What To Do When Your Candidate Fails A Background Check

What causes a failed background check?

On paper, you have the best candidate for the job. They interviewed well, have a wealth of experience, a handful of references, and the right character profile for the role.

You offer them employment and start the background check process.

But in the middle of your checks, you find something…and it’s a red flag (or several!).

Now, you don’t know whether to offer them the job. Do you hire them and risk legal, financial, and reputational damage to your company?

If your candidate fails your background check process, what do you do?

We look at five ways in which to approach a failed background check.

But first…

What Causes A Failed Background Check

Oftentimes, a candidate fails their checks because the information provided is incorrect. This can be resolved simply by asking your candidate to review and resubmit certain details.

In other instances, failed background checks occur for one of the following reasons:

A Criminal History Is Revealed

It is estimated around 20% of the UK population have a criminal record.

A candidate with a criminal history may not be able to work if the laws and regulations of the industry require a clean criminal history. For example, if your candidate appears to be on any DBS barred lists, then they are not legally allowed to work with any children of vulnerable adults.

However, if you feel your candidate’s criminal history will not affect their ability to do the job, then you can legally hire that individual. The risks to your organisation depend on the nature of the convictions, and you may conclude that the convictions do not matter.

We discuss criminal record checks in more detail here.

Education, Employment And/Or Reference Discrepancies

Inconsistencies found within your candidate’s education/employment history and references can raise a red flag.

The things to look out for (and investigate further) include:

  • Large employment gaps
  • Seemingly fraudulent certificates
  • Providing referees from companies that have ceased trading
  • References supplied without a company email address
  • Incomplete dates or conflicting timelines

Poor Driving History

Appropriate action should be taken if your candidate has a poor driving history (including disqualification, points, etc). But only if they are driving on behalf of the company.

Note: even if they will be driving their own vehicle, you will still need to perform a DVLA check.

Incomplete References

Once significant cause for alarm is when you do not hear back from your candidate’s references. The reasons can vary why (e.g., the referee no longer works for the company, or the company has ceased trading).

If you don’t hear back from a referee within a specific timeframe, then you will need to ask your candidate to supply alternative references. If an employment reference cannot be provided, then ask your candidate to supply payslips from the beginning and end date of the employment period (or a P45 showing the end date).

A Poor Credit History

If your candidate will be handling monies or giving financial advice, then of course they should have a good credit history. If their credit history is poor, this may affect their ability to perform the role and may impose risks to your business (e.g., theft). At this stage, you should analyse what has caused their poor credit rating and determine whether it matters for the role.

The Documents Provided Are Fraudulent

The general rule of thumb is to withdraw an offer of employment if any of your candidate’s documents (ID, educational certificates, etc) are fraudulent.

Without authentic ID documents, you cannot complete a right to work check, which would make hiring the candidate illegal.

Failed Medical Or Drug Test

Medical and drug tests are specific to roles where a good, clean bill of health is required to perform the role. For example, a first-class medical certificate is required for all pilots involved in commercial aviation. This ensures a pilot does not encounter health problems whilst on duty that could endanger crew and passengers.

Under the Equality Act 2010, you cannot ask candidates health questions before they are offered employment (to prevent discrimination). If your candidate fails a medical and/or drug test, then you can withdraw an offer of employment.

The above points are just a few things that can lead to a background check failure. To ensure you handle failures appropriately and compliantly, you must do the following:

1) Create, Maintain, And Follow A Company Policy

Assuming your company has an employment screening policy, you should also have a policy and procedure that deals with background checks failures.

The procedure must analyse each type of background check your company runs, the types of failures you might expect, and steps to deal with each failure.

In addition, it is important that your procedure prevents discrimination in any form against the candidate. One way to prevent discrimination is to implement the same procedure for all candidates (regardless of their race, religion, gender, etc).

2) Complete An Assessment

After you have consulted your company’s policy, you should complete an assessment of the failed background check/s before contacting your candidate.

This assessment should evaluate the nature of the failed check/s, and a decision should be made on an approach.

For example, if your candidate has a criminal history with unspent convictions, you should assess the potential impact this may have on your business. It may be that the nature of the conviction is irrelevant to the role, in which case you may still decide to hire the candidate.

There are many things you need to look out for when conducting background checks, which we discuss in more detail here.

3) Contact Your Candidate

Now that you have an assessment, you must contact your candidate.

At this stage, you need to provide the candidate a timeframe to provide clarification and/or further information.

4) Make A Decision

After your candidate has provided clarification and more information, you now have to decide whether to hire them.

The decision might be straightforward. For example, your candidate provided insufficient information and documents to run a right to work check. Therefore, you cannot offer them work.

However, in other instances, you have to put more thought in. For example, if your candidate has a poor credit history, and the role requires money-handling, this could be a reason not to offer then the job. But if the role doesn’t require money-handling, then is a poor credit history relevant?

5) Inform Your Candidate In Writing Of Your Decision

Now that you have made a decision, you must inform the candidate how you will proceed with their application.

If an aspect of your candidate’s background checks deterred you from offering them work, then the reason must be made clear to them.

It is important to note that your decision is not one that is discriminatory or biased in any way.

Getting The Right Data And Documents From Your Candidates

A time-consuming (often costly) part of the background check process is obtaining the data and documents you need from your candidates.

This is where you can ask your candidates to use Employment Check App. 

Employment Check App is free for candidates to use and is designed to streamline your screening and onboarding process; reducing costs and saving time.

Employment Check App allows candidates to supply their data and documents to your company with ease.

In addition, candidates can complete background checks, with instant results, including:

  • DBS basic
  • Right to work
  • Credit check
  • Sanctions search

You can find out more about Employment Check App here.

Preventing Failed Background Checks

Handling background check failures starts with a policy that is regularly audited to prevent non-compliance, discrimination, and company damage.

It is also important to note that once your candidate has been hired, you still have to perform background checks on them on an annual basis (DVLA, credit check, DBS, etc).

The whole process can be time-consuming and ineffective without a system in place.

Therefore, it is worth considering the benefits of Employment Check Pro.

Employment Check Pro is a secure, fast, and robust platform that offers instant employment checks. Its easy to use and has helped all our clients manage all elements of the screening and recruitment process.

Employment Check Pro - Background Check Software

It is designed for all sectors, including aviation, education, healthcare, recruitment, and more.

And not only is it secure, but it is also fast and fully GDPR-compliant.

Pro adds value to both your organisation and to your candidate. Save time and reduce paperwork; all whilst maintaining compliance.

Learn more about Pro here or complete the contact form below to book a demo.

    Further Reading

    Background Checks – 10 Common Misconceptions

    How Employment Checks Can Reduce Staff Turnover

    5 Quick Ways To Ensure Employment Checks Compliance

    10 Reasons To Invest In Pre-Employment Background Checks/Screening

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