because if he was under the influence we needed evidence for court. Personally, I’d treat the heavy equipment accidents like I would for auto.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Here’s a quick explanation from the ACLU’s stuff on drug testing (
              “If employers in transportation and other industries are really concerned about the public’s safety, they should abandon imperfect urine testing and test performance instead. Computer assisted performance tests already exist and, in fact, have been used by NASA for years on astronauts and test pilots. These tests can actually measure handeye coordination and response time, do not invade people’s privacy, and can improve safety far better than drug tests can.”

              1. Jamie*

                I’m unfamiliar with those tests, but this is definitely a better way to go since it can be measured empirically.

                And it would prevent decent hardworking Polish gentlemen from being investigated because of testing hot because they ate too much poppyseed cake.

                It’s not a myth – a poppyseed bagel generally won’t do it but I know for a fact that poppyseed cake will.

                1. Jamie*

                  “I’m unfamiliar with those tests, but this is definitely a better way to go since it can be measured empirically.”

                  This meaning the performance tests are a better way to go…I can’t structure a sentence to save my life today.

          2. Mike C.*

            I work in a place where industrial safety is a huge concern, and I approve the above message.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              If you have a community that will care that you choose the more-effective performance testing over the less-effective-and-privacy-violating drug testing, then you need a new community!

              That is my official stance.

              someone who will never, ever work for a company that monitors what I do in my own home, not in 10 million years

              1. Alisha*

                Alison, I love your line of thinking.

                As someone who must take scheduled medications (one regular, one semi-regular, one infrequently) to treat chronic conditions, I am wary of drug testing. I shouldn’t feel ashamed of illnesses that are under control, which I hide so well that no one has even guessed, and which I’ve worked hard to perform around, regardless of how bad or good I felt. Alas, thanks to pro-testing employers’ views that if you’re opposed to urinating in a cup, you have something to hide – and but of course, the ADA legislation passed in 1990, by people whose intentions were kind, but who couldn’t have foreseen how it burdened employers and employees alike – I’m made to feel like a man who robbed a bank and killed the teller.

                (Not to mention the horror stories I’ve heard from people who weren’t hired explicitly because they were prescribed such medications – despite offering up the script, the half-full pill bottle, the doctor’s number, and the pharmacy’s information. I thought this violated HIPPA, but perhaps I’m wrong?)

                Sadly too, I can see where the “don’t hire someone with a health problem” crowd is coming from, as I once had to assist in the termination of someone with a MH challenge. But the MH challenge was not what did said person in – the teammate did quite well with a few inexpensive and simple accommodations. Violating an NDA that put a major revenue stream in jeopardy was the real problem. Our documentation had to be air-tight, since the terminated person could’ve sued for quite a bit of money.

                What can you do here? I’m not always on the business’s side, but I’m VERY wary of the government, with good reason (is that nihilist, anarcha-libertarian, or what?). It’s like your d–ned if you do, d–ned if you don’t…ugh.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  A couple of things you can do:

                  First, at the most basic level, talk openly about this issue. Mention to your friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues that you’re opposed to workplace drug testing. It’s extremely useful for people to hear other normal, mainstream people saying this; when they hear it from people who seem unthreatening and not like they’re cooking meth in their basements, it changes the way people feel about the issue. They become less likely to think “why would you object if you have nothing to hide?” which is a really dangerous line of thought.

                  Two, speak out to your legislators. Write to your members of Congress and state reps and ask them to do something about it. It actually doesn’t take many letters from constituents to get legislators to move on issues — they assume that a single letter reflects the views of thousands more who don’t bother to write. Some legislation has been spurred by fewer than a dozen constituent letters.

              2. JLH*

                Here, here.

                I never really understood where companies got the legal backing to do drug-testing anyway for hiring or post-incident considering a number of drugs, both legal and illegal, remain in the body for a period of time after they have been metabolized to the point where there are no effects of the drug remaining. You can’t prove they were or would be effected on the job because of that.

            1. Blinx*

              “What’s it to me if someone wants to kill herself doing meth?”

              Um, if they can restrict any potential harm to themselves alone, then fine. But if I’m at danger because a coworker is on drugs while operating machinery, or driving a car or in possession of a firearm, then that’s a whole other story. That, plus all the drug related crime. Even in my sleepy little suburb, a huge meth ring was busted, along with their potentially lethal lab.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Right, so those things (driving or operating machinery under the influence) would be the crime, not the drug use itself. Similar to what we’ve done with alcohol. And if drugs were legal, that potentially lethal lab would be regulated for safety.

                Regardless, we’re not going to debate legalizing drugs here. They should be legalized, all of them, and it’s a profound violation of civil rights and misuse of criminal justice resources that they aren’t, but this isn’t the place for it.

        2. Jamie*

          Bureaucracy. I don’t know if it’s the same in all states, but in some areas a “drug free workplace” is a designation that comes with insurance discounts. However, in order to qualify there are rules which need to be in place. Initial screenings, screenings upon suspicion, screenings after all workplace accidents. If you opt out of any the above you lose the discount.

          Not saying that it makes sense for every position, because some the costs of the testing outweigh the risks – but that’s why a lot of employers do it.

          1. Natalie*

            It amazes me that insurers, who spend so much time analyzing data, haven’t yet figured out that pre-employment urinalysis isn’t effective. Most of the data supporting the effectiveness of pre-employment urinalysis comes from the drug testing industry.

    2. Kaz*

      Evidently, not all of us are as perfect as you seem to think you are… You never know what it is they’re looking for, and whether the record is correct. Someone could have stolen your identity and racked up debts or gotten arrested in another state. They might also be spooked by old speeding tickets or another minor item that doesn’t seem important. It’s not at all unusual to want to have something nailed down before leaving a good, stable job.

      1. Charles*

        “You never know what it is they’re looking for, and whether the record is correct.”

