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Background Check Inconsistencies
August 15, 2014 6:58 AM   Subscribe

I am currently undergoing a fairly extensive background check in order to work at a financial institution. It's been Kafkaesque. The background check company found some major inconsistencies in my reported employment dates, but the thing is -- I know (and can prove) that it's my former employers who have the dates wrong. The company doing the background check has refused to accept my documentation (W2s, contact info for supervisors who can confirm the dates, etc.). Should I pro-actively contact my potential employer to explain, or wait for them to contact me?

The rest of the check (criminal, credit, etc.) seems to be fine, it's just these employment date mix ups that are giving me fits. The discrepancy is pretty major (several years) or I wouldn't be so worried about it.

If you think I should proactively contact my potential employer, via what medium? And how would you frame it? I don't want to seem (too) desperate, frantic or guilty. I have all but given up on the company administering this background check. I have contacted them over and over, and no matter what they actually *say* to me, the outcome seems to be the same.

I know this probably seems kind of straightforward to most people, but this whole thing has made me start questioning my own judgement in a big way.
posted by ZeroDivides to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Can you contact the previous employer and see if they can get in touch with the background check company?
posted by Rock Steady at 7:03 AM on August 15


If you think I should proactively contact my potential employer, via what medium?

Call HR, if there is no HR, call the last person you worked for directly.
posted by soelo at 7:08 AM on August 15


Yes, contact HR or the highest-level person with whom you interviewed at your potential employer. Say there seems to have been a misunderstanding with the background check company, and you're concerned that they seem unable to get the correct dates for your previous employment despite your offer of documentation. Offer the documentation you offered to the background check company, and say you'd be happy to provide the number or email of a supervisor who can confirm you were working for him/her in 20XX.
posted by pineappleheart at 7:18 AM on August 15 [4 favorites]


I totally misread the question I copied into my response. I think you should contact your previous employer as well as your potential employer.
posted by soelo at 7:25 AM on August 15


It is the rule, and not the exception, for a comprehensive background check to generate follow-up issues and questions. Big discrepancies in the dates of employment for more than one employer are a bit unusual, but a large financial institution will have seen much worse.

Contact your potential new employer's recruiting department now.

It will have policies and procedures for dealing with background check issues, and you must follow them. The last thing you want if for the background check company to report that you are freelancing an effort to change the results of the check.

Don't panic -- there's no one in your new employer who wants you to fail your background check, and resolving these discrepancies positively is part of their job if it can be done.
posted by MattD at 8:20 AM on August 15


Should I pro-actively contact my potential employer to explain Sure, contact the person who is handling your application, but you don't need to "explain." This doesn't sound like any kind of a big deal and I don't see any risk of appearing "desperate, frantic or guilty."

Just let them know that the background check turned up some confusion about your past employment dates and that you'll bring along your documents to the next interview.

+1 what pineappleheart said.
posted by JimN2TAW at 8:30 AM on August 15


Yes, proactively contact your new employer. Do you have an HR or recruitment contact who has been working with you to coordinate interviews? I'd approach them about it and explain the situation and offer to provide W2's and contacts that show your dates properly. I would take a bit of an apologetic, 'I'm not sure what's going on with Previous Firm's records but...' attitude. I would stress that you are really concerned about getting this cleared up because you are excited about the opportunity and give HR an opportunity to give you information about how they'd like to see this cleared up.

Then I would get in touch with HR at Previous Firm(s?) and say that you have your W2's and that you think that they may have given some incorrect information to the background check company and could they please possibly give a call to clear up the confusion.

FWIW, this happened to me when I was being onboarded for my current role (at an investment bank as well) and it has been fine. One of my previous employers had my dates wrong by more than a year when in fact it was very conclusively established that I'd been living in another country and working for another firm at the time. It was incredibly panic-inducing and I really empathize with you. In my experience, background check people really don't like to go 'off script'...

Anyway, what ended up happening in my case is that the bg check people flagged it to the business and the business (my manager) made the decision that it was totally irrelevant. She didn't even speak to me about it, actually and no one except the background check company has ever brought up the issue with me.
posted by hellomiss at 4:49 PM on August 15 [2 favorites]


Per your advice, I got in touch with my HR contact at my potential employer, explaining the date inconsistencies. They did not seem at all concerned and I heard nothing more about it.

So I have come through the background check process relatively unscathed, and have a firm start date now.

I appreciate everyone's advice and reassurances. I will definitely have the inconsistencies cleared up by my former employers, if possible. It never even occurred to me that their bookkeeping could be off by that much!
posted by ZeroDivides at 1:47 PM on August 22


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