Applying for jobs can be a complex process. Preparing a resume and sending it out to dozens of places can be exhausting and frustrating. What’s worse, though, is getting the news that an employer has rejected your application, especially late in the process. 

When an employer conducts a background check, they may sometimes learn things they were unprepared for and use that as grounds to disqualify you. Those surprises can be pretty harmful. If the would-be employer decides to stop pursuing a potential candidate, they may submit an adverse action letter. 

What Is an Adverse Action?

On the off-chance that your background check hurts your chances for employment, a would-be employer is supposed to take adverse action, with adverse action meaning a negative result, such as no longer considering the applicant for the position. 

Usually, this action stems from the information they received from a background check. Employers have many things they can do in the wake of receiving unexpected, negative news. In addition to outright refusing to hire a potential employee, an employer can refuse to promote an existing employee or even demote someone in the case of an internal hire. 

An employer is legally required to send you a notice before taking action. While it is easy to feel hopeless after receiving such a notice, this presents you with a critical opportunity to review the information you receive and ensure that it is accurate.

What Can You Do If You Get an Adverse Action?

When a job applicant is notified about adverse actions, it is understandable to be surprised and frightened. Fortunately for those who have received such disappointing news, there is a process by which they can appeal a potential adverse action. 

There are reasons why a background check may give someone the wrong information about its subjects. Whether it is identity theft or criminal record inaccuracies, mistakes in a background check are not unheard of, and they can have real, devastating impacts on one’s employment. 

Before you receive an adverse action notice, you should get a pre-adverse-action notice. This notification gives you time to review the information and potentially appeal it. 

During this time, you are allowed an opportunity to respond in full to the information gleaned by the report. Take this opportunity to determine the accuracy of the information deemed harmful. If it is inaccurate, you can attempt to set the record straight. 

You can correct an inaccurate background check, and doing so can vastly increase your access to opportunities for employment and promotion. For example, if the position required a credit history check and there was incorrect information on your report, you can file for a credit report dispute

Once you appeal the adverse action, you’ll need to wait for the employer to review the new information and give their verdict.


While these sorts of adverse actions are disappointing, they can be an opportunity for you to review your employability. And if the background check results were inaccurate, it can be a chance to set the record straight. 

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