        Yes! I’ve cleared background checks before but I would still not say with 100% accuracy that I will pass again.

        Let’s say there is a problem that could be fixed (a mistake on a credit report). The OP could still be without income for a couple or few weeks or however long it takes to straighten things out.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          We’ve also had stories on here of people who were told that X wouldn’t be a problem, and then it turned out that X was a problem (for instance, an arrest that didn’t result in a conviction).

          1. Laura*

            I work at a company that does hire people with “backgrounds” to a point, and I see this happen ALL THE TIME because the hiring manager doesn’t understand the rules and then once it gets to HR, we tell them they can’t work here.

          2. Alisha*

            Alison, the other thread is past its nested reply limit, so I wanted to thank you here for your great advice. I’m going to do exactly as you suggest, and will also direct people to this article. You’re so right, too: We can make a difference. I probably got complacent + cynical over the years, but when I was younger, I co-managed a letter-writing campaign that successfully tabled some awful legislation: a major tax hike + destruction of a vital service to expand the state prison system.

            As I’ve been getting my spirits up, I’m feeling more and more passion for volunteering – even more so because I remember feeling really energized and empowered by my last efforts. Your proposal is a promising way for each of us to play a key role to change a process that hurts fellow job-seekers’ chances while wasting time and resources. Thanks again, and I hope you have a great weekend.

    3. sparky629*

      We have a family friend that has the same first and last name and a similar birth date (the same month and year) as someone who had been convicted of several felonies.

      Imagine his surprise upon getting a background check for a job and finding out that he had been to jail for robbery, aggravated assault, and possession of a controlled substance.

      It took him forever to get that cleared up and now when he applies for jobs he has to tell the prospective employer, please please make sure you have John P. Public born on 01/01/1999 and not John Q. Public born on 01/02/1999.

      Extreme case but a pain in the butt nonetheless.

      1. Blinx*

        Just curious. Are candidates always told about failed background checks? How would I know if that’s the reason, or the employer just changed their mind and hired someone else?

    4. AG*

      Can’t say I’m surprised ‘Student’ is unreasonably confident about background checks. If they’re a student, they *have* no background…yet.

    5. fposte*

      Background checks are actually more complicated than that, as are employers’ responses to them. On the bad side, they often make mistakes, and there are employers who could withdraw an offer some pretty slight findings (findings aren’t just limited to major crimes). On the other side, employers often consider what they find based on the applicant rather than simply rescinding an offer. I would disagree strongly that somebody with problems in their past shouldn’t have applied to the job in the first place–for one thing, it’s often not related to their current fitness, and for another, what do you think people in those positions should do to feed themselves if they shouldn’t apply to jobs?

      1. Ariancita*

        Yes. All of this. Say the OP is concerned about some things, should only perfect people with perfect backgrounds be allowed to apply? I find all this background/credit check stuff incredibly invasive when it’s for jobs where it’s really not warranted.

    6. blu*

      Even if your background is completely clear and there is nothing to worry about, the background can still take longer than expected to come back. I order background checks for my team and I can list several cities and states that are consistently slow to respond to criminal background requests. There are also schools and previous employers that are slow to respond. Any of those can delay the process, which delays the start date. If an offer is contingent on a background check then it’s not fair to make a candidate give notice before the contingency is met.

    7. KellyK*

      Mistakes happen, though. Even if you’re a squeaky-clean Eagle Scout who’s never so much as jaywalked, the company doing the background check could still get something wrong or confuse you with someone else, For that matter, they might flag something in a way that makes it sound worse than it is, or that doesn’t give specific details. (For example, you get flagged with “unpaid bills” because of that one time your credit card company kept sending bills to the wrong address.)

      Sure, a reasonable company will get it straightened out eventually, but it’s better not to be unemployed while that’s being sorted out.

    8. MikeA*

      Really? If someone has bad credit, then they shouldn’t be applying for a job? Hey, a private company has the right to hire whoever they wish, but that doesn’t mean that people that may have fallen on bad times should just not try to find employment.

    9. Dave*

      I ended going through a similar situation 3 weeks ago and that’s not the problem. I knew of the background/reference/drug check during the first phone screen I am 100% confident that I would pass and that if any issues came up, they could easily be addressed.

      However, the problem is two fold:

      1. There are many instances where a company will not do any due diligence on false positives and inconclusive results. I read a study that a large number of employers reject candidates without any further investigation.

      2. Since they want someone to start right away, it begs the question of how organized this place is. in other words are they flying by the seat of their pants.

  7. SW Engineer*

    If I ran into this situation, I would run for the hills. Something is fishy.

    You always want to have the background check fully cleared before continuing. There might be an error in the background check report that needs a clarification and/or correction. One of my friends had this happen, and after she explained the error they were happy with it.

  8. 22dncr*

    RED FLAG! Danger, Will Robinson! Do not give in on this. No job is a valid one till all the t’s have been crossed and the i’s doted! Been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. Even if you know you have good credit what if someone just stole your identity, you don’t know about it yet, and it’s on your now messed up credit report??? They can wait.

  9. Karin*

    Most of the above comments are good points to consider. I wonder-have you tried to come up with a way to obtain the training without handing in your notice? Realistically, if the new business requires more than a day or two to have things covered off maybe they are not well organized or do not value knowledge sharing. Surely, someone else in the business knows enough about the role to be helpful-any business that ties up a role with only one person knowing how it is done is creating quite a risk. Could you take a vacation day? Would the person leaving consider working with you outside your current work hours? It is worth asking and it is fair to let them know that it is a concern.

    1. Jamie*

      This can get sticky at the new company. Most wouldn’t allow someone in to train who wasn’t on their books as an employee, which can’t happen until the background check is in.

      1. Karin*

        Sure, they can say no, but if you don’t ask or consider if there are other ways to manage the situation then she either takes a risk or passes on the job. Given she has employment and the tough market, I know what I would do.

