Can the candidate refuse a background check?

The consent of the candidate is crucial for the background check process. But how common is it that the candidate says no to a background check, and how does it affect the recruitment process? Marie Henriksson, Operations Manager at ToFindOut, fills in the blanks.

Almost all kinds of background checks are completely based on the gathering of public information. In most cases the screening is conducted to simply assure that the candidate is the person that he or she claims to be. Information such as name, address and employment history etcetera are being checked.

Even though almost all candidates are positive towards the screening, they often have questions about what will be checked and if it’s optional to participate. The short answer is: Of course. A background check can’t be conducted without the consent of the candidate.

If the candidate chooses to decline the background check, the new employer may choose not to proceed with the recruitment process with reference to internal policies saying that employment contracts cannot be issued without a completed background check.

Marie Henriksson is managing ToFindOut’s research department and worked at the company since 2011. We asked her some of the most common questions about the candidate’s consent.

What is the most usual reason why a candidate says no to a background check?

– A candidate can, possibly, say no to a background check when he or she thinks that what may appear in a screening could prevent them from getting employed. An alternative reason is that one thinks that a background check is an invasion of privacy. An open, transparent dialogue between the employer and the candidate is often the key to a successful background check process. The attitude should be that a background check is not something you get exposed to, but something you contribute to, says Marie.

How should we act if a top talent refuses to give his or her consent to a background check? Do we have to follow a policy or is it alright to turn a blind eye?

– If you have an internal policy regarding background checks, the approved screening report is often a precondition for the candidate to move forward in the recruitment process, explains Marie. No individual assessments can be made if the candidate refuses a background check. If a policy is being used it also means that the candidate’s future co-workers went through the same procedure. It is also important to remember that background checks are only one of several parts of the recruitment process. But it is an important part of the overall assessment.

Employers without a policy for background checks are harder give advice to, says Marie. Without a predetermined work process the conduction of the screenings are arbitrary.

– Without a policy it boils down to taking a stand as an employer. When doing so, you need to be aware of the consequences. There are risks involved when you choose to not perform a background check, she underlines.

What advice can you give employers who wants to prevent the candidates from saying no to a background check? How can they best prepare the candidate?

– Make sure that you have been clear enough in the dialogue with the candidate. He or she needs to know that you want to perform a background check, why you want to do it and how it will be conducted. It is always a good idea to inform the candidate as soon as possible within the recruitment process. That way you provide plenty of space for the candidate to ask questions about the background check to you, or to us at ToFindOut. That creates trust and builds confidence. Our candidate survey shows a clear connection between how early in the process information is being given and how positive the candidate is towards the background check.

Marie talks about the importance of creating room for an honest conversation between the candidate and the manager.

– I can’t stress this enough – it is so important that the candidate gets to anticipate the screening. The candidate needs to be able to get a chance of telling his or her new employer that something may occur. That kind of conversation is often highly valued, for both sides. It creates a mutual trust. The background check can then confirm, or deny, what already has been discussed. As an employer you have to decide if what has come up in a background check should lead to an interrupted recruitment process or not, or if the result is irrelevant, says Marie.