When you submit an employment application, lying about your work history and forgetting to include a three-month temporary assignment you had are very different circumstances. While many employers can be forgiving, some aren't and they don't have to listen to your explanations about why your qualifications don't match the results of a background check. You can be fired for any reason, including unknowingly providing false information on your employment application.
An employment application is a legal document. The final page of the application requires that you attest to the truthfulness of the information you provided. When you sign your name -- whether a handwritten or an electronic signature -- you're saying that you haven't omitted any information or misrepresented qualifications. Many applications also contain a disclaimer that the company can terminate you for concealing information about your qualifications or misrepresenting yourself as a viable candidate. Another disclaimer is that you are an at-will employee, which means the employer can terminate the working relationship at any time, for any reason or for no reason.
Some employers hire employees before they get the results from a background check because hiring decisions often are finalized based on whether the hiring manager believes the candidate fits the workplace culture. So, if you're already employed when the company discovers that something doesn't add up, your manager or the human resources manager might ask you to explain any discrepancies. The answers you provide could affect your employment status. In this case, if you have a plausible reason that explains you unknowingly provided unverifiable information, your employer may be forgiving and keep you employed.
The chances of keeping your job could be easier if you have documentation to prove that you didn't intend to falsify your application. Compile a list of jobs and personal information that you provide to every potential employer so that you're consistent. Review your entire background, including all of the short-term jobs you've had or discrepancies that might pop up during a background check. If there are discrepancies for which you have proof are untrue, obtain documentation to prove otherwise. For example, if your previous employer won't verify your salary history, be prepared to give your new employer a copy of your W-2 from that previous job.
Conduct your own background check to ensure that you're providing truthful information. For example, obtain a copy of your criminal history from local law enforcement to ensure that you don't have any misdemeanors or other convictions that might be revealed during a background investigation. Resolve discrepancies concerning criminal history before you apply for jobs. Document your steps to show that you are working to resolve inaccurate criminal history or consumer reports that can portray you as an unsuitable candidate.
Even if the employer doesn't state the reason why it's letting you go, under many circumstances, the company can terminate you at will. The employment-at-will doctrine gives most employers license to fire an employee for any reason or for no reason, with or without advance notice. So, instead of saying that the company is terminating you because the hiring manager or recruiter believes you intentionally falsified your application, it can sever the employment relationship just because. The exception is if your have an employment agreement, in which case an employer may still terminate the agreement if it has reasonable cause to believe that you provided false information.
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.