  10. Laurie*

    I was initially going to agree with all the other commenters that the company is wrong for asking you to give notice, but I re-read your question again and I can’t be sure if you already have an offer letter or if this was just a verbal offer.

    If you have an offer letter, it is about as official as it could be. An offer is always “contingent” in the sense they don’t need anything more than “she does not perform well” or “we don’t have the money anymore” to terminate your employment and this can happen any time.

    However, reading between the lines, it seems like you do have something to be worried about regarding your background check and credit report. If that’s the case, and even if your hiring manager is aware of it, it is best to wait till everything clears and the company has had a chance to review your background check/credit report. It is entirely possible that your hiring manager, your HR contact and your hiring manager’s boss don’t care but your company’s Legal dept finds issue with something in the report.

    1. Ivy*

      This. I understand that OP is taking a risk as the others have said, but at the same time I don’t understand why it is such a big deal or a “red flag” (assuming she has an offer letter). Whenever you transfer into a new position it is a risk. Even if OP clears the background check and gets hired, what’s to say her new employer won’t fire her 2 weeks into the job for x reason. Unless OP has a reason for thinking she won’t pass the background check, then why not just go for it? If there is something, then couldn’t she ask her new employer “hey I have/did/was involved with X, will that affect my offer?” I know Alison mentioned a previous poster who was told that they would get an offer regardless of their arrest without conviction, but the offer still got reascended. Still, you can only minimize so much risk in life. I guess I just genuinely don’t understand the strong reaction???

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Because it’s not really a firm offer yet. When they’re ready to make it firm, she can give notice. But they’re pretty clearly telling her it’s not firm. (And look at her comment elsewhere in this thread, where they even told her that something in her past might be an issue.)

        I agree that of course they can fire you on day one or week two or whatever, and so there’s always risk built in and that’s unavoidable — but this one is so easily manageable, simply by waiting until you have a non-contingent offer before you consider things final.

        1. Ivy*

          Ya after reading OPs response, I can definitely understand her concerns. My only thing was when previous posters where saying it was a “huge red flag.” If I got an offer from a company that was contingent on a background check, and they wanted me trained by someone that was leaving, I don’t think it would be a “huge red flag” for them to want me to quit my current job and start in time to be trained. It might be a minor red flag (maybe they’re unorganized), but not something I would reconsider the offer over…

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’d say minor red flag if they suggested it at first, and major red flag if they pushed it after you explained why you weren’t comfortable with it.

    2. Emily*

      Having the employment never happen is quite different from being terminated though. You don’t generally get severance pay and you can’t collect unemployment when you quit your job and then never started the new one. If you get let go, you can probably cobble together some income to get you through the time it takes you to get a new job. (Even a best case scenario is probably month from application to job!) If your new employer withdraws or doesn’t make the offer you’re immediately without any income.

    3. MikeA*

      You are absolutely incorrect. A written offer letter is often contingent upon successfully clearing a background check and drug screen. It even says that the offer can be rescinded now, or in the future. In the future is harder because you can make a case that they went on a witch hunt. However, until you submit your W4, you are not working for this company whether you have a written offer or not and they can easily tell you “thanks but no thanks.”

  11. Joey*

    I’m kinda wondering what “nothing major ” means and i bet a hiring manager would too absent some kind of explanation. I wouldn’t put a candidate in a hard spot like that but if a candidate wouldnt commit until the background was clear I wouldn’t be surprised if something surprising showed up on the background. I know sometimes background checks can have misinformation on them so if you don’t want them to start making assumptions you might tell them you’ve heard some horror stories about that.

  12. Anon IT*

    My current employer (bless their hearts!) actually counseled me when they made their initial offer NOT to give notice until the background check was done. Now, I don’t think there is a more boring thing in the world to read than the results of a background check on me, but I appreciated the advice. As others have noted, you never know what might be falsely attached to your name or SSN. Please, also, heed the advice to be careful about leaping from a job where you are liked, trusted and – apparently – valued to one where unreasonable demands may be the norm. OP, you are the only one who can say for sure if the risks are worth it, but at least give it some extra thought!

  13. OP*

    OP here. Let me clear up some questions:

    1.) I did receive a written offer contingent upon the background check with a tentative start date in the letter (this is the start date I am having a problem with). But it is “tentative”.

    2.) By nothing major I mean a misdemeanor that is not job related, non-violent, did not deal with fraud or stealing or anything like that. I did disclose the one misdemeanor (and past credit history) with a complete explanation to HR and my hiring manager immediately when I got the contingent offer letter. I asked them if they thought the misdemeanor would be an issue and they both said “it may or may not disqualify you for the position”. So I can’t even get a firm answer at this point on the criminal past. But they did say that the credit issue (bankruptcy) was not a concern. Since they were confident on the credit issue not being a problem, but no firm answer on the misdemeanor, I can’t assume I will get an OK on my criminal background.

    3.) I have never had a background check done so I don’t know if there is false information on it. I have read so many horror stories of people getting offers rescinded for false information on a report. I don’t want to risk that happening and be without a job.

    4.) A contingent offer is not a 100% firm offer. Everyone on this site says “don’t leave your current job until your offer is 100% firm”. I think that is the smart thing to do which is why I am waiting to give notice.

    5.) I am now thinking that if I get clearance that I am going to have to stand firm on giving two weeks notice even if it means splitting my time between training and transitioning things at my old job. I think if the new employer says “no way” to working something out that allows me to train and transition, respecting my need to provide proper notice, then I am going to just back out of the offer. I know that would burn bridges too but maybe for the better if they are so inflexible.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Wow! Okay, knowing that they’ve explicitly told you that the misdemeanor may or may not be a problem, it’s even more disturbing that they’re pushing you to give notice now. Kind of amazing, actually.

      1. ChristineH*

        Just a thought, but maybe it’s not such a bad thing. Maybe they are pretty confident that she will be cleared despite the one misdemeanor?

