A major crime will be a deal-breaker for the majority of employers, but how does it look for job candidates who have committed minor infractions? You might hope that the recruiters won't run a background check, but that's very unlikely. Authority sources on screening, like Unmask and others, concur that a potential employer won't take your promise of trustworthiness at face value. According to a recent industry report, 98% of companies run background checks on applicants today. 

Before we proceed, a word on terminology: you can't actually "fail" a background check. The issue is whether you meet the employer's hiring standards or not. 

Reasons to reject a candidate after a background check include a criminal record, bad credit history, education-related inconsistencies, employment discrepancies, a poor driving record, or failing a drug test. None of these are absolutely decisive to a particular outcome. 

Criminal History 

93% of businesses that perform pre-employment screenings use criminal records searches. According to experts, most of them will consider the type of crime and whether you were convicted. Even in that case, it has emerged that just 5% or fewer candidates are disqualified based on the presence of a criminal record. More than two-thirds of employers will proceed with a candidate despite learning about a conviction. 

The reason for this: the crime is usually unrelated to the job the person has applied for. In other words, someone who's committed a financial crime won't be working with money in the position they wish to take. What's more, most employers ensure they would give the applicant an opportunity to explain their record. 

You only set off a red flag if the crime you were convicted of is relevant to the job. It all depends on the job. Depending on the industry, background check criteria can vary. In addition, hiring standards may be regulated by state or federal law and vary by company as well. 

Drug Tests

A number of companies will make a job offer depending on the results of a drug or alcohol test. Failing one often results in "failing" the background check. 

Employment History

You can expect your prospective employer to verify your job history - where you've worked, for how long, what your job title was, and so on. Your resume should reflect your employment history accurately. That said, a small mismatch will probably be overlooked, but a false claim of having worked somewhere won't. To be safe, it's best to avoid falsehoods of any kind on your resume and in your cover letter. 


Companies are allowed to look at your credit history before making a job offer in most states. However, a blemish here and there isn't normally a deal-breaker. 

Education History 

Most companies will take steps to verify your education history when running a background check. Some will even take this further and ask you to show awards or certificates of achievement. When it comes to education verification, you don't need to worry if you were honest about your credentials on your resume.