how do background checks work?

A reader writes:

I have a question about background screenings. You’ve advised readers before that it’s okay to omit certain university degrees from their resume (especially if they’ve earned more than one) if it was going to hurt their job search. How does a background screening work? Do hiring managers check each university/degree listed one at a time? I always assumed that all degrees and work experience would just be pulled up in a record attached to the person’s social security number.

Nope, there’s no typing in your social security number and getting a nice, neat report on all you’ve done in your life. Companies either verify each item on the resume one at a time (contacting each employer and each school that they want to verify) or hire a background check company to do that for them. (There’s at least one company that provides at least a partial employment report, but it’s not comprehensive in most cases, particularly where smaller employers are concerned.)

So background checkers are unlikely to know that you attended a particular school that isn’t listed on your resume unless (a) someone else in your background check mentions it to them, (b) they see student loans from that school on your credit report if they’re also running a credit check (which is less common and generally only done for certain types of positions, such as those handling money), or (c) they find out some other way, like seeing some mention of it online.

The exception to this is the sort of extremely thorough background checks that the federal government does for some security clearances, where they interview people who know you; in a detailed check like that, it’s more likely to come up because there’s more of a chance someone they talk to will mention it. But those security checks also generally require you to list everything in your background, rather than picking and choosing anyway.

All this said, when I’ve talked about the fact that advanced degrees can sometimes hurt you more than help you in job searching and suggested that it’s fine to leave them off your resume, that doesn’t mean that you should go out of your way to hide a degree either. You might choose not to lead with it, or to include it on your resume at all, but you shouldn’t actively try to hide it (and you absolutely shouldn’t lie about if directly asked).

Rather, the idea is that your resume is a marketing document, not a comprehensive accounting of everything you’ve ever done, and if listing an advanced degree won’t strengthen your candidacy (and might hurt it), you’re not under any obligation to include it. But you don’t want to mislead people either, and an advanced degree isn’t a dirty secret that you need to hide or pretend didn’t happen just because you didn’t list it on your resume.

{ 79 comments… read them below }

  1. businesslady*

    I’m sorry, but this is simply not true–background checks are conducted by meticulously reviewing your Permanent Record, which is why you really should’ve listened to your 3rd grade teacher when she told you to spit out that gum. :)

    1. Anonymous*

      Semi-related: when I applied for admission to the bar, I had to disclose any discipline I had been subjected to after middle school. So, in the interests of full disclosure, I wrote that I had been part of a group of kids caught with alcohol at my senior prom and I had missed my senior trip to a resort in the Catskills because of it. (Very “Donna Martin Graduates,” I know.) Amazingly, the Character & Fitness interviewer actually said to me (I was now almost 27), “Well, this is why you don’t do stuff like that. It can really come back to haunt you.”

      And then proceeded to tell me about the time he caught his kids having a booze-fueled, drug-laced party in his own basement with all of their classmates.

      Lawyers. The End.

      1. some1*

        I’ve always wanted to start a 90’s cover band called Donna Martin Graduates. Too bad I can’t sing or play an instrument.

      2. Also Anonymous*

        My character and fitness reviewer questioned why I would ever go to community college. I don’t think they prep those people nearly well enough for the job that they do.

      3. Anonymous*

        Wow my reviewer didn’t even mention my disclosure that I was caught with alcohol in my dorm room when I was underage.

      4. Evan*

        any discipline I had been subjected to after middle school.

        Well, there was this one time my mom told me not to yell in the house…

        Oh, you mean discipline by school? I was actually homeschooled at the time, so…

        Of course; I’ll be glad to come back once you’ve rephrased your questions…

      5. Jess*

        Middle school? That’s impressive…and unbelievably nutty. Even the federal gov’t security clearance doesn’t require disclosure of anything before your 18th birthday.

      6. Anonlawyer*

        How ridiculous. Sounds like that guy was just transferring his anger at his kids onto you. The bar application is a huge nightmare, it took me months to fill that thing out right before and during first semester of 1L. I love the update they asked for too when I was getting ready to apply for my license after the bar. They asked me to update them on mental health/drug issues, etc. The usual stuff. It asked if I had developed any MH/drug problems between 1L and now. I wanted to say “Thanks to your idiotic paperwork, yes I do in fact have homicidal ideations AND the stress of filling this shit out has caused me to take up smoking meth. Thanks a lot!”