        1. ChristineH*

          ^^ I take that back. Now I see what the problem is. You can disregard that comment.

    2. Ivy*

      I find it soooo strange that they will not give you a clear reply on whether you will be disqualified or not AND expect you to leave your job before they do. I mean, I can understand they don’t want to take your word for it, guarantee you something, and then have a different picture painted by the background check. But to go on from there and expect you to quit your job before they even know if they’ll hire you…. strange… just really strange…

    3. Student*

      Ok, so if I understand, you know darned well that there is a good chance the offer will be rescinded, and so does the hiring manager. Hiring manager is probably pressuring you because he is screwed and hoping against hope that the background check works out because his deadline is blown otherwise.

      So don’t give notice at your current job until the background check passes, since there’s a good chance you won’t get the job anyhow. Tell your hiring manager that you simply can’t give any less than two weeks notice and you really must insist that the background check clears first.

      You may get the job offer rescinded for not being able to start by their required date, and you may get the offer rescinded for the background check issue. Maybe they’ll relent and you’ll still get the new job, but this is probably an offer that is just not going to work for you. You can blame it on bad timing, you can blame it on bad fit, you can blame it on your lack of understanding their background check requirements, but sometimes job offers just don’t work out.

      Next time, be more upfront about things that may completely disqualify you from a job so you don’t end up in this spot. You don’t need to bring up convictions in many job interviews, but you sure do if you know there’s going to be a background check. People are more likely to hire you anyway if you’re upfront about it than if you keep it as a surprise until they’ve already dismissed the other candidates.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        But there’s a good chance it won’t be disqualifying, based on her description of it. People get jobs with misdemeanors all the time, even with background checks.

      2. Jamie*

        “Next time, be more upfront about things that may completely disqualify you from a job so you don’t end up in this spot.”

        How could the OP have possibly been more upfront about anything?

        The OP disclosed everything – if the company can’t figure out if what she disclosed is an issue or not that’s their error.

        I’m baffled – I can’t see where the OP did anything wrong here.

      3. fposte*

        I don’t see a lack of understanding of their background requirements on the OP’s part. I do see it on the company’s part, since they’ve failed to leave sufficient time for their own processes.

      4. fposte*

        Oh, and “You may get the job offer rescinded for not being able to start by their required date”? That’d be pretty dumb of them, since it’s not like any other hire would be able to start by then either.

      5. blu*

        “May or May Not” does not equate to most likely to be rescinded. If a candidate discloses a misdemeanor that is unrelated to the job, then I would say the same thing. I may even say “I don’t anticipate that’s going to be a problem, but I can’t be certain until the check is complete.” Sometimes a conviction is entered into the system incorrectly or the final charge shows differently than what the candidate thought. That doesn’t automatically get the offer rescinded, but it does require follow up that “may or may not” result in rescinding the offer.

      6. COT*

        Also, a smart company hasn’t yet “dismissed the other candidates,” because they understand that offering a job to their first choice is no guarantee that he/she will accept, for any number of reasons.

        Until you know whether or not the company does background checks, and if so, what they look for, I don’t think you’re under any obligation to disclose a minor blemish on your record. Disclosing unflattering information too early may preemptively bias an employer against you before they have a chance to get to know you.

        I hire and screen volunteers at my nonprofit, and I put the burden upon myself, not the applicants, to discuss background issues. I’m upfront (in the position description) that this role does require a background check. Sometimes applicants will ask right away about whether their record is acceptable (if they mention court-ordered service hours or the like, I also ask right away as to the nature of their offense so they don’t waste time applying if they would not be eligible). Otherwise, I ask at the end of our interview: “We’re required by state law to run a background check on volunteers in this particular role. Having something on your record doesn’t necessarily disqualify you, but there are certain offenses we are not allowed to accept. That said, is there anything on your background of which I should be aware?”

        That’s effective 100% of the time. I expect volunteers to be honest at that time, and we can discuss the nature of the offense. As long as they disclose it, can talk openly about it, and it isn’t on the short list of offenses we cannot legally accept, it’s usually not a problem. If I’m not sure, I tell them I need to check with our director before extending a formal offer for the position. If a volunteer has something major on their record that they do not disclose (and I’ve confirmed with them that it is not an error) then that’s the biggest red flag of all.

        As a side note, my state (Minnesota) has an interesting law about background checks for employment. “One provision requires all Minnesota public employers to wait until a job applicant has been selected for an interview before asking about criminal records or conducting a criminal record check, except for positions that already require a
        background check.
        The other provision limits the admission of evidence of an employee’s criminal record against an employer if: (1) the
        duties of the position did not expose others to a greater degree of risk than that created by the employee interacting
        with the public outside of the duties of the position or that might be created by being employed in general; (2) a court
        order sealed any record of the criminal case; or (3) the record did not result in a criminal conviction.
        The ‘Ban the Box’ law reduces
        discrimination and confusion based only upon initial application, does not limit access to the criminal record, saves
        public employers time and money and gives them a more diverse applicant pool, increases employment opportunities
        for otherwise-qualified applicants, and does not limit private employer discretion but provides them with a best practice
        model.” (

      7. Nicole*

        Yikes. I’m I don’t work for a company where HR would deceive a candidate and ask her to quit her job knowing there’s a good chance she won’t pass the background check and will end up unemployed. I hope that large assumption you made is a result of your inexperience rather than your experience in the workforce. Same goes for having the offer rescinded because of the start date issue.

        Also, how do you suggest she be more up front than disclosing the conviction and credit issues to her employer?

    4. Liz in a Library*

      OP, given that they told you that your misdemeanor “may or may not” be a problem, you are 100% right to hold firm and be skeptical.

  14. OP*

    One more thing…

    6.) I have nothing to hide – just took the drug test this morning. I’m not on drugs or alcohol, just worried about criminal past being an issue even though I disclosed everything (see #2 above).

