Ellen Diamond

How to Minimise Stress When a Candidate Fails a Background Check

Cite This
Ellen Diamond, (2021, September 29). How to Minimise Stress When a Candidate Fails a Background Check. Psychreg on Organisational Psychology. https://www.psychreg.org/minimise-stress-when-candidate-fails-background-check/
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Managing stressful situations is a crucial element of maintaining good mental health. There is no doubt that if you play a role in hiring staff for your company or business, then your stress levels will be inordinately high. So what do you do if the candidate you put forward fails their background check? 

Here are the step-by-step process for minimising stress when rejecting a candidate who has failed a background check:

Step 1: Keep everything in perspective

Informing a candidate that they have failed their background check isn’t a pleasant experience. No one likes to receive bad news, but no one likes to give it either. Having to take adverse action against a prospective employee can feel highly stressful for various reasons, but in the hiring process, it is a vital component. 

Adverse action meaning that you have to take action against them that is negative. The process can take many forms, but the stressful impact for both prospective employees and employers remains the same. 

It is always disappointing when a background check returns negative information about an otherwise perfect applicant, but acting swiftly and effectively is in your best interests. Keep the hiring process and rejection in perspective throughout the process – you’re doing this for the company’s success, not out of some personal bias or whim. 

Step 2: Understand that you are within your rights

This is when you need to take a step back and consider what this background check failure truly means. 

What is the nature of the failure? Did they lie about their qualifications? Did they lie about a previous workplace? Did they cover up a previous conviction? 

How you respond is largely down to your company’s policy, but you are also within your legal rights. Legal guidelines exist to protect someone from bias and ensure equitable employment regardless of race, gender, sexuality, religion, age, or disability. However, if they have been deceitful in their application, you have every right to reject them. 

Keeping in mind the reasons for your rejection and remembering that there are legal protections for rejecting a candidate can help ease your anxiety around this action.

Step 3: Know the protocol

If you have assessed the situation and decided you cannot hire the candidate based on this failure, you must inform them formally. This protocol will include notice of the upcoming adverse action and a copy of the background check completed. The candidate may challenge the decision and have every right to do so under the Fair Credit Reporting Act

Preparation for this pushback will prevent it from feeling like a nasty surprise. It can also be soothing to know that the applicant may have a  reasonable explanation for their background screening failure. Identity theft isn’t as rare as many people realize, so it is possible that specific details picked up by a screening service may have been incorrectly assigned to them. 

Stressful but necessary

Deciding who can and cannot work with or for you is a big deal, so, understandably, you may be feeling stressed. However, focusing on the bigger picture and the benefits of hiring the right people should keep you grounded. Deep breaths and adhering to the proper protocol are all you need to do to make this process as painless as possible.


Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She is interested in mental health and well-being.


Disclaimer: Psychreg is mainly for information purposes only. Materials on this website are not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on this website. Read our full disclaimer here

Copy link