  2. blu*

    I’ll throw in that we rarely compare your resume to the background check unless we see something wonky, like dramatically different job titles when you submit the background consent. Think we are hiring you as a Project Manager which corresponding resume, then on the background check you list yourself as Shift Manager at previous job. Even then we will come back to the candidate to discuss the discrepancy before we take action because who knows, maybe your previous employer used weird titles. It wouldn’t raise any red flags if you had a degree that you didn’t previously mentioned. The point of the check is to catch those who claim to have a degree and don’t etc.

      1. blu*

        Wow yeah. That’s exactly what a background check is for. Though I will say, you can potentially hide things like that if you move away and don’t disclose the previous jurisdiction you lived in. Unfortunately, there is no single nationwide crime database/warehouse.

  3. CCD*

    I think it’s important to understand what TYPE of background check they are preforming… Criminal, Financial, Resume, Third Grade Track Record for Running with Scissors while Chewing Gum, etc.

    Some of which will make no difference what degrees you hold, others it will look odd if you didn’t mention it.

  4. MB*

    Education is something that my company takes very seriously (too seriously for some positions, in my opinion). We outsourse our background checks, and people have lost possible job offers due to inconsistencies in their resumes & interviews compared to the background checks, and the one I hear about most frequently is education/certification. If you list a specific degree on your resume from one school, but you have more than one degree from that school or school system, you may as well list them all. You could cause confusion by only listing one. Now, if one degree is from University of CA and the other is University of FL and you only want to list one, that shouldn’t cause any problem. But if you have two masters from UF, you might as well list both.

    1. Sadsack*

      Why does your organization get all the way to the background check and then disqualify someone for simply omitting a degree that is irrelevant to the position your are filling?

      1. Lia*

        At my employer, having the minimum-level degree earned is usually a required qualification, but transcripts are not required until the offer is made. So, sometimes we get to the final stage and have to fail it because the person lacks the degree they said they had.

        I have been involved in searches that failed due to a candidate lacking a degree. In one case I recall, the candidate’s resume stated simply “University of XYZ, Business Administration”, but did not state a degree or a year. No year, that’s ok. But a quick call to the University XYZ registrar confirmed no degree had been awarded: candidate was about 20 credits shy.

        I also know of a recent case where a staff member reported that s/he had earned a graduate degree while working for the organization. If you have an advanced degree, you get a salary bump in certain titles, like the one this person was in. During a routine audit, someone found out they never got a final transcript for this person (AFTER s/he had gotten the extra salary for like 2 years!) and asked for one. After hemming and hawing, one was provided that showed…one graduate level course. The staff member was told that s/he had the option of resigning then and no mention of the deception would be made to future employers, or they could stay and deal with the fallout (which would include paying back all that extra money). I heard they were out by the end of the day.

        1. Aunt Vixen*

          Twenty credits shy? Most universities I know, that’s at least a full semester’s worth of work. Close to two in some cases. I have before me a FAQ for an MBA program that requires 54 credit hours to complete – so being 20 credits shy would be juuust a bit over halfway done with the (two-year) degree.

          Now I’m trying to think about a sophomore who did summer school claiming to have graduated from college. Aie.

          1. Anonymous*

            Which is why the person wrote “Business Administration”, and not “Bachelor of Business Administration”. Do people who earn degrees routinely leave out the “Bachelor of” part?

        2. Aunt Vixen*

          But your earlier post said people could lose a job for *not* acknowledging a degree they *do* have, which is the converse of this situation. And the source, I think, of Sadsack’s confusion.

        3. Jax*

          This is a horrible practice. The person is qualified, experienced, and stood out from all other candidates in the interview. But she’s 20 credits short from that degree she was working on in 1998 so the company cuts her loose!

          Our country puts way too much importance on an overpriced slip of paper. Is it worth $15,000 – $20,000 of student loan debt for the applicant to wrap that degree up and check a box off on the employers list? Especially when she already proved herself competent in every other way that mattered?

