How to Know if I Passed an Employer Background Check

How to Know if I Passed an Employer Background Check-img

How Do I Know If I Passed or Failed an Employer Background Check?

Waiting to hear back from an employer after applying for a job can be a nerve-wracking experience. You may have gone through a lengthy process already. That process often includes submitting a job application, sitting for interviews, and more. You may have received a conditional job offer already. Now, there’s just one more step: waiting to find out if you passed or failed an employer background check.

Many job seekers worry about being “ghosted” by employers. In other words, they fear investing all the time and effort in an application only to receive silence. Applicants worry they might fail a background check and miss out on the job. If the employer never says anything, how will they know when to move on to other opportunities? It’s a stressful situation. Understanding what happens when an employer engages in running a background check is key. Let’s take a closer look at the essential facts to know.

Why do employers use background checks at all?

What’s the purpose of running a background check in the first place? From the applicant’s point of view, their skills and experience should be what matters most. In many cases, that’s true. However, employers must protect themselves, their employees, and others. For example, hiring someone with a violent history could be very risky. Employing someone to drive a truck when they have numerous DUI convictions could be negligent.

Avoiding negligence and conducting due diligence are the core reasons for background checks. An employer wants to make informed hiring decisions. They need to know they’ve done as much as they can to protect others. That does not mean that every criminal record will disqualify someone. On the contrary, the government warns businesses not to deny applicants categorically because of criminal convictions.

Employers may need to confirm the information on your resume, too. An employer background check includes more than criminal history data. They verify employment history and educational history, too. Background checks may involve other steps, too, based on business needs. Because of the many steps, it can take time for an employer to report a result. It’s important to anticipate these processes and prepare for them.

How do you know if you passed a background check?

Knowing if you passed a background check can be tricky at times. Why? An employer has no legal obligation to inform you. You might pass a check only for an employer to choose someone else. If an employer passes over you for someone else, you may never hear back about your background check. It’s a frustrating situation for some applicants. If it has been several weeks since you began the background check process, consider contacting the employer. The process could still be in progress. You may also receive a final answer from HR.

You may receive a conditional job before the background check process begins. This route is most common in “ban the box” and “Fair Chance” jurisdictions. Check your local laws to learn more, or explore our Learning Center articles. In such cases, you’ll likely hear that you passed the background check when you receive a final job offer. You can then accept or decline based on your situation.

What happens when you have failed a background check?

It’s often easier to know if you failed a background check. Federal law gives job applicants a range of rights in this scenario. The Fair Credit Reporting Act, created in 1970, aims to prevent the misuse of “consumer reports.” Background checks count as such consumer reports. As a result, employers must follow many rules to use background checks for hiring. These rules become effective when you apply for an advertised position. Employers must provide a standalone FCRA disclosure and request your consent.

An employer who disqualifies an applicant because of a background check must follow many rules. The FCRA legally binds employers and compels them to notify you of “adverse action” based on your criminal background check. Remember, an employer cannot conduct a background check on you without your consent. Similarly, an employer cannot use background check findings to disqualify you without specific notification. You will have the opportunity to dispute the decision if you believe something went wrong with your report.

What does “adverse action” mean?

If an employer plans to disqualify you for a failed background check, the government calls that “adverse action.” Per the FCRA, the employer must provide the candidate with a “pre-adverse action notice” upon making such a decision. The pre-adverse action notice must include a copy of the background check report and a summary of your rights. You may review this and, if desired, notify the employer that you dispute the findings. They must put the process on hold until their background check partner provides clarification.

Even after this step, an employer may still make an adverse decision—in other words, you failed the background check. Based on the background check findings, this typically disqualifies the candidate from job consideration. In a “final notice of adverse action,” the company must take additional steps that include the following:

  • Notifying the candidate, in writing, of the decision.
  • Providing the candidate with information about the background check service used. This information must include the company’s name, address, and phone number.
  • Including a disclaimer that the background check company did not make the adverse decision.
  • Informing the candidate that they can obtain an additional free copy of the report during the following 60 days.
  • Letting the candidate know they have the right to contact the background check company to dispute any inaccurate findings.

Visit our Learning Center page on FCRA compliance to learn more. If you’ve received a final notice of adverse action, it is vital to understand your rights. You may need to explore criminal record expungement or contact a lawyer. In decisions where the report was accurate, and there is nothing to dispute, you should continue your efforts to find employment elsewhere.

Will employers always tell you if you passed or failed a background check?

You may not always know if you passed a background check. However, thanks to the FCRA, you should always be informed if you failed a background check. An employer disqualifying you without taking the appropriate steps takes considerable legal risk. They could face lawsuits or even government fines for these violations.

Are you worried about what might show up during the hiring process? You can also run a background check on yourself to see what employers might see when they vet you. At, we offer an easy and affordable solution for running background checks on yourself. Our self-check products include criminal history and driving record searches.

How long will it take to find out if an applicant passes or fails?

Every employer uses a different process to conduct a background check. The type of background check they use may vary. Local and state laws may also impose requirements or create delays. For example, some states require employers to work directly with state police to procure public record information. Such efforts can take time. The timetables are often out of the employer’s hands in such scenarios.

You could find out the results of an employee background check quickly. However, it might also take one to two weeks before you hear one way or another. If it has been more than two weeks, contact the hiring managers at the business. Since timetables may vary, exercise patience.

Are the same offenses disqualifying to every employer?

No. What counts as “failing the background check” in one business may not be the same elsewhere. Many employers aim to place criminal history information in context with the nature of the job. Others use individualized assessment workflows advocated for by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In each case, what counts as disqualifying may differ. Be aware of these variations. If you have a record, you may wish to adjust what job titles you seek.

Understand your background and apply with confidence

You can prepare yourself for the hiring process with educational resources and self-background check solutions from You should now understand when and how you will know if you passed or failed an employer background check. Remember, it is essential to understand what appears in your record. It may be the key to discussing your suitability with employers and securing a new role.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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