It's that time of year again: for the incoming class of summer analysts, many of you are going through the (depending on what you've been doing the last semester or so) potentially nerve-wracking process of background checks. And judging by the slew of recent posts, there are a fair number losing sleep over background checks.
With that in mind, let's just clear everything up: the majority of the larger IBs (both boutique and BB) use third party organizations to conduct background checks. Typically, you provide the bank a list of references and contact information, which will then be independently verified via telephone by the third party organization.
So how do these phone calls work?
The average call goes as follows:
"Hi [insert your reference's name], my name is [name] calling on behalf of [BB / boutique bank] to verify the employment history of [your name]." Here's where the questions come, "Can you please confirm that [your name] was employed from [reported start date] to [reported completion date] as a [job title] in [job location]?" After receiving verification, most agencies will follow up by confirming your reason for leaving (i.e. layoff, resignation, termination, etc.). That's it!
With that in mind, I will address a few frequently asked questions about background checks:
1) Will the third party firm verify each bullet point on my resume?
In short, no. While you should never blatantly lie on your bullet points (it will likely be exposed during your interview process), it would take 20 minutes to verify every point on your resume. Background checks do not involve a line-by-line verification.
2) My GPA dropped after poor performance during one / both of the last two semesters, which makes it lower than what I put on my resume, will my offer be rescinded?
No. It comes as no surprise to anyone that your GPA dropped during recruiting season / junior / senior year. It's your responsibility to accurately depict your GPA as of the latest completed period (typically as of the end of your sophomore year, for junior year recruiting). However, any changes that occur thereafter will not affect your offer status (barring, perhaps, a complete and utter meltdown of failing grades).
3) I realized that I made a mistake about my employment dates. Should I inform HR? Will my offer be rescinded?
First off, incorrect employment dates is something that the third party organization will likely notice, so it's in your best interests to correct the error. That said, assuming the error was made in good faith and doesn't materially change your experience, you will be fine. My advice is to bring it to the attention of HR and explain the mistake.
4) I rounded my GPA up to the nearest tenth, but my transcript shows my GPA to the hundredth place. Will my offer be rescinded?
For goodness sake, no. Honest rounding will not cost you your offer.
5) Should I inform my references ahead of time to anticipate the call?
Definitely. This is a best practice. You want prevent your references from screening the background check call and it's best that your reference not be totally caught off guard by the call. Nothing is more strange than randomly receiving a call from someone asking about a former employee. Let your contacts know before you submit their contact information.
Good luck, and I hope you all enjoy your summer! Happy to answer any other questions you may have.