          /end rant

          1. Observer*

            The problem is not the degree, but the fact that she lied about it. If you are only half way through a degree, you don’t have it. Don’t list it. Period.

            1. Hiring Manager*

              Well, it can and should be listed but with a notation like “anticipated completion date of X”.

            2. Anonymous*

              I still don’t see the lie. The person did study Business Administration at the named university. They did not claim to have a Bachelor of anything.

              1. Lia*

                In this case, the posting stated a degree was required. The candidate did not have one but applied anyway. When we confirmed that no degree existed, we had to drop the candidate from consideration, because in our organization, job postings cannot be adjusted after posting to fit a candidate: the candidate must meet the required elements to get hired.

      2. MB*

        I didn’t say they disqualify someone for not mentioning a degree that they do have. I said that if you have more than one from the same school or school system it might cause some confusion. Registrars make mistakes. Once we had someone put on their resume that they had a masters in taxation. They didn’t put down that they also had a masters in an unrelated field (I don’t recall which one). The registrar mentioned the unrelated field but not the taxation. Luckily it was resolved but why not put both if it’s the same school?

        They have rescinded offers and finally learned not to make offers until background checks are complete because people have flat out lied about their education, similar to the examples others have provided in other comments.

  5. ZSD (Formerly Z, but now easier to differentiate from others)*

    On the issue of the credit report, I recently got a more thorough one than usual (from a credit monitoring company rather than the free one you can get each year), and it showed my previous employer as my current employer. Is this worth worrying about, and does anyone know how to correct it?
    (Sorry if this is a tangent.)

    1. fposte*

      So where is this monitoring agency getting a report from? Is it from the credit card bureaus, and if so, do you know which one? (You’re actually entitled to three free reports each year, BTW, one from each from Transunion, Equifax, and Experian–you can spread them around so you can get one from somewhere every four months.)

    2. Emily*

      I wouldn’t worry about it. My understanding is that information comes from your previous applications for credit. As long as there isn’t an employer you’ve never worked for listed, you should be fine. If there is, you might want to review the rest of the report a little more thoroughly for signs of identity theft.

    3. ZSD (Formerly Z, but now easier to differentiate from others)*

      Thanks, both! The report told me which of the credit card bureaus the info came from, but I don’t remember which it was off the top of my head.

  6. Chrissi*

    Oh the federal government background checks are a beast!! List every address and job for the last 7 years as well as 3 references that can vouch for each address or something like that (this was when I was 22 so I had to separately list every dormitory address). My brother had it much worse. He had moved around so much, I’m not sure he actually remembered every single job and address in that 7 year stretch. And for his they actually did show up and interview all or most of his references (probably 15 or so people), whereas they just called a couple of mine (my security clearance is lower than his).

    1. Tina*

      My best friend has worked for several federal agencies, and interviewed for a few others. I had agents and/or outsourced investigators come to my home and my office. Some of the questions related to so long ago and were so obscure, I couldn’t even begin to remember! You want to know what month in college we met? And how many times we communicated with each other the summer after our freshman year in college? Thankfully, that first reference interview was the worst/most detailed, the future ones weren’t quite as obscure.

      1. H. Vane*

        Heh, my sister actually performed those highly meticulous background checks. They want to know practically everything. Some of the stories she came home with though…

        1. Tina*

          There was at least one who wasn’t as meticulous. He got lost for half an hour just trying to find my house. I wasn’t too confident in his investigative skills lol.

      2. De Minimis*

        Had to be secret or possibly top secret clearances.

        I’ve heard a lot depends on the investigator too…some of my coworkers had to be re-interviewed to get their clearances renewed [they’re only good for so many years] and one of the investigators seemed really focused on people’s living situations, their spouses/children, etc. Seemed a little over the line to me.

        1. Meg*

          My clearance is good for 5 years, but I just got a packet in the mail about refreshing or something or another. Shrug. Both my brother and I have security clearances (he got his first – military). I remember being at work and having some FBI-looking dude come in unannounced, ask for me, and then freak out my entire location, making them think I did something.

          About a year later, a different FBI-looking dude came to my job to do MY interviews (interviewing a few people about me) for my clearance and federal background check. And then a few weeks later, I was gone. I had a few co-workers assume I had been locked up in a federal prison or something. Definitely interesting to bystanders witnessing this.

