What causes a red flag on a background check?

Background checks are necessary for most forms of employment, regardless of industry and niche. A background check that raises a red flag about the candidate’s history serves the intended purpose of vetting job-seekers for a fair and accurate look at their employment performance, behavioral history, academic accomplishments and more. The question is what, exactly, constitutes a red flag on a background check. Let’s take a look at some of the top red flags in the context of background checks for employment.

Refusing to be Vetted

The most glaring red flag in the context of background checks is the refusal to undergo a background check or an insistence on only certain items being reviewed. If an applicant is hesitant to be vetted or simply refuses to do so, it is a red flag that cannot be ignored and will likely be a deal-breaker in the context of potential employment.

A Criminal Record

The mere presence of a crime on your record might not immediately disqualify you from employment. However, if the crime is significant, it might preclude you from obtaining employment with certain businesses. As an example, a bank would not have any interest in hiring a criminal who has been convicted of fraud. Furthermore, a daycare center has no interest in hiring a job-seeker who has been found guilty of the crime of child abuse.

Gaps in Employment

Perform your due diligence or outsource the vetting process and you will inevitably find some employees have several lengthy gaps in between stints of employment. Though a single gap in employment in a five-year span won’t be a deal-breaker, several instances of unemployment across such a short span of time is concerning. Instead of immediately discounting the candidate, the best hiring managers will request an explanation for the gap in employment and make a decision based on that information along with the information uncovered during the background check.

Insufficient or Poor References

A job-seeker should have at least one reference, even if it is a teacher. Candidates with no references, few references or references from those who do not speak admiringly of them will not be viewed in a positive light for good reason. Even a reference who refuses to return a phone call, email, text or other form of communication from a hiring manager is a red flag as it casts a shadow on the candidate, making it appear as though he or she did not make a positive impression or any impression on the person listed as a reference.

Inconsistent Information

If the information a candidate lists pertaining to his work history, academic accomplishments or other accolades does not jive, don’t give him or her the benefit of the doubt and assume everything is on the level. Perform reference checks, conduct interviews, match up dates of employment and try to get a sense of whether the person’s life story rings true. If conflicting information turns up during the background check, ask for an explanation and move forward appropriately.


It has become en vogue to transition from one job to the next, assuming there will always be another opportunity available. Though the employment market currently favors job-seekers, it might not be like this for more than another year or so. A candidate who refuses to stick with a job for more than a year or two is a candidate who is unlikely to remain with any position for a meaningful period of time, ultimately making the hiring, onboarding, training and payroll processing processes somewhat of a waste of time for all parties.

It is a mistake to assume a candidate has hopped from one job to the next several times over on his or her own volition. A life event such as a pregnancy or death in the family, a forced resignation or something else completely out of that person’s control might cause him or her to segue from one job to the next.

False or Misleading Educational Accomplishments

There is no harm in contacting the candidate’s alma mater for information about his or her academic performance. Verify the candidate graduated with the degree listed on his or her resume and you will be able to move forward in full confidence.

Failed Drug Tests and/or Job-related Convictions

Though society is becoming more liberal in terms of certain drugs, any job involving operating machinery or driving an automobile requires complete sobriety. Some employers don’t harp on incidents that occurred years or decades ago simply because they are comparably minor incidents that don’t constitute legitimate red flags in the context of potential employment. However, if the conviction is related to previous employment or if the candidate has failed one or several drug tests, it is an indication he or she is immature and undeserving of the open position.

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