Background check question.
September 1, 2011 12:33 PM   Subscribe

Offered a professional level job at PG&E. I would be driving a company car, but not all the time - desk job with field duty. On the online application I indicated that I do not have any criminal convictions (i.e. felonies, misdemeanors, etc.) For fear of not getting an interview at all, I replied in the negative. However, I have one misdemeanor DUI from almost seven years ago. They will be performing a background check. I know they really want me - they offered me the job within a day of interviewing. Does the background check go back this far? Am I screwed or will I have the opportunity to explain myself if it comes up? HR has not gotten to me to do the check yet. What, if anything, should I do?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Tell them. Tell them immediately. You already lied once -- you might be able to pass it off as "Oh, you meant that kind of misdemeanor. Totally my bad." Bring it up to the person you feel most comfortable with at the company, and let them tell you how to talk to HR about it. The background check will find it, and you will be out on your ass if you don't manage the situation yourself.
posted by Etrigan at 12:51 PM on September 1, 2011

I am a lawyer in-house at a company, and I am the designated guy who fields questions just like this from our HR department. (Standard not-your-lawyer disclaimers apply here.)

We judge things like this on a case-by-case basis and try to be as consistent as possible, but there will necessarily be some room for discretion on their part. Generally, we will not ding a prospective employee - and in many states we CANNOT ding a prospective employee - simply because he or she has convictions on their record. But we WILL with more frequency ding a prospective employee who did not disclose something on their record. In that case, we are not rescinding the offer because of the conviction but instead because the employee knowingly submitted a false application.

The background check organizations have different packages that they offer, but ours go back 7 years. Our typical process is if something comes up that was not disclosed, we get back with the candidate and hear their explanation. It is was "I forgot about that" or "I didn't want to put it down," those aren't very convincing. If it was "I thought it was expunged" or "my lawyer told me that it wasn't a conviction because I got probation" or something similar (and the HR person believes that the candidate is credible when saying so), we have in the past allowed candidates to "correct" their application and resubmit it.

I can't tell you what to do, and I don't know about the HR practices of your hopefully future employer, but hoping that they don't find it or that you can explain it away after the fact doesn't seem like a great strategy. If an employee came forward to us and told us before the check that he had omitted this misdemeanor, and gave an honest/credible explanation for why he did that (and why the DUI shouldn't matter anyway as he has been an alter boy since then), I would take a much more favorable view than if he stayed quiet and let us discover it. The downside risk there is that the company may have a strict policy on that and might disqualify you, but I believe that honesty is the best policy.

Good luck.
posted by AgentRocket at 12:51 PM on September 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

Call someone and tell them.
"It occurred to me that I do in fact have a driving infraction on my record from several years ago. It was [incident] and I haven't had a similar incident since. Nor do I make the same mistakes now that I did when I was younger."
posted by jander03 at 1:05 PM on September 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

I worked in HR for 2 different companies for about 6 years total. It was standard process at both places to go back 7 years on the background checks.

At both of the companies I worked for, lying on the application would've meant us not making an offer (or retracting a tentative/provisional offer) and placing you on a "do not hire" list. Having a DUI from almost 7 years ago wouldn't necessarily have prevented someone from getting hired, but as AgentRocket says, falsifying an application certainly would've. I know that sounds harsh, but I want to give you a realistic picture of what might happen.

Good luck - I hope you've learned something valuable and that the HR folks you're working with will be more lenient than the HR departments I've known and worked for.
posted by pecanpies at 1:18 PM on September 1, 2011

Have the mods remove the company info from your post.
posted by futz at 1:44 PM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Like AgentRocket, I, too, am an in-house lawyer, and I, too, am the one HR calls in these situations. We would never refuse to hire an applicant for a seven-year-old DUI. However, we would almost always refuse to hire someone who failed to disclose the conviction.

Our applications only ask about convictions in the past seven years. We would probably hire an applicant who got in touch with us and said, "You know, I didn't disclose this because I thought it was seven years ago, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it hasn't quite been seven years."
posted by pardonyou? at 2:54 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

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