          1. De Minimis*

            My agency has an odd way of doing it, you don’t start the process until you’re already on the job, and I was there around 4 months before the investigator even interviewed me about my clearance application, so I very well could have worked there a few months then been fired after being deemed unsuitable.

            In the past we have had people work here a while and then decide to quit instead of going through the background check process.

            It’s not just federal either, a former private sector employer had people on the job at least a couple of months even when their background checks had not been completed.

            1. Lynn Whitehat*

              I would still rather do it that way than the normal way of not hiring you until you pass. Because the normal way, they have to talk to your current boss and co-workers months (possibly many months) before they can offer you the job, and you can easily find yourself out of a job for months until the clearance process is complete. Or possibly longer than that, if they withdraw the offer for other reasons or you are rejected for the clearance.

              When I worked in Clearance World, they hired us first on a six-month contract, then made us permanent and started the clearance process if both sides wanted to continue. I thought that was good because it’s a big investment on both sides, plus it prevents the Catch-22 described above. Before you even started the contract, you could talk to the security officer about any concerns, to see if you were likely to pass.

              1. De Minimis*

                I see the finances so I think I know why they do it this way…we are charged by OPM for the background checks, and for any place that has more than a handful of employees the dollars add up quick. If they did them say for 2-3 finalists for each position it would be cost prohibitive.

    2. Aunt Vixen*

      Mine asked for ten years. And when I did the re-up, the investigator asked for three names of people she could talk to; and when I gave her those three names, she asked if I had a couple more. I finally said (a) Look, if you ask me for three names, I’m going to come with three names; if you want five, you should say so in the first place. And (b) when you exclude people I’m related to and don’t let me use the same reference for any two questions on your form – if someone confirms that I lived at that address between dates x and y, they want to ask someone else how much I drink – you’ve pretty much got the names of everyone who knows me well enough to answer any of your questions. She dropped it and my recert was confirmed and everything was fine.

      But in the initial go-round with the particular Types of Tests you have to go through, man, it’s beyond criminal check, it’s anything you’ve ever done at all wrong. If you still have guilt about running with scissors, you might as well tell them and get it off your chest so the machine doesn’t go “ping”.

      Conversely, I said You know, sometimes I drive by myself in the HOV lane. I know I’m not supposed to, but I do, and I’m not even all that sorry. If I got caught, I’d pay the fine, but I’d probably do it again.

    3. Jubilance*

      When I applied for my clearance, it took me a week and I never would have gotten through it without my mom, who had all the addresses of all my dorms and the apartments I lived in when I was an intern each summer. And then listing every job I ever had was an absolute pain as well.

    4. Sarah*

      I was a reference for a coworker’s federal background check, and it was one of the most intense interviews I’ve ever had. The guy kept asking misleading questions which made me feel like he thought I was lying the entire time. I can’t even imagine what it’s like when it’s your own background check being done.

  7. De Minimis*

    There are different levels of federal checks, the lower level ones probably would not care so much about education unless it was recent. I went to a number of colleges in the process of getting my bachelor’s degree, but I’m old enough to where that isn’t really an issue for background checks since it was too long ago.

    Also, for federal jobs you usually have to submit transcripts during the application process so that simplifies things as far as education.

    It seems like the biggest thing they look at are addresses. They want to know every address you’ve been at for the last so many years [think at least 7 years, more for the higher level clearances.]
    And then they want one person who knew you while you were at each address. For a lower level check they’ll probably just simple forms to the people you list–at the higher levels is where they start interviewing neighbors.

    The investigator I spoke with said the people who tend to have the most issues are military people who move around a lot and/or have spent a lot of time outside the US. They don’t always remember every place they’ve lived, and that can make it tough.

    1. De Minimis*

      I should add, I have what I think is the lowest level clearance there is, so mine was not nearly that difficult.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Police departments and other law enforcement agencies want all that too. I applied for an internship with the local PD once when I was a crim major (didn’t get it, though it was close), and I really had to dig to find everything they wanted. Lucky for me I have this pack rat thing about saving old address books.

      My ex is a federal agent. His was even worse.

