ScreenDiscussion

Blogging background checking and security issues

4.05.2005

Lying Applicants

Most employers devote a section of their application to the applicant’s criminal history, asking the applicant to list any past convictions. Contrary to what the average job applicant probably thinks, many employers do not automatically disqualify the applicant from employment if there is a conviction. I have, in fact, known employers to turn down job applicants for lying about a conviction that otherwise would have been passable.

Applicant responses to adverse information on their background check is often interesting. The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives applicants the right to dispute the information reported about them, so they will often follow up with the reporting agency to see if the report can be changed. Some are nice, some are not. Some are right, most are not. The report occasionally ends up being updated with correct information, but usually it appears that the applicant lied on the application in hopes that the truth about his past wouldn’t be discovered.

The reasons applicants usually dispute information reported from the background check are 1) the reported information really is wrong, 2) they don’t understand the information (a dismissed charge is not the same as an expunged case), or 3) they’re wrong but they hope to bully the reporting agency into changing the record. Number 2 is relatively easy to deal with as it just involves an education session, but numbers 1 and 3 usually require the company to do extra, and sometimes costly, legwork.

What’s interesting is the reactions of applicants once the information has been re-verified and nothing changes. Sometimes the applicant will curse and yell and threaten lawsuits once he "figures out" what happens, only to never be heard from again. Other applicants will suddenly remember that they really were charged with a felony offense last year, even though a week before they would have sworn on their mother’s graves it wasn’t them. The stories would be funny were they not so sad.

Sometimes an applicant does get away with lying on the application, but it’s probably not worth the risk, especially if the conviction was a misdemeanor and not a felony. It’s better to disclose the information up-front. Lying on an application will probably bar an applicant from employment at the company forever, where convictions in many states will no longer be reportable after a given number of years have passed. It’s best not to permanently burn bridges.

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