    1. Joey*

      If the hiring manager was worth a crap they would find out if the info you disclosed will be a problem. It’s nearly always just a matter of talking to whomever makes the call on the background results. That’s a whole lot more efficient than waiting 10 business days for the background results to come in. The point of the background is to find things that weren’t disclosed.

      1. OP*

        The hiring manager stated to me that it “may or may not disqualify you” after he said he spoke to someone in HR. It’s a huge company so there is probably some internal policy that does not allow them to commit until they get the background check run. I am thinking that they have to go through the process and they don’t want to take my word for it that I am not hiding anything else, which I am not.

        1. Joey*

          It’s really dumb for the manager to interview you or for HR to even do the background check if the information you disclosed prevents you from passing the background check.

          1. Tax Nerd*

            Ok. If they’re saying whatever misdemeanor “may or may not disqualify you”, you’re not being paranoid at all, and I’d sit tight until they figure it out.

            In your shoes, I would suggest that they ask the outgoing person to write up some notes or a quickie manual in the next three weeks. Whether you use it or someone else does, it can be helpful to have some things written down. (Not so fun for the person who has to write it.)

            1. AMG*

              And this could help with the 2 weeks’ notice that you are giving. You can use the docs to ramp up while you are still at employer #1.

        2. Blinx*

          I’m wondering now if it now coming down to a judgement of character. A misdemeanor may not be criminally huge, but perhaps the company doesn’t want to hire someone who was caught urinating in public, or something that might be embarrassing to the company if it became known at at later date.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            For what it’s worth, as of this spring, the EEOC prohibits employers from having a blanket ban on hiring anyone with a criminal conviction unless they can show the policy is truly job-related and rooted in business necessity, and says that when they do consider criminal convictions in hiring decisions, these should be individual assessments that consider the nature of the crime, how long ago it was, and how it relates (or doesn’t relate) to the job.

      2. Student*

        The point of the background check is usually to determine whether the guy is legally eligible to hold the position so that the company can cover its behind in the case of litigation. It’s not really about finding hidden information.

        If the misdemeanor was something unusual or something on border of acceptable by company policy, it’s quite possible they don’t have a clear-cut verdict on it. Maybe they need to consult an employment lawyer, maybe they need to work though some internal politics to make a call on a marginal case. It’s not like the company goes through some mythical Big Book of Crimes, stops on every possible infraction, and makes up a list of acceptable and unacceptable violations. They do it by the seat of their pants if there’s no clear law on the matter to make the call for them.

        1. fposte*

          I think you’re thinking of security-clearance type stuff. In most situations, this has nothing to do with “legal eligibility”–it’s strictly a hiring decision, so there’s no law, clear or otherwise, that’s relevant.

          1. blu*

            Just because it’s a hiring decision, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still need to follow the process. At my job, even if you disclose a conviction up front we need to wait for the result, because sometimes what you think your record says is different from what is actually there. One example I have seen more than once is someone who thinks they were convicted of reckless driving, but the record shows DUI and vise versa. I’ve also seen cases where a record was supposed to be expunged or otherwise reduced to a lesser charge, but that didn’t happen. We can give you a hard answer if your talking a felony, but for misdemeanors we really do need to wait and see what comes back.

            1. fposte*

              Sure, I understand that. But you’re waiting to see what comes back because that’s your company’s policy on hiring, not because there’s state or federal law restricting your ability to hire somebody (save for a few areas where there are laws requiring a background check, like working with vulnerable persons). In most private companies, if you are okay with hiring the murderer just out of prison (and are willing to accept the legal liability), there’s no law to prevent you.

              The way Student was describing it, it sounded like a background check was something like a work eligibility verification where you had to pass the federal check to be eligible to work, and that’s really not what they are.

            2. Joey*

              So you’re expecting candidates to not know exactly what they’ve been convicted of? Doesn’t that tell you something?

              1. blu*

                No. I’m understanding that things like that happen from time to time. That’s life. It would be stupid to eliminate a great candidate over a fixable mistake.

  15. fposte*

    What about having the departing employee Skype in for a week? Not ideal, but it could accomplish quite a bit.

  16. Mike C.*

    After the OP’s update, I think it’s the hiring manager that needs to go in for a drug screen.

  17. Tax Nerd*

    Most of my jobs have required a background check, since I work in taxes, and have access to a lot of Social Security Numbers and other sensitive information. The first time, I didn’t even know when they did it. I’m sure I signed some paperwork authorizing them to do it, but I paid it no mind, since I’d had an uneventful life.

    The second time, I received a request for a copy of my driver’s license several weeks after I’d already started the job, since they coulddn’t find it in whatever system. (The hyphens in the driver’s license number, or something.) Because I’d already started the job, finding out the background check wasn’t already complete was very disconcerting, since I’d been walked out the door at my previous job upon announcing that I was going to a competitor.

    Three jobs (and three more background checks later), I can say that they are looking for something particularly egregious. For an accountant, any past history of fraud or identity theft would be a definite no, but I’ve heard that accounting firms have forgiven potential employees for bankruptcies that were explained upfront, single DUIs, multiple speeding tickets, maxed out credit cards, “youthful hijinks”, etc.

    Where I’ve heard of offers being rescinded is for lying. One former intern got a DUI during his internship that he didn’t disclose in the process of becoming a full-time hire, and they found it. The lack of disclosure was the problem, and they retracted his offer. Another person inflated their college GPA beyond the acceptable limits of forgetting the exact number so many years after graduation, and had their offer withdrawn. Still, the problem was the dishonesty.

    Background checks are scary, because someone is digging into your past looking for dirty laundry. But unless you’re running for President (or some other government job with very high security clearances), it’s not as bad as you think. The new job probably thinks it’s a formality that 99.8% (or whatever %) of people pass, so they aren’t worried that you won’t.