      1. De Minimis*

        I think that’s when they get out the polygraph. I’ve heard if an applicant fails it, they are forever disqualified, not sure if that is actually true.

        1. annie*

          I hate the polygraph thing. I had a friend who was the most straight-laced rule-abiding guy in the world, and he failed the question on if he had ever smoked pot. He actually never had as he had hoped his entire life to work in law enforcement and avoided any contact with anything remotely illegal, however I guess he was so nervous during the interview it threw off the machine or something. He offered to retake the test, submit to drug testing, offer any references, but they refused. The FBI lost out on an amazing candidate.

        2. Aunt Vixen*

          It may be that if you fail you’re barred, but there’s a world of “not conclusive” between success and failure.

          Took the Polygraph More than Once

  8. Brett*

    For our (public safety) background checks in the US, we can not only get your transcripts, but a list of what other education institutions received your transcript (all of this is in a centralized database of transcript requests between education institutions). So, if you leave off a graduate degree, but your undergrad transcripts were sent to 4 other schools, the background investigator will call those 4 other schools to verify enrollment on you.

    Also, your 1098-T forms shows up on your 4506-T transcript, and those list every school you ever paid tuition to.

    But your resume is not a legal document like your application. As long as you included the school on your application (or background check form) you will be okay. It will not matter that it was left off your resume.

    1. athek*

      This is a really good point. Every place that has run a background check on me has had me fill out a different form, and I knew it was specifically for background check purposes, and therefore I had the ability to disclose things.
      Things also totally depend on where you are applying and having the background check done. I worked on this at two different companies and we only verified the information that was given to us ( in terms of work and education history).

  9. O*

    When I got an internship at a federal agency, got to fill out the non-security background paperwork, the one everyone who is going to work in the building has to fill out, between college, home and grad school in another state, was fun filling out the residency, plus they want 3 references for each, preferably someone who still lived in the area, well I had no idea if I could use the same people for the same address, but different years (i.e. lived at home before college, lived at home after college, and after grad school) so I put down separate people for each instance. Most were family friends that got a nice minor panic attack when they got forms in the mail b/c based on the return address couldn’t tell what it was about but thought the govt. was after them. Forgot to warn them, opps! plus I had a minor stress attack when asked for at least 6 years employment history and I only had 4 years

  10. Jen S. 2.0*

    I think in my head, your resume needs to be honest, BUT honest doesn’t mean that you have to put every possible thing on it. It means that everything that IS on it is 100% true. I expect that most people will have trimmed irrelevant or very old information, and I also expect that people include the information that paints them in the best light. That means most people have a subset of their history on any given resume. You can’t fit everything into a document of reasonable length, especially as you get well past entry level. So, if you have 2 BAs and 2 MAs, but only one of each is relevant, it’s fine to list just those.

    Now, I do draw a distinction between “trimming irrelevant information” and “big fat lies of omission about being fired for theft and fraud.” The employer does have some responsibility to research candidates and check references to make sure that they have the relevant information they need to make the hire; that’s the kind of information that comes out in the “researching candidates” stage. (And if you don’t like that, don’t steal and lie.)

    1. Elizabeth*

      “your resume needs to be honest, BUT honest doesn’t mean that you have to put every possible thing on it. It means that everything that IS on it is 100% true.”

      Yet another way in which job-searching and dating can parallel… your online dating profile shouldn’t have a summary of every relationship you’ve been in, but you shouldn’t claim to be an astronaut when really you just have been to the planetarium a bunch.

      1. Jamie*

        Very well put.

        Don’t forget there is a lot of peace of mind to be had by getting a job on your own real merits. It would be too humiliating to every day fail to live up to fictional me I created to get in the door.

        Where as now if they need me to do brain surgery I can point to the lack of experience in that area when they hired me.

  11. Interviewer*

    I’ll tell you what the education check consisted of from our background check vendor: the company called the school records department and provided the name and pertinent data of the former student. The company then offered info from the candidate’s application, like such & such degree was earned in a particular major, and the date of graduation. The school then confirmed the info provided was true according to their records, or not true. Sometimes they wanted to verify the authorization to release information and would return information in writing.

