Wild Things Employers Discovered During Background Checks

Let These Serve as Cautionary Tales as to Why You Should Always Run Pre-Employment Screenings

If you want to read some of the wackiest things uncovered during pre-employment background checks, grab some popcorn and head over to this Reddit thread, which has over nine thousand comments.

The thread starts by asking a provocative question: "Employers of Reddit, what is the most disturbing thing you've discovered performing a background check on candidates?"

Let's just say the answers don't disappoint.

Below, we're going to . . .

    Highlight several of our team's favorites from the Reddit thread

    Share a few other interesting background check stories gathered from other corners of the Interwebs

    Remind you (as if you'll need it!) why background checks are critical to the hiring process

Background check surprise: The case of the Wall Street slapper.

This Reddit user explained that their team was hiring a PhD-level risk manager. The candidate apparently had the required degree. But the background check revealed something troubling that occurred at the candidate's previous job: "She was fired from a Wall St. bank for smacking her previous boss in a fit of pique. We passed."

    TAKEAWAY: It doesn't matter how well-educated someone is. They could still have character issues that might negatively affect your workplace. Always check references as part of the background check process.

Background check surprise: The case of mistaken identity.

This Reddit user describes how the call center they worked in used "instant" background checks so they could hire people on the spot. One time, an instant report returned troubling info: the candidate sitting in front of the hiring manager was actually supposed to be sitting in jail.

The problem? The background check was wrong—it was a mistaken identity issue. Turns out the candidate's uncle had stolen the nephew's identity. The uncle had recently been arrested—and didn't have any ID on him at the time of the arrest. He was able to pass himself off as the nephew since they were close enough in age and appearance. Ultimately, everything was cleared up after a fingerprint check. But talk about awkward!

    TAKEAWAY: So-called "instant" background checks are unreliable—you don't know where the information is being pulled from, and there's no quality control or human oversight to ensure something like this doesn't happen.

Background check surprise: Paging Walter White and Jesse Pinkman . . .

This Reddit user commented that the candidate they were considering hiring for an IT role in a hospital knew about the background check. Even so, the candidate never thought to mention that they'd been arrested because their house exploded due to a meth lab. As the Reddit user said, "How he didn't think that would show up is beyond me."

   TAKEAWAY: It could be easy to think that a background check isn't necessary if you mention it to a candidate and they don't bat an eye. But this is NOT the time for a game of chicken. Always run the checks, even on the candidates who cheerfully agree and say "no problem."

Background check surprise: Hm, we didn't have him pegged for treason.

This Reddit user might win the background check surprise contest: "We got somebody who failed a background check for selling planes to Iran. He broke the embargo imposed against them by the US when he tried to sell 117 million dollars worth of planes. Like that wouldn't come up on a background check."

    TAKEAWAY: And this is precisely why you run a criminal background check. Because you never know what might come up.

Background check surprise: No nanny cam needed.

Quora is another great source for discovering background check snafus. This user discusses the background check he ran on his client's nanny. The service that placed the nanny had run an initial background check. That check came up clean since it only included the county she currently lived in.

But a subsequent search on an adjacent county where she’d lived three years earlier uncovered troubling convictions, including one for driving while under the influence — which may leave anyone needing childcare and transportation for their children feeling uneasy about their nanny's driving habits.

    TAKEAWAY: It's a good practice to do criminal history searches in counties where a candidate has lived in the past seven years AND to supplement this search with a nationwide criminal history database search. The latter will search for criminal history information that may be recorded in jurisdictions outside the candidate's address history.

Also, for any job involving driving, MVR checks and MVR monitoring are critical. In this case, it sounds like the staffing agency's initial background check search only included the nanny's current county where they lived. This came up clean. If the agency had automatically added an MVR check, the DUI would have popped up.

Background check surprise: Um, about those verifications . . .

Here’s another gem from Quora. In this nugget, the person doing the hiring for an IT tech job had narrowed the field to three candidates. The company ran credit and reference checks on all three. All three failed. The first candidate had a credit issue and serious debt. But it's the other two that jumped out at us since interesting things were uncovered during the verifications process.

When the hiring manager called a previous boss for a reference check on the second candidate, the boss repeated the same cryptic response to every question the hiring manager asked. This raised alarm bells. A subsequent criminal check revealed the candidate had a history of threatening behavior in the workplace.

As for the third candidate, they claimed to have a bachelor's degree in IT. But the education verification showed that the candidate had an associate degree in . . . recreation. When confronted, the candidate said they thought it was more of a "goal statement" rather than a factual question. :)

    TAKEAWAY: Verifications don't simply check a person's credentials and past employment. Verifications and reference checks can reveal insight into a person's character. Think about it: If a person is willing to lie on a resume about something like their degree, what will they lie about while working for you? It's not worth the risk.

Bottom line: Background checks matter.

If you were at all skeptical about pre-employment background checks before reading this blog post, hopefully, you've changed your mind, thanks to these cautionary tales, and you’ll always conduct relevant screenings on new hires.

That said, keep in mind who you choose to run these checks matters. Because not all background check vendors are created equal.

At Good Egg, we provide our clients with custom screening packages and top-notch customer service. Request a demo and experience the Good Egg difference—and avoid becoming another person who has to vent in a Reddit thread devoted to background check horror stories.

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Mariah Barr

Posted by Mariah Barr

Mariah Barr is the Content Marketing Writer at Good Egg. She's played a few roles in her professional life, but they’ve always involved writing interesting and informative pieces. Outside of work you can find her walking her dog or working on a DIY home improvement project.

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