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I accepted an academic job offer, and was asked to consent to a background check 3 weeks ago. I filled out and submitted the online forms immediately. I followed up a week later, and was told that it normally takes up to two weeks to complete the process, but that there was going to be some delays because of COVID-19.

Last week someone from HR followed up and asked me to submit a manual release for a background check (sign by hand) - it seemed that one of my former employers required that for a reference check.

Since then, nothing.

I've been feeling nervous about this background check from the beginning, for a number of reasons:

1) COVID-19 and the impact on employment; I keep worrying they'll find some flimsy excuse to rescind their offer, like not being able to conduct a proper background check because universities are shut down.

2) I'm afraid of what one of my former employers may say. Context: my previous (but not current) job was a TA at a university where I did my PhD. My records as both student and employee are spotless. However, I filed an HR complaint against a professor for abusive behavior, and when word got out about the "confidential" investigation, everyone either ostracized me or gave me hell. I didn't do anything wrong, but I'm afraid they (will) have contacted someone who might want to trash me.

3) New worry: it just occurred to me that I left off a job when I was listing previous employment for the background check, and now I'm worried they'll have noticed and will see that as a red flag or something. In my defense, it was a part-time teaching gig. One semester, one class, and it was alongside my primary job while I was doing my PhD (actually, I think I accidentally blocked out the memory of it because that whole time period was so traumatic for me).

These concerns have been giving me a lot of anxiety as time goes by (not made easier by the fact that my current position is being eliminated at the end of the semester). I know that things just generally move slower in academics, and COVID-19 is making things go even slower...but 3 weeks still feels like a long time. Should I check in again with my new employer's HR? Leave it alone and wait it out a bit longer?

  • Location? Whether #3 matters depends on if you're someplace employers expect you to list all jobs no matter what. – BSMP Apr 14 at 1:38
  • I'm in the U.S. – Ace Apr 14 at 2:39
  • Since you're in the United States, I don't think you need to worry about them finding an excuse to rescind your offer. If they lose funding for your position, then they'll just tell you. (If it's a public school, you can keep your ear to the ground for news about budget cuts.) – BSMP Apr 14 at 4:58
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Check in in a week

I have had multiple friends in HR tell me about candidates they hired and then lost the paperwork for and as a result forgot about and never contacted again, so stupid stuff does happen. One week since the background check is not a long time, but if it continues for another week, send them an email.

Poking them is extremely low risk but potentially extremely high reward.

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    Would you suggest that OP bring up their concerns about points 2 and 3 at that point? I don't think they lose anything but letting them know she forgot about a brief job but I don't know if it's risky to bring up the complaint. – BSMP Apr 14 at 4:58
  • I'm thinking I might contact them 1 week from now (making it 4 weeks from the time they initiated the background check). If 2 weeks is their normal, and COVID-19 is delaying things, then does 2 extra weeks seems like a fair amount of time for them to sort things out? At that point, I think maybe I should bring up the brief job I forgot about just to be safe, but I'd rather not talk about the complaint unless I absolutely have to. – Ace Apr 14 at 15:18
  • @Ace - Please understand that unless you are dealing with a very large company (Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc), they likely have contracted out the background checks to another company, which means they are at the mercy of that company still performing the checks during this difficult time. If you are that worried about the errors you made in the information you provided, then you should contact the company, and explain you made an honest mistake and would like to correct the information for the background check. It's better to admit the mistake then for the background check to catch it. – Donald Apr 14 at 17:03

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