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Please do not be an idiot.

Now that that's over with, let's move on. The background check can be a stressful thing for people worried about miscommunication between themselves and the hiring company. In general the background check is meant to double check on a few key things:

  • Education: Did you go to the school you said you went to? Did you major in what you said you majored in? Is your GPA close to what you listed it as? (see: Should I round my GPA? / How should I round my GPA?)
  • Criminal: Have you committed a crime? How serious was the crime? Do you have a track record of criminal activity?
  • Work Experience: Did this person actually work for the company when they say they did?
  • Credit: Has this person ever declared bankruptcy? Are there any major issues with this person's credit?

Discrepancies and Red Flags

The background checks are used to make sure you don't have any glaring discrepancies or red flags in your application and you're not a career criminal. If you listed the correct school with the correct major and correctly rounded your GPA, you will be fine. If you have an offense related to underage drinking, drinking in general, or minor traffic violations, you will be fine. Most misdemeanors that don't result in the harm of another person will not be considered an issue. Anything connected with fraud or robbery will most likely keep you from getting a job with a financial services firm. As far as work experience, most firms just want to make sure you worked for who you say you did, when you say you did. Some firms may look to make sure you held the position you say you did. Usually the credit check will not get you dinged in and of itself. Having a bankruptcy on your record may hurt you, as can delinquent or unpaid accounts.


In general it is best to be as honest and forthright as possible throughout the recruiting process about anything you may be concerned about. Lying on your resume and applications is an easy way to get dinged, or worse, lose your job in 10 years when you've established a career and reputation. If you're in doubt about putting something on your resume, ask here on WSO or connect with your network and see what they say.


Background checks are usually completed after an offer has been extended. If you cleared the background check with no issues, you will not hear about it again. If there is an issue with your background check you will most likely hear within 6 months of the background check starting, as it takes quite some time to get the information from government agencies, former employers, and your school.

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