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What Makes You Fail A Background Check

You’ve found your dream job and spruced up your resume. Your last concern? A failed background check. Millions of Americans are denied jobs based on background check data. But will your specific past prevent you from job employment?

Here’s what every job-seeker needs to know about failed background checks and their causes.

What Do Employers Look For In A Background Check?

Employers are looking for red flags that may open them up to legal repercussions. For example, a poor driving record may not stop you from getting an office job, but it will play a significant factor in transportation jobs. Granted, it’s not always that simple. Here’s how each background check impacts you.

Poor Employment History

Employers want candidates who show commitment to their roles. Resumes with a series of short-time jobs, I.E., one year here, a few months there, reflect poorly and may bring your reliability into question. That doesn’t mean it’s a great idea to stay in a role you’re not an excellent fit for, but you should try to be selective as to which offers you accept whenever possible. 

Poor employment history also includes bad references. Employers check references to understand your work ethic, teamwork skills, and more. Getting a less-than-stellar review from old coworkers can lessen your chances of employment. Reduce the chances of poor reference checks by choosing references that’ll put you in the best light.

Criminal History

Criminal history is one of the most common causes of failed background checks, and they’re one of the few checks that can automatically disqualify a candidate with an otherwise excellent job history and interview. For example, financial institutions are prohibited from hiring felons in any role. Typically, criminal history goes back seven years, much like any background check, but having a criminal history can permanently disqualify you from specific roles. Thankfully, certain industries aren’t as concerned with criminal histories. That includes casinos, trade professions, and more. 

Drug And Alcohol Tests

Drug and alcohol tests are a cornerstone of background checks and one of the few failures that isn’t based on your past. The average employer runs urinalysis tests in which drugs only appear between 2-30 days after use. Most drug tests search for marijuana, opioids, opiates, and alcohol. It’s worth noting that while urinalysis may be the most common form of drug and alcohol testing, other tests include hair, saliva, and blood. Each type of drug test has a unique window of time in which a person can test positive. The longest is hair, in which trace amounts of drugs can be detected for months after last use. 

What causes a red flag on a background check more than a failed drug and alcohol test? 

Not every failed drug test is the result of drug and alcohol use. Here are other reasons a job offer can be rescinded.

Credit History

Credit history is a deal breaker for employers in the financial industry or those who deal with large amounts of cash and valuables. Essentially, employers want to assess the chance that a candidate may commit fraud and have poor credit, or better yet, a large amount of debt may make a person seem more likely to fraud a business or its clients.

Driving Record

Driving record checks are most likely to occur in transportation and security industries. For example, truckers must have a clean record to obtain their license or be awarded new contracts. The same can be said for movers, forklift operators, etc.


Education and license verification are essential to countless businesses. Companies must ensure you’re qualified, whether for insurance, legal, or peace of mind purposes. Considering over half of Americans lie on their resume, it’s no surprise that employers want to cover their bases.


There are countless causes for failed background checks. But there are a few within your control. Drug and alcohol tests, education checks, and, to a degree, credit history are all things you can manage to better your chances of gainful employment. Want the ins and outs of what employers look for in their ideal candidate? Visit the KarmaCheck website often for the info you need to know about background checks and employment trends.


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