Education Verification Caused a Failed Background Check?

Last Updated:
September 28, 2023

When you apply to a job that requires a certain degree or education qualifications, you might have to submit to a background check. Most of the time, these checks go smoothly. But sometimes, a background check could fail on the education verification step. You might miss out on a job opportunity or lose a job you already started working.

What if you know the background check agency made a mistake? Read on to discover what to do in this situation and why education verification can cause a failed background check from time to time.

What is Education Verification?

Education verification is a standard step for most background checks these days. In a nutshell, a specialized background screening agency will double-check your educational history, credentials, and records by contacting the institutions that issued those credentials in the past.

A comprehensive education verification check might include:

  • A check of your high school diploma or GED
  • A check of your high school or college GPA
  • A check of your college diploma/degree
  • A check of any other educational certificates/awards that might be relevant to a job opening

For example, say that you apply to be a CPA. All certified public accountants must not only have advanced degrees in accounting, but also licenses to operate as legal CPAs. A background check for a CPA job opening, therefore, will include a check of your degree and your current state license.

Background screening agencies usually perform education verification by contacting universities, high schools, and other educational bodies. They’ll ask for records or ask whether a job candidate received a degree or credential they claimed to have received on their resume/job application.

Do Background Checks Always Include Education Verification?

Not always, but often. Background checks for jobs that require a certain amount of education – like a bachelor’s degree in one major or another – will include an education verification step for completion’s sake and consistency. 

Even jobs that don’t require a specific degree or educational credential might include a check of your educational background just in case – the last thing an employer wants to do is to hire an employee who lies about their educational background.

Education Verification Failures and Causes

The vast majority of education verification stages go off without a hitch. But in some instances, you or another job candidate might fail the education verification step.

For example, you might apply to a job, only to discover via an adverse action letter that your employer no longer believes you hold the degree you claim to hold on your resume. Alternatively, you might start working for a new employer, only to be let go a month after beginning work because your employer doesn’t have proof that you have the right license.

This can happen for a variety of reasons:

  • The background screening agency might confuse your identity with someone else’s, causing it to bring up erroneous and inaccurate education history info
  • The background screening agency might contact the wrong educational institution, thus drawing an incorrect conclusion (that you don’t have the educational credentials you say you do)
  • The educational institutions might make a mistake on their end, causing a hiccup
  • And more

In any case, failing a background check because of education verification can be a disaster for you and your job hunt.

Consequences of Education Verification Failures

If education verification causes a failed background check, you could experience major consequences in the short and long term future.

For starters, you could miss out on a lucrative job opportunity that you know you qualify for. Your prospective employer might rescind a job offer even if everything else went perfectly, like the interview. Furthermore, you could find it difficult to receive other job offers in the future if the same education verification error follows you around on further background checks.

In the long term, this could damage your reputation or even cause you to lose employment. If you're already working for your employer, but a background check turns up erroneous information – like claiming you don't have a degree when you do – you could be thrown into financial jeopardy just because of one mistake. 

In these instances and more, you need to know what to do and how to fix education history errors ASAP.

What to Do if You Fail a Background Check Because of Education Verification?

Every background screening agency is required by law to allow consumers to dispute erroneous or out-of-date information. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have the right to file a dispute with a background screening agency online or by physical mail.

In the dispute, you’ll include:

  • The information you believe to be erroneous or out of date (e.g., you do have an up-to-date license to practice your profession, unlike what the background check says)
  • A request that the background screening agency correct the record and inform a prospective or current employer of the truth

Under the FCRA, background screening agencies have 30 days to investigate and resolve erroneous information upon being made aware of it. If a screening agency doesn't carry out this duty, it's in violation of your consumer rights, and you may hold them liable.

Your legal options can depend on the circumstances of your situation. For the best results, you'll want to consult with knowledgeable consumer rights attorneys. The right attorneys can explore your legal options with you and break down whether they think you should file a lawsuit against the background screening agency in question.

Should your lawsuit be successful, you could recover up to $1000 per rights violation in addition to other damages.

Contact Us Today for a Free Consultation

As you can see, the process of disputing a failed background check is straightforward. But it’s always wise to see the dispute process through with knowledgeable attorneys on your side. Our capable, experienced legal representatives can provide you with legal counsel and help you correct the record if a background check turns up erroneous education information. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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