The Importance of Honesty in Employment Background Checks

Let’s face it, even the best of the “goody two shoes” among us have told a little white lie before.  You know the type, those harmless, make everyone’s feelings happy, protect yours or someone else’s ego, that really don’t harm anyone, kind of lies.  It seems even White House staffers have been known to lay down some untruths from time to time.  

While this may be fine and dandy, even useful, in our day to day personal interactions, telling a seemingly innocent lie on a professional document such as a resume or cover letter can lead to serious career repercussions.  Similarly, few things can torpedo a guaranteed job offer like lying on the all-important background check.

A background check is a routine method that most employers use to help ensure their new hires aren’t going to turn into liabilities down the road.  Covering items such as work history, education, credit scores and even criminal records, background checks vary in scope from position to position and company to company.  All background checks usually begin by asking the prospective employee to supply a minimum set of information, which is then expanded on and verified through the use of a specialty service.  Here we delve into the importance of honesty in employee background checks and the specific areas that can get you in trouble if you’re caught telling tall tales.

  1. Education

While the specific degree required will vary by job title, it’s important to disclose accurate information regarding your degrees, diplomas, and even GPA if asked as part of an employment background check.  Many professional positions require specific degrees, licenses or certifications. Failing to meet these can not only cost you your job but potentially your ability to be employed in the field in the future.  Even if your company doesn’t have specific requirements, be honest in the schools attended and degrees attain fewer falsehoods come back to bite you in the end.

  1. Reason for Leaving

If you left your previous job on less than stellar terms, covering up the circumstances with white lies is the worst approach to take in a new position.  Maybe you had personality clashes, HR issues, or the job just wasn’t as advertised. Be truthful but professional in expressing that the position just wasn’t a good fit.

If you were fired or otherwise dismissed from a previous position, it’s important to note this up front.  One of the highest ranked traits among managers is the ability of employees to take responsibility for their actions.  If you’re a quality candidate, your new hiring manager may be more than willing to overlook minor blemishes, but you’ll need to be upfront and have an honest conversation in order to move on and build trust with your new employer.  

  1. Felony Convictions

The amount of information you’ll need to disclose regarding any prior criminal activity or arrest record will vary.  If you’re applying for a job as a preschool teacher, for example, every speeding ticket may be a required disclosure. For other jobs, only felony convictions or arrests involving drugs may need to be listed.

The important thing to remember is to read the requirements of the job your applying for carefully.  Arrest records are often a routine part of any background check and failing to disclose the information can damaging to your ability to be gainfully employed.

  1. Work Experience

While this may not seem like the kind of information that falls into the “background check” category, many hiring managers will utilize employment verification as part of their due diligence on new hires.  After all, a candidate’s prior relevant experience is typically a large part of the reason they landed the job in the first place. It only makes sense, then, that someone would confirm you have the skills and history you’ve claimed.

Accuracy in your work experience disclosure is critical to not only your background check process but also overall happiness in the new position.  Fully disclose not only prior employers but also job titles and critical responsibilities. If you accomplished a major task or claim to have implemented a large initiative and this information was important in the decision to hire you, chances are someone will follow up on the facts.

  1. Don’t Skimp on the Details

As a final important note when it comes to honesty in your employment application, background checks are not the place to hedge or withhold critical information.  Requirements for disclosure and specific information will vary from employer to employer. Carefully read the questions on your background check application and answer truthfully and fully to avoid any problems down the road, including a potential rescission of your job offer.

If there are a few hiccups in your prior employment or personal information, these aren’t necessarily immediate roadblocks to the career of your dreams.  Be prepared to explain any information that may be brought to light, especially the less than favorable bits. The important takeaway is that much like in other walks of life, honesty is generally the best policy.  Attempting to cover up, hide or omit background check information compounds the issue and will certainly leave you wanting for both a job and credibility.

Article Updated from the Original on March 29, 2018