    Ask yourself what you’re worried they’ll find, and if you think it’s bad enough, and you haven’t discussed it, just tell them. Saying “I ran up a lot of credit card debt during a stint of unemployment – is that a problem?” or “I have two parking tickets” will probably get no more than a chuckle. They’ve probably seen far worse from other people they still ended up hiring.

    Having said all that, the glory of Lexis Nexis is usually instant results. If you’re curious about what they’ll find, you can do your own background check for a fee at
    topcandidate (dot) lexisnexis (dot) com.

    (Sidenote – The Supreme Court has said in Griggs v. Duke Power that arrests without a conviction can’t be considered without a very good reason anymore, since that has the effect of discriminating against protected classes of people. Thankfully that’s gone away somewhat. Now to get rid of the indignity of drug screening. No one should have to pee in a cup in front of someone just to work retail or drive a computer. )

  18. Jamie*

    “No one should have to pee in a cup in front of someone just to work retail or drive a computer. ”

    In front of someone?! I really hope that was hyperbole, otherwise that’s horrifying.

      1. Jamie*

        Wow. I thought it was a violation on principle – but physically as well?

        Not enough money in the world worth submitting to that.

        1. Joey*

          You guys have a luxury that most people do not.

          And most drug screen places( at least where I’m at) only do that when your urine temperature is abnormal, you flush the toilet (against protocol) or do something to indicate the sample may not be authentic. It’s usually very similar to giving your general practitioner a urine sample if you’ve ever had to do that.

          1. Jamie*

            I’ve submitted to a drug screen for every job I’ve ever had and without exception I was sent to a clinic of their choice.

            It was exactly like going to a practitioner – including privacy.

          2. Emily*

            I’ve had three kinds of drug screens. Ones done under government or rehab clinic supervision were all monitored with a person in the room staring you down. Ones done in a general clinic with results sent to the requesting party were never monitored.

        2. MikeA*

          It depends on the job. If you are in the military or applying for a confidential gov’t position, then you will be observed while submitting the urine sample. Private companies, however, do not do this. Instead, they:
          – Put blue in the toilet water so you cannot use it to dilute your sample
          – Listen outside the door to assure that you are urinating
          – Check the toilet water to assure it has turned green from urination
          – Have you go into the bathroom with minimal clothing (pants, shirt, nothing bulky) and no bags

    1. Blinx*

      I really wish there was a way they could just check things through a blood test. Women were NOT designed to pee into a cup!!

  19. Tax Nerd*

    Yeah. A job I had during grad school required a drug screen, and being young and drug-free, I didn’t really think a drug screen would be a big deal. But I got to the screeing, I was told when I got there that they had to watch you, and I was too timid to argue. Thank heavens the screener turned 3/4 away during, but still. I was pretty horrified (but not enough obviously), and it really tainted what I thought of that employer after that. I left after six months.

    The job was entering payroll info and balancing monthly budgets, three levels below anyone that had authority to actually get a check cut for anything. I was hardly in a position to do anything dangerous. They started the policy after the security guard found an employee snorting cocaine in the bathroom late one evening, so the company wasn’t glibly being awful, but they were overreacting. All the current employees were grandfathered in, and didn’t care, but new hires had to get tested.

    1. KayDay*

      OMG, wow, I can never work at a place that requires a drug screening then….I get performance anxiety if there is someone in the stall next to me for chrysanthemum’s sake! And then, like a crazy person, I flush the toilet!

      (and, for the record, I have never used recreational drugs).

    2. Natalie*

      “They started the policy after the security guard found an employee snorting cocaine in the bathroom late one evening, so the company wasn’t glibly being awful, but they were overreacting. ”

      Considering cocaine clears your urine in mere hours (as do most “hard” drugs) their policy wouldn’t have kept that security guard from being hired.

      1. Tax Nerd*

        (The security guard found one one of the number cruncher employees snorting cocaine; the security guard was doing his job and up to snuff.)

        But you’re exactly right – a lot of drugs aren’t in your system all that long, including some of the ones you don’t want your employees using on the job. (Including alcohol.) Other drugs will be present in urine for days or weeks, but there’s no great way to tell if the drug use was Saturday evening when they were at home or Tuesday afternoon when they drove a forklift through the wall.

  20. Ariancita*

    What kind of charge is it considered if you get arrested for protesting? I’ve known people who have been arrested for peaceful protest, and I wonder how it might effect their employment opportunities now. If it does affect their opportunities, I wonder what that says about any relationship between industry/fear of unemployment and one’s civic participation.

    1. Ask a Manager*

      Usually it’s disorderly conduct. I have a disorderly conduct misdemeanor from a political protest myself. No one cares :)

      1. Ariancita*

        Good to know! I’d hate that to be one more thing that give a person an unreasonable strike against them.

      2. Joey*

        This is way off topic but on my phone it looks like the pixels on the lower half of your face are distorted. I didn’t realize it was a cup.

    2. fposte*

      I suspect the answer is “It depends.” Jurisdictions matter, discretion of the moment matters (here, for instance, underage drinking can be an infraction or a misdemeanor), laws on expungement matter, and the nature and depth of the background check matters. Of course, it also matters what the company chooses to do with it–it’s information, not a dictate.

        1. fposte*

          Sorry, it was a tangent that made sense in my head. That’s an example of how an activity might turn up in a background check if it’s classified in one category and not in another, so you don’t necessarily know in advance exactly how the law would classify it or whether it would turn up on a background check. It still doesn’t answer the protesting question, but at least maybe you know why it made me think of it :-).

          1. Ariancita*

            LOL! I think it was the “here” in “here, for instance…” that really had me confused. :)

            1. Ariancita*

              Should clarify, after reading it again with our explanation, I realize you meant where you live. But initially it read like “here” was referring to an example in my question (as in “in this case”).

            2. fposte*

              Heh. I literally meant “here”–in my university town. When the cops want to crack down, they warn that underage drinkers will be charged with a misdemeanor rather than an infraction.

