Contingent Job Offers With Strings Attached

Contingent job offers present final hurdles to being hired.
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When you accept a job offer, be sure to understand any contingencies that may cause it to be withdrawn subsequently. For example, some companies perform background and reference checks, and these checks may not be completed by the time that you receive an offer, or even by the time that you actually start work. Negative results on such checks can cause the offer to be withdrawn, or you to be terminated if you already have started work.

One particularly controversial variation on this theme is the growing use of employment credit checks among many employers. We discuss this matter in detail under the 3rd heading below.

  • False Statements: Putting anything untrue on your resume, on an employment application or on a company questionnaire is risky. If discovered by the company, this can lead to rescission of an offer or dismissal if you already have begun work. This risk continues to exist even if your false representation has gone undetected for a number of years, and even if you have compiled a stellar work record in the intervening time period.
    A significant number of employers have a zero tolerance policy towards the use of falsehoods by job applicants, and effectively have no statute of limitations on enforcement thereof. Ironically, though, many companies lure applicants with false representations of their own. In most cases, unfortunately, employees hired pursuant to such claims have little or no opportunity for redress, at least not without launching potentially expensive legal action.
  • Arrests, Convictions, and Legal Actions: Companies commonly ask about past arrests, convictions and other legal actions against you. Minor traffic violations normally are specifically excluded from such inquiries. Accordingly, if you have any past brushes with the law that may impair your marketability as a job applicant, get advice from an attorney who specializes in employment law. Also look into the possibility of officially expunging arrest records.
    If you are seeking employment in a state other than the one in which you reside, be sure that the attorney understands relevant law in both states, as well as applicable federal laws. You should know precisely what biographical details the prospective employer legally can inquire about, and what you should do if you are asked an illegal question. Bear in mind that an employer may reject you for refusal to answer an illegal question, using the pretext that you were unsuitable for other reasons.
  • Credit Checks: Some companies conduct credit checks on potential hires. While there is conflicting evidence about its predictive power, some firms believe that someone with a poor credit history is likely to be a problem employee. For younger applicants who do not have an established credit history, use of credit checks by an employer can present a barrier to being hired. Note that there is a political movement to restrict the use of credit checks as a consideration in hiring.
  • Fingerprinting​: Be aware that many financial institutions fingerprint all employees, to facilitate criminal background checks. This is dictated by federal regulations that generally bar people with criminal records from the financial services industry. Companies in other industries also may fingerprint employees, where allowed by law, for the same reasons.
  • Erroneous Information: Background and credit checks at times come back with erroneous information that may place unwarranted blemishes on your record. Understand what redress you have if this happens to you.
  • Invasion of Privacy: If you believe that a prospective employer is trying to invade your personal privacy to an unwarranted degree, reconsider whether you want to work there. A company’s hiring practices often give important clues on how it treats its employees.
  • Changing Business Conditions: A common contingency is that business conditions can change very quickly after a job offer is extended. The company may start a round of layoffs that includes the job just offered to you. Alternatively, you may still have a job, but it may be radically different from what you thought you were getting. For all these reasons, and for the ones mentioned earlier, be careful to keep other options open for as long as you can. In particular, do not decline other job offers until you are certain that you actually will get the one that you prefer.