How to deal with false allegations in employment background check?
September 7, 2013 8:12 PM Subscribe
Just got extended a dream job offer, but I'm afraid a background check will turn up a skeleton in my closet (that I didn't put there) that I don't know how to deal with. How do I prepare to refute it clearly, professionally, and without weaving an unnecessarily epic tale of drama?
posted by anonymous to work & money (15 answers total)
I just accepted a written job offer from a great organization. The only remaining step in the process is a background check. One of the organizations I worked for a few years ago, as a full-time volunteer, was a small nonprofit run entirely by one man, with all of its projects organized and carried out by a high-turnover group of volunteer staff. This man is the only person left at the organization who would be able to confirm details about people from years ago.
While charming, competent, and professional most of the time, this guy had regular bouts of emotional instability, dishonest dealings with both volunteers and community members, and defamatory outbursts against volunteers, stakeholders, and others. I watched several of my good friends go from being his beloved right-hand assistant one day to forcibly removed from the premises the next, for no apparent reason, or an unfathomable accusation. One day, out of the blue, I was told to leave the premises immediately. Only some time later, I discovered that he had been telling people I'd broken into his office to access confidential materials. The utter falsehood of this stunned me, but I let it go, because I had already been planning to leave the organization (and was living off-site).
Since working there, I've held a number of respectable and relevant positions, furthered my education, and built up an impressive portfolio in a different field. Nevertheless, I'm terrified that my background check will reveal this can of worms. If they contact him to verify my time with this organization, I fully expect him to be openly slanderous just for the hell of it (he certainly doesn't fear a lawsuit from little old me).
The best-case scenario I see here is that I'll get a chance to explain myself to the company that just hired me. But this will be a classic my-word-against-his scenario. My interviews went great, and I have out-of-this-world references and a strong record of achievement since my time at that place. Also, with some effort, I could organize character references & people who were there who could back me up. But I'm worried that the red flag raised by such accusations would be so enormous that it would be impossible to adequately address their concerns.
If this history comes up through the background check, what can I do or say to address this issue with my imminent employer? I don't want to badmouth former supervisors and I don't want to have to tell a dramatic and implausible (though true) story. What is the driest and most concise way I can explain how this work ended, assuming he tells them the worst (or simply that I was terminated) without creating a huge mess? Thus far I haven't been asked to volunteer any information about why I left. I'm already hired, but I know a bad background check could derail this, so I'm very anxious. Please give me some reassurance and help me come up with a script to minimize any damage.