Top 5 Red Flags to Look for in Background Checks

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Background checks are a staple of most hiring processes, helping employers prioritize employee safety and protect company reputations. However, some candidates exaggerate their resumes or provide false information in their background checks, creating red flags that need to be addressed.

Inconsistencies in resumes, such as periods of unemployment or fabricated education, are a red flag. Using an FCRA-compliant background check service that covers employment verification can help prevent these inconsistencies.


A background check that shows a candidate has falsified information, such as inflated educational credentials or an extended job history, should raise red flags. Such dishonesty could lead to a workplace culture that lacks trust and creates problems for the company.

Dishonesty snowballs, meaning it takes a little time to begin lying but becomes easier over time. In one study, participants who lay a few pennies on an estimate of how many coins were in a jar found it much more difficult to stop lying.

A few speeding citations may not cause alarm, but an extended period of unemployment or questionable social media activity might raise questions. The right background screening solution uses technology and human intelligence to offer job candidates more context around negative findings and protect them from unfair disqualification.


Employers often check an applicant’s credit history to identify financial blemishes such as delinquencies, bankruptcies, and liens. This is particularly important for positions where the candidate handles company funds.

Similarly, checks of educational credentials will reveal any falsifications that could undermine an employee’s integrity and trustworthiness. Likewise, a person with a history of theft may not be suitable for a position handling company inventory.

Background checks may include a social media search to uncover offensive or inappropriate content that may reflect poorly on the business. This is done legally following the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act’s guidelines for accessing online data. However, this check requires specialist skills and human intelligence to be conducted effectively. Nevertheless, it can be an invaluable tool for assessing candidates for critical roles.


Employers conduct background checks to prioritize public safety and enhance employee quality. In most cases, the background check process includes investigating a job applicant’s employment history, education, criminal record, and credit record.

The laws in most states divide crimes into two levels: felonies and misdemeanors. Misdemeanors are typically less severe than felony offenses and usually involve nonviolent activities, such as vandalism, certain types of drug possession, and simple assault.

Some states also categorize crimes by class (A, B, and C) or level (petty, gross, and aggravated). This classification is essential because it allows people to understand the severity of the crime they are accused of and the possible jail time that could result. Examples of misdemeanors include petty theft, shoplifting, and driving under the influence without injury.


While criminal records are a major red flag for employers, they shouldn’t be the only determining factor in deciding whether someone should get a job. Many factors should be considered, such as the nature of the crime and how long ago it occurred, as well as whether the person’s past behavior is relevant to the position they are applying for.

Employment gaps, inconsistencies in the information provided on an application or during an interview, and drug tests that don’t align with their background check results are also red flags. If there is a pattern of inconsistencies and short-lived jobs, the candidate may be unable to commit to working at the company long-term. However, it’s essential to remember that companies are willing to give felonies second chances if significant time has passed since the conviction.

Drug Tests

Most employers will conduct a background check to determine a candidate’s driving, financial, and criminal records. While a few speeding tickets or parking infractions might not raise flags, a felony conviction or a recurring pattern of erratic behavior could cause recruiters to think twice about hiring.

Many industries, such as construction and law enforcement, require employees to pass drug tests before starting work. Failing a test is one of the biggest red flags recruiters should watch out for, especially if the job is safety-sensitive or involves operating machinery.

Other red flags recruiters should watch out for include multiple short-lived jobs, which could indicate that a candidate can only commit to the company for a short time. This can be a problem because turnover costs companies money and can disrupt productivity.


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