If an offer of employment is made contingent on the outcome of a background check, it’s possible that a skeleton-in-the-closet that the job seeker was hoping no one would find could be unearthed. But it’s also possible, on the other hand, that the job seeker could be mistaken for someone else. Mistakes do happen. For instance, there are a lot of John and Jane Smiths out there; credit bureaus sometimes report back on the wrong John Smith. Another common mistake is to confuse a father and son who have the same name. Spelling errors can be made. Occasionally, credit information isn’t up-to-date, and the problem that existed two years ago has been satisfactorily resolved. Making a contingent job offer allows for lots of potential mistakes to be corrected before the offer is no longer contingent.
Lots of things could happen that could produce questionable results. That’s why the Fair Credit Reporting Act gives job seekers the right not only to be told that a background check is going to be done, but it also allows job seekers to see the results and correct any false information that have been found, assuming the information really is false in the first place. It’s important to remember that the burden is always on the job seeker to prove, for example, that he isn’t the person cited in a negative background report. It could be that the person with the horrible credit history just happens to have the same name as the job seeker.
If a job offer is contingent on what references have to say and the job seeker doesn’t get the job, it doesn’t always mean one of the references sabotaged the job seeker’s prospects. It could mean that job seeker just isn’t the right person for the job. It could mean nothing more than a job mismatch—for both the employer and the job seeker—has been avoided!