What Does a Discrepancy Mean on a Background Check?

Background checks can help you confirm the truth of what an applicant tells you, and they can also be a tool for discovering falsehoods. What should you keep in mind when you discover a background check discrepancy?

As pillars of the hiring process, background checks and verifications are crucial for allowing employers to develop a clear sense of an applicant's suitability. However, there are many challenges to navigate as you develop a reliable vetting process or make improvements to existing procedures. From understanding legal requirements and possible liabilities to choosing the right service provider to power your process, there are many factors to consider.

Although you might think the process of reading and interpreting a background check report is entirely straightforward, there are always some quirks to consider as you get started. For example, what does it mean when you see indications of a background check discrepancy? The answer—and your response to the applicant—should depend on the type of verification that you ordered, and it should be informed by fairness and common sense. Let’s dig deeper.

What Is a Background Check Discrepancy?

A discrepancy in a background check is anything reported by official sources that does not align with what an applicant told you. For example, in a state that does not "ban the box", an applicant may report that they have never been convicted of a felony—but when you run a background check, you see a felony record. 

Discrepancies can appear in other background checks, too. A discrepancy does not necessarily mean you should immediately dismiss the candidate, but rather that you may need to dig deeper to find the facts.

Discrepancies in Employment History Verification Checks

Verifying an individual's past employment contributes to establishing trustworthiness and confirming that someone has the skills and experience they claim. Employment verification checks typically involve contacting prior employers to acquire certain facts, such as hire date, end date, job title, and job duties. A discrepancy can occur when what your applicant reports does not match what an employer says.

However, it is important to look closer to analyze the difference. Sometimes, clerical errors—or the fallibility of human memory—mean that start and end dates don't match up. Look for more serious deviations instead, such as a candidate claiming to have held a position they never worked, or a candidate having no official record of working for a particular business at all.

Discrepancies in Criminal Background Check Reports

Sometimes, criminal background checks can draw your eye to differences between reported facts and a candidate’s resume. These discrepancies may mean that you’ve caught an applicant in a lie—but that is not always the case. 

Consider the scenario of a candidate who claims no felony convictions but whose report indicates a felony. In some cases, this discrepancy could be a result of a slow update process for judicial data systems. The individual may have been indicted for a felony charge but was only convicted on a lesser misdemeanor charge. Before making any final decisions, determine if you need additional records—such as a county court search—or a second conversation with the applicant to move forward.

Taking Adverse Action

Did you discover a discrepancy so concerning that it has made you decide to move past an applicant? Remember their rights and your requirements under the FCRA. You will need to first issue a pre-adverse action notice along with a copy of the background report and allow the individual a reasonable amount of time to respond before you can issue the final notice of adverse action

Find the Information You Need for Fast, Effective Evaluations

There are many things to understand about background checks, but once you've developed experience with using them, the process becomes much faster. Ensure your business can conduct a reliable, safe, and smart hiring process by using purpose-built tools for verifications from backgroundchecks.com. 

Check out our learning center for in-depth answers to any questions that you may have about our products, the process of using background checks, and more. It's simple to get started today.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

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

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