  21. Anonymous*

    I really don’t think hiring managers see the background check/drug test as a contingency. They mainly view it as one more bit of paperwork to get folks hired. I had the same situation happen to me–I was moving half way across the country, had to give notice, and still didn’t know if I passed the background check. When I voiced my concern to the hiring manager, the response was that I needed to start on that particular date because that’s when other people were starting and they could only start on particular dates.

    Needless to say, I was young and stupid and took a leap of faith. It worked out–the confirmation that I passed the background check came in the first voicemail left on my line during my first week.

    But its a big NO now that I know better.

    1. Jamie*

      “Needless to say, I was young and stupid and took a leap of faith.”

      I think everyone has something in there past to which they could apply that sentence.

      It should be consolation to the people who are young and doing stupid things now that most of us do go on to productive careers :).

      Seriously – I cringe when I think of how naive I was on my first job.

      1. Jennifer O*

        Oh my goodness yes!

        For my first job, I was hired after a singl short phone interview. To add to the naïveté of the situation, I used a pay phone in a restaurant while in the middle of lunch with my mum.

        They hired me as a low-level receptionist. A few months later, my boss (the owner) called me into his office and said, “Well, as you know, Jennifer, we didn’t hire you for your brains. But, since you’ve got them, we’d like you to take on these research projects.” Which I took on. With no increase in pay.

        How many things are wrong with just that short synopsis. Wow! Young and naive indeed.

        1. Jennifer O*

          And it didn’t occur to me to be offended by his statement because he’d hired me over the phone.

  22. Anonymous*

    All the talk about drug testing reminds me of a quote attributed to one Paul Tomblin:

    First time I’ve gotten a programming job that required a drug test. I was worried they were going to say `you don’t have enough LSD in your system to do Unix programming’

    1. fposte*

      Aw, do you know Paul? (You’re not Vicki, are you?) You’re making me all nostalgic for my old Usenet days.

  23. Bob G*

    We do background checks for all employees via the State Police (required by law to work for our employer) and you would be shocked how many people pass the initial test and are licensed by the state and then notified weeks later that something came up and have their license revoked.

    If I was the OP I would not commit to the new employer until everything has come back from the background check.

  24. Anonymous*

    My current employer does drug testing…with hair. Peeing in a cup is so much more preferable than that. And I’m on allergy meds, and I keep worrying if one of them will cause me to test positive for meth…but you never get a straight answer out of the testing places on whether or not it does.

    1. Blinx*

      Hair? Oh I wish!!! See my above statement about women not being designed to pee into cups!!

      1. 918 anon*

        I’m a woman and would still rather pee in a cup (or as AAM said above I really would prefer them not to test, especially since they don’t test everyone who works there). However at least I’m not bald; then the hair testing becomes more of an invasion of privacy.

        1. Anonymous*

          This leads to a scary thought – for non-bald people, do they always take from the head, or do they “sample” a variety of hairs? eek…

          1. Anonymous*

            Hair on head is first choice. Then their is a list of choices after that if there is no head hair, which includes all the places hair normally occurrs. You would have to shave/wax ALL your hair to get out of giving a hair sample.

            1. Stephanie*

              And what’s really terrible about hair testing: drug use can be detected six months after the fact. It also is more sensitive to those with darker and thicker hair (so my Afro-wearing self would be in trouble).

    2. Suz*

      To Anonymous on the allergy meds, you have nothing to worry about. Antihistamines are used to treat allergies. Meth is made from pseudoephedrine, which used to be a common ingredient in decongestants but isn’t used as much anymore. . So you’d only risk of a false positive for meth is you take the test when you’re taking meds for a cold.

    3. MikeA*

      Testing hair is better, or worse, depending on your point of view. Unlike urine, which will show drug use over the last 3-6 months, hair testing can show drug abuse over the last 18 months.
      Allergy meds will not interfere. In the old days (the 1980s) polyclonal antibodies were used for these tests, which cross reacted with things like cold meds and poppy seeds. Since the 1990s, the tests have been using monoclonal antibodies that DO NOT cross react. Of course there’s always the chance that someone screws up chain of custody, mixes you up with another specimen, or contaminates your specimen during testing. However, if the test is performed right, then only drugs of abuse will show positive.

      1. MikeA*

        One more thing, because the initial test is a screen, you have the right to insist on a confirmatory test if it comes back positive. The difference is a screen uses antibodies that are specific to the drug and a confirmatory test uses a Chromatography and a Mass Spectrometer to separate and identify the actual drug from the sample. So if you are positive on the screen and you absolutely know that you did not take any drugs, then exercise your right for confirmation.

  25. OP*

    OP here with an update….

    I received clearance on my background check and drug screen Monday evening (phew!) and got my confirmed start date. Since I need to start on 8/13 at my new gig, I called my boss (VP), who is always traveling, to give him a notice over the phone first thing Tuesday morning. Basically I had to give them one day shy of the standard two weeks. Well my boss was furious that I shorted him one day. The CEO, once my boss informed him, thought I was completely unprofessional and told me I should have told him when I started looking for a new job and that two weeks notice is unacceptable. (BTW – if I had told him when I started looking he would have thought I was a traitor and would have fired me eventually because that is the type of person he is – i’ve seen it happen before).

    So basically it was a crap shoot either way. I would have liked to have given a one month notice due to the nature of my position but it just wasn’t possible. And apologized for not being able to do so and told them I will make sure everything is in perfect order before I leave. And I made myself available after I leave for questions. Although, I have a feeling that even if I gave a one month notice they would still be upset that I was leaving. These last two weeks are not going to be fun because they are so angry with me that I am leaving. I only have a few people in upper-management who are truly happy for me and are not concerned with time frame of my notice at all. I really didn’t think that this would be the reaction but it is what is it.

    My goal is to finish strong and provide all the information they need so they feel as good as possible about my departure.

