Question: I interviewed with a company yesterday and they mentioned that a background check is a standard part of their hiring process. I’m worried what a background check will reveal. What should I do?
Answer: Don’t wait until you’ve been offered the job to address significant negative issues, such as a DUI or a bankruptcy. You don’t want any issues to “surprise” the employer. If you know a background check is part of the hiring process, you will want to disclose information during the interview process (or on the application, if it asks you about current or previous legal or financial problems); otherwise, you risk having the job offer rescinded when the background check reveals an issue.
The most common reasons for not passing a background check are errors of omission, misstatements of facts, and financial and legal problems. Also, your job application is a legal document, so all information on it must be accurate. If a background check identifies a discrepancy you cannot explain, you may lose the job offer.
Another important consideration is that if the job offer is contingent on a successful background check, do not give notice to your current employer until you’ve passed the background check. Otherwise, you might find yourself without a job entirely, if there is a problem with the background check at the new company, and you’ve already given your notice at your current job. Let your new employer know that you will be giving your current company your notice once their offer has been finalized — meaning, when you’ve cleared the background check.
According to a survey conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), 69 percent of employers conduct a criminal background check as part of the hiring process. You will be asked to provide permission to conduct the background check, and you likely will have to sign a release form. If a conviction is revealed through a background check, the employer must consider the nature of the crime, its relevance to the proposed job, and the time that has passed since the offense. If you’re seeking a sales job, a recent arrest for theft is relevant. If you’re applying for a position as an auto mechanic, an arrest for soliciting prostitution — especially if the arrest was several years ago — probably isn’t relevant.
For peace of mind, consider a background/reference checking service like Allison & Taylor Inc.
Question: I’ve been led to believe that I’m getting a job offer — the hiring manager talked about salary and benefits, and even showed me which office would be mine … but I haven’t heard anything from him in two weeks. Now what?
Answer: There are many reasons why a job offer might be late-arriving. Most of them are out of your control. For example, the hiring manager might have had an unexpected project or emergency come up that delayed the job offer. Or the human resources department may have had difficulty connecting with the individuals you listed as references. And sometimes, the hiring process is simply put on hold.
This is why it’s important to ask in the job interview about the timeline. If the hiring manager says you can expect to hear back in one week, you can follow up after a week and ask if there is anything he or she needs from you to move the process along. If the answer is no, ask if it’s okay to follow up again if you haven’t heard anything in another week. By getting permission to follow-up, you don’t have to worry that you’re being a pest.
But what if you didn’t ask about a timeline, or get permission to follow-up? Unfortunately, sometimes you may think you’ve received positive feedback that signals that a job offer is forthcoming, and the offer never comes. In this case, the follow-up call might yield the information that the position has been offered to someone else.
Question: What if I don’t get offered the job? How do I find out why I wasn’t selected?
Answer: The easiest way to find out is to ask. You can send the hiring manager a thank you note that also requests feedback on your candidacy; however, you’re unlikely to get a response unless you follow that up with a phone call or email. And a phone call will probably yield your best chance to find out why, if you can get the hiring manager on the phone.
However, keep in mind that the reason given for most hiring rejections is that another candidate was “more qualified.” That doesn’t necessarily mean that the individual had technical qualifications that more closely matched the job’s requirements. Sometimes, it’s also a matter of “fit” — whether one candidate or another fits in better with the company culture.
Sometimes, if you can get feedback from a hiring manager, you can use the information to position yourself better for the next opportunity. For example, you may find that it’s desirable to have a specific credential or educational background for the type of position you’re seeking. But don’t get too hung up on why you didn’t receive a particular job offer. Instead, focus on what you can do differently in your next interview — recognizing that every “no” gets you closer to your ideal “yes.”
Finally, as several of the scenarios outlined above demonstrate, the hiring process does not always work out, so following up with the hiring manager to thank him or her may lead to a job offer for you, especially if the top candidate turns down the position, withdraws his or her candidacy, or cannot pass the background check.
If, however, you consistently find yourself getting job interviews — but not job offers — then you might consider what you need to change in your interviewing style, or the types of jobs you’re interviewing for — that will increase your chances of securing the job offer. Here’s one of my favorite books on the subject: Interview Magic