Why Wouldn't I Pass a Background Check?

Both employers and potential landlords commonly run background checks on applicants to evaluate them in advance of establishing a relationship. If you have recently submitted an application and have a concern regarding what the background check entails, there are several possible reasons why you would not pass this test.

Pulling a Background Check

It commonly takes up to a few days for a company to pull a full background check. As the name suggests, it is a comprehensive view of your background as far as public records. The results include credit, vehicle, property, employment, licensing and general court records. The inquiring organization needs your social security information, previous addresses and full legal name to initiate the check. You can also run a background check on yourself to get an idea of what the company sees using an online screening service.

Court Judgments

One issue that could cause you to fail a background check is a number of unpaid court judgments. These judgments are a matter of public record, and can include unpaid traffic tickets, debts, property liens and bankruptcy filings. If the organization evaluating your application sees many of these items, it may indicate a level of irresponsibility and cause a denial.

Criminal Record

Certain criminal records could also cause an applicant to fail a background check. Again, this is a potential indicator of the character of an individual. In particular, if the organization retrieves a record of theft or violence, that commonly would send up immediate red flags -- especially if it is a position that calls for working closely with money, customers or children. Landlords commonly seek tenants with a clean record as well.


If the background check reveals that you told an untruth on the application or your resume, that could disqualify your application as well. For instance, claiming to have a clear record or making statements regarding your educational history on your resume that conflict with the background check could prevent you from passing the application process. For this reason, it is important to tell the truth when the inquiring organization asks questions about your working, living or employment history.