    The report from the background check company would indicate if the candidate’s information was confirmed or not. If not, there was a red flag with a note on what didn’t match (i.e., graduated a year later, wrong major listed, etc.). It was my job to decide if that info was worth following up on. Nine times out of 10, it was someone calling their decades-old degree one thing, and the school called it something else (i.e., “Biology” vs. “Life Science”), and I never bothered to follow up on that. If someone told me they had a degree on their application, but the school said they never graduated, I’d definitely call the candidate to ask for a clarification of the discrepancy between their application and what we learned from the background check company.

    It cost us extra money to verify more than one degree. So we always verified the last degree earned or last school attended. We did not go back to verify high school diplomas if they had earned a bachelors degree. We did verify if someone merely attended school but did not graduate. (NOTE: not everyone contracts with a service, and some HR departments check every single thing. This is just how my employer set up their background check package.)

    In 15 years, I cannot recall ever learning through a background check that someone had more/higher degrees than listed on the application . But it is probably because I am working in an industry that requires higher education (law degree).

  12. Smilingswan*

    I am currently waiting on a background check to start a job. The job is a contract-to-hire one through a staffing agency, in the medical billing field for a regional service center (billing office) for a major multi-state for-profit hospital group. In theory, I will be eligible for conversion to direct employment with the company after a certain number of hours are completed through the staffing agency, assuming my productivity is in line with business needs, and assuming I am the right fit for the job (and vice versa).

    I am very concerned about a possible credit check (although how my unemployment/recession economy driven bad-credit could possibly effect my work ability, effort, or ethic is beyond me). My credit is in the toilet, due to the aforementioned unemployment (which has been off-and-on since November 2009- I’ve had 3 short-term jobs since, none of them close together) and going back to school to get a diploma in medical billing and coding (I already have a BA in art history that I can’t pay for).

    Does anyone know whether it’s likely that they will perform a credit check? I’ve been waiting a week, and have been told that the background check is not complete. Is this a normal time-frame, or is it taking extra long? They do use an outside agency to run their checks.

    1. De Minimis*

      Have they told you they are doing a credit check? I think in many cases they have to tell you if that’s part of their background check. Probably not everywhere, though.

      1. Hiring Manager*

        In the U.S., they have to comply with FCRA when doing a credit check as part of a background check. They must provide you with notice that they are doing a check and you will have to authorize it. See my comment below for more.

    2. Hiring Manager*

      Depending on the state in which you live, they may not be doing credit checks as part of a standard pre-employment background screening. For example, in California the law was recently changed because of the recession and high unemployment. Unless the position involves access to money/banking info, a poor result on a credit check can’t be the reason to reject a candidate. Therefore most reputable background check companies have stopped conducting the credit portion. I work in legal and we conduct background checks on all new hires. We only run credit checks on new partners and folks joining our finance department. Previous to the law change, we checked every new hire’s credit. I know some other states enacted similar laws in an effort to help those whose credit took a hit through the recession.

      1. The Clerk*

        Wouldn’t a medical biller be considered as having access to financial info? It always seemed to me like that was a glaring loophole, because even a cashier at Walmart has access to money, or a receptionist might have the key to $50 in petty cash.

        1. Hiring Manager*

          I think you’re confusing access to money as access to finance/bank info. $50 petty cash is de minimis. I’m not a medical biller but my understanding is that it involves coding and submitting to insurance. You’re not dealing with money or finance/bank info.

          1. Loose Seal*

            I know a doctor in private practice who hired a medical biller that freelanced with several small doctor’s offices. About a year and a half later, they discovered her billing for additional services and separating out those insurance checks and depositing them in her own account, to the tune of over $150,000 (from that doctor’s office; my doctor friend was not made aware of the final figures she diverted from the other doctor’s offices).

            1. Smilingswan*

              Yikes! That’s terrible. No danger of that here, I assure you. Also, I imagine it would be kind of difficult to do at this place, since it’s a multi-state hospital conglomerate. I’ll be just one cog in the wheel amongst many.