    1. MikeA*

      You did fine. It’s amazing how some companies are infuriated when you give two weeks notice but they have no problem firing you in a day if they so desire. Also, don’t worry about burning bridges, I work in a very small arena and have burned a few bridges in my time. It has never come back to bite me. In fact, I was at a company that had a horrible manager and everyone said they would mention this in their letters of resignation but when they left they didn’t want to burn any bridges. I was the only person to mention it in my letter and guess what? I was the only person who they begged to return a year later when they finally got wise and fired that manager.

  26. Candidate*

    I’m in a similar situation right now. I’ve been at a job for 3 and a half years. I’ve gotten a written job offer with a start date, that they keep saying is too late even though I told them I needed 3 weeks notice to my current job. This week, my boss is out and I can’t give my notice until next week. This is still 2 weeks, and tolerable. Unfortunately, they would like me to turn in my notice before they run the background and drug screen on which my employment offer are contingent. I told them I would like to finalize these items before I give my notice. And the recruiter (Corporate recruiter) basically told me that they would not contact my current employer during the employment verification process, but that it was “up to me” how much notice I want to give… i.e. the start date on the offer is final no matter how long it takes for the background check. And in fact, they are now “raising an eyebrow” because I don’t want to turn in my notice until the offer is 100% final. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable, but also feel that I’m somehow getting off to a bad start… This isn’t a great start to a new job :(

    1. Candidate*

      Oh.. I just re-read and realized I’m making no sense. I’ve gotten a job offer from a different company.

      And the last sentence should be “This isn’t a great WAY to start a new job.”

  27. Lenore*

    This is a very old thread, but I must say one thing wrong with this is that the checks are taking “up to ten business days”. Credit checks take a few minutes. Criminal checks take about 24 hours, unless they involve multiple states and/or special security clearance level checks, in which case they can take up to about five days. Anyone who can’t confirm your employment history and education history in five business days in usually not really trying.

    I hope the OP did not take the job. It is not acceptable to expect anyone to give notice based on a contingent offer.

  28. Guest101*

    I have a job offer right now. They asked it has to pass back ground check and drug test etc…
    Meantime they also want me to give notice to my current employer.

    How should I ask them say, hey I want to make sure once my drug test and back ground test is cleared than I want to give notice not before that.

    There is nothing to hide but wanted to stay safe side.

    Which way should I state or say or request to them so it won’t look bad.

    Please help…..

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Why do they want you to give notice now if you can’t start until that stuff is through? It’s really none of their business when you give notice — just what day you start with them.

  29. Guest101*

    They ask me when can you give notice , I said first week of jan.
    But I want to ask them if everything needs to be clear prior to notice.
    I don’t want them to be think doubtful
    But someway I can ask what should I say?
    Thanks for your response

  30. Mark*

    Just don’t give notice until you have a firm and unqualified offer from the new employer… Right now I am debating giving my employer early notice simply because I know they are going to be in a bind when I leave, but I don’t have a new contract signed yet. So I have not given notice yet.

  31. Zebediah*

    The last employment offer I received was conditional upon background checks. I graciously accepted the offer, politely advising that I’d need to discuss a reasonable notice period with my employer once the checks cleared (as it were).
    The new employer was fine with that.

  32. Thomas*

    I am in a similar boat.

    I started at a software company in 1999. I was convicted of a misdemeanor in 1994. But they didn’t ask and I didn’t volunteer. No hard, no foul. I worked for them for nearly 10 years.

    The next company, also a software company, did an extensive background check. They asked everything about me, addresses for 10 years, employers, salary, you name it. As for my conviction, I simply put the information about the charges, what I did and how I handled it. I mentioned my sentence (2 years probation, 200 hours community service). I was very concerned as I had an issue come up applying for a job in 1996 or 1997. But everything cleared. In fact, the entire process took 2 weeks from the head hunter’s call to the job being offered and having the background check clear.

    I applied for another company, even larger than the one I work for now. I went through the process and got the offer contingent on the background check. However, the application never asked about the details of anything. Just 5 years worth of employers and addresses. Pretty easy, one address, two employers.

    But now I am concerned. It’s good old LexisNexis, whom I understand has an issue with accuracy. And due to that, I think I am going to get denied. If not on my conviction 19 years ago then on my father’s multiple convictions, up to and including manslaughter. We have the same name. Because they will link his name with mine and we had the same addresses at different times (after his arrest, I moved in with my mother as well as growing up in the same house when he was there), I suspect a whole slew of stuff is going to come back on me.

    Its so bad that 15 years ago, his tax lien showed up on my credit report. That was a hassle to remove.

    The joys of companies who spread fear to grow their business but don’t bother maintaining clean data. LexisNexis will do a match based upon similar names, birthdays, birth locations. So two people with slightly different names and born in the same month and year can be linked as a single person in their records. Seems almost criminal to me.

    1. Jamie*

      This is something for which I’d give your contact at the new company a heads up. Make sure whatever judgments they are making about you based on the background check are about you and not your father.

      I know it’s small consolation but I don’t think I would want to work for a company that would take you out of the running for a misdemeanor almost 20 years ago. I can see major crimes giving one pause and even misdemeanors if they were recent – but 1994? If there hasn’t been anything on your record since I really would question the judgment of holding that against someone.

      Good luck.

      1. Thomas*


        I was concerned about it last time but was open and honest about it, including what I did and the fact that I came clean and even cooperated with the investigation.

        It’s a decent, household name, company. I get why they do this, but I’ve been absolutely on the straight and narrow since.

        I contacted LexisNexis right after this email to ensure they are checking me and not my father. Who knows what the next step will be. Time will tell.

  33. Anonymous*

    I have had a similar scenario. They called my current employer. He would not talk to them but got enough out of them to know they were calling to find out a about myself. My employer emailed me and told me they are going to start looking for my replacement. The perspective employer did not get enough information to make an offer. By the way, the perspective employer is Government run.
    Definitely #3

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