Background checks are a crucial part of the hiring process, ensuring that candidates meet the necessary standards of integrity and qualifications. Conducting due diligence during these checks is essential for maintaining the accuracy and fairness of the hiring process. This guide explores what discrepancies in background checks mean, their potential impacts, and how HR professionals can effectively manage them.

Background Check Discrepancies: A Guide for HR

What is a Background Check Discrepancy?

A background check discrepancy refers to any inconsistency or unexpected finding compared to the information provided by the candidate or other verified sources. These can range from minor clerical errors to significant issues that may influence hiring decisions. HR professionals must understand discrepancies’ causes and types to assess their relevance and impact on hiring decisions while upholding candidate rights.

Discrepancies in Employment History Checks

During employment verification, discrepancies can occur due to clerical errors, such as mistyped dates or incorrect job titles, or candidates providing misleading information. This section discusses how these discrepancies arise and their implications, emphasizing the importance of thorough due diligence in verifying employment history to maintain data privacy and accuracy.

Discrepancies in Criminal Background Checks

Criminal background checks can reveal discrepancies that may not necessarily be critical red flags, such as common name confusion or outdated information. Record expungement and its effect on background checks is crucial for accurate assessments and informed decisions.

Addressing Discrepancies in Educational and Professional Licenses

Verifying educational and professional credentials often reveals discrepancies. These can range from minor inaccuracies to significant falsifications. Challenges in this verification process stem from the myriad educational institutions and the absence of centralized databases for professional licenses. This section highlights the importance of respecting candidate rights and data privacy while addressing these discrepancies.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) outlines specific legal steps employers must follow when discrepancies might lead to adverse actions, such as not hiring a candidate. This section provides an overview of compliance requirements, focusing on the adverse action process and ensuring that candidates have the opportunity to address discrepancies. Understanding these legal considerations is crucial for maintaining compliance and upholding candidate rights.

How to Respond to Background Check Discrepancies

When discrepancies are identified, HR professionals must handle the situation with sensitivity and transparency. When sharing findings with candidates, it’s important to communicate clearly, respect their data privacy, and give them the opportunity to explain or correct any information. This approach ensures fairness and compliance with the adverse action process.

Enhancing Background Check Accuracy

To minimize discrepancies, HR departments should employ strategies that enhance the accuracy of background checks. This includes using reliable sources, maintaining thorough documentation, and ensuring due diligence in the verification process. Tips for choosing the right background check services and improving verification practices while ensuring data privacy and hiring process integrity.

FAQ Section

What to do if you find a discrepancy in a background check?

When you encounter a discrepancy in a background check, the first step is to ensure the information is accurate. Contact the provider to verify the discrepancy. If the discrepancy is confirmed, notify the candidate in writing and provide them with the details. This communication should include the specific information in question and the source of the background check data.

It is important to give the candidate a fair chance to explain or correct the discrepancy. This is not only best practice but also a requirement under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) if you consider taking adverse action based on the background check results. During this time, maintain open and transparent communication with the candidate to resolve the issue promptly and fairly.

Additionally, ensure that your actions comply with local and federal employment and background checks laws. This includes respecting the candidate’s rights and maintaining their privacy.

How long do you have to resolve a discrepancy?

The time to resolve background check discrepancies varies based on its nature and location laws. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), employers must provide the candidate with a pre-adverse action disclosure that includes a copy of the background check report and a summary of the candidate’s rights. The candidate should be given at least five business days to respond to any discrepancies before any adverse action is taken by the employer.

This period allows the candidate to correct inaccuracies or explain any discrepancies in the background check. Employers should use this time to reassess the situation based on any additional information the candidate provides. Efficient resolution timelines are crucial for fair hiring processes and quick decision-making.

Clear policies and training for HR staff are essential to ensure fairness in the hiring process.


Discrepancies in background checks pose challenges, but managing them correctly is crucial for fair and effective hiring practices. This guide has outlined the various types of discrepancies, their potential impacts, legal considerations, and best practices for managing these issues to respect candidate rights and ensure compliance with employment laws.

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