      2. Smilingswan*

        The background check authorization form did include a credit check as a possibility, but I assumed that was standard language for the form. They did not specifically say they were going to do one, and I was afraid to ask. However, I just googled the law (due to your response- thanks, I had no idea one might even exist), and found a site that breaks down the labor law regarding credit checks for each state! Here’s the link, for anyone else who may be concerned.
        Whew! I’m so relieved, you have no idea! :)

        1. Smilingswan*

          I got a call today advising me I had passed the background check, and will start work on 3/10. I am so excited for this opportunity. :)

    3. athek*

      Even if they do run a credit check, you might be able to check with someone ahead of time what they do with that info and how it might into the hiring decision.
      I worked for a financial services firm that scrutinized this info quite heavily, and I work for an IT firm that didn’t. At the IT firm, I was in charge of the background checks…. and I was really surprised how many candidates had filed for bankruptcy. But, I don’t recall ever turning anyone down for that specific reason.

  13. tango*

    I think there’s one important thing to remember. Resumes are marketing documents with the goal of getting you interviewed. But in my experience it’s the formal application you either complete on line when you submit your resume or do in person if called for an interview that is used to compare against for the background check. I’ve never had a job where I didn’t have to complete a formal application and sign it.

    That doesn’t mean half lies on your resume to get an interview and think that as long as you’re honest on the paper app you fill out you’ll be ok. I think both are compared against each other to some degree and any major discrepancies are evaluated. And nowadays, online applications pull data from the resume and prefill it.

    My employer is very picky with their back ground checks. Any date discrepancies have to be explained. I accepted my previous job in August, but did not start until Sept since I had an overseas trip planned the second half of August. When my current employer did the check and the past employer said I started in August, I had to explain why the month difference and/or submit pay stubs if I had them to prove Sept was my first month! I almost thought I’d have to bring in my passport to show the stamps to prove I was out of the country the last part of August! I had to provide certificates of completion for continuing education classes I took at the local CC which weren’t even for academic credit! I had to pass a credit check and a drug check too. Let me put it this way: I had to provide more information and jump through more hoops to get my current job than I did to join the Air Force where I had a job that required a security clearance!

    1. lampshade*

      and I bet the job (sadly) pays less than the Air Force. Yes, I had more ridiculous, multiple fingerprints, background, lifestyle, neighbors, etc forms to do working at a call center for $11 p/h than I have when I had a real job that involved millions of dollars, teams, global work and stuff. Does HR really think this improves employee retention or gets the best candidates? Making me sign a document that says they have the right to investigate my lifestyle for $11 p/h?!

  14. Mel*

    I used to work for a company that did background checks. We called and verified everything that was on resumes and applications, and nothing that wasn’t. So if someone lied about having a degree on a resume, we always caught them. However, lies by omission were completely safe.

  15. kim*

    I recently accepted a position, offer letter signed. The company doing the background check could only verify my associates degree and not my bachelors. The company apparently uses a national database instead of calling the school to verify. Only an associates degree is required for the position and I have provided the employer proof from the school. Im freaking out because ive already submitted my two week notice to my current employer. If i am not given the position could this be negligence on the companes part?

  16. bill johnson*

    I recently accepted an offer, i did the omisson thing and left out two jobs I had in the previous year. But in place i said I was traveling overseas that time off, this was only half true. I was traveling but it was only for a fraction of the stated time period . The background check does want my passport because of this and to list any addresses i lived at over the past 10 years, permanent or not. They want this not to confirm any jobs i didn’t list(which i think is reasonable that i chose not to), but to confirm I didn’t have a criminal record in those listed countries.(which I don’t, the biggest offense of my life is a speeding ticket) Should I be worried?

  17. Vitale*

    I was wondering if you can put my mind at ease. I applied and interview with a postion for the state I live in. I got a rejecion email but they added my name to an eligibility list. I got a call 2 days later saying that things had changed in the office and they were going to send me a form for a criminal history check, they were also going to check my refernces then make a decision. They said it usally takes to 3 days. I did not receive a job offer. I signed it. It’s been 1 today. Is a state criminal check more intense than one for normal companies? What do they check, if so? Who do they call for refrences? Am I the only one they’re checking? Am I running against others? I am so nervous. I have nothing to hide but I still think that they will find something and not give me my dream job. Please help!

    Sorry about this being so long…

  18. Ravi*

    I have a query.

    If an employee clubs 5 or 6 work place experiences into 2 big ones covering the same end to end tenure.

    Would that be serious offence?

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