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So I recently just got an offer for a really cool company and I have one last concern: the background check. Long story short I worked at another company as a contract-to-hire on a ridiculously long 4 year contract and was let go 2 years in.

I started as a W2 employee at this company and a few months in was switched to a 1099 as I would "get paid more". As my two years were approaching, they terminated me for poor performance and left me in the dust one morning. I was still doing the exact same job duties and role, 9-5 8 hour days for the same company I was placed at the entire time.

My main concern is the employment history check as I believe it will look murky and weird, as well I am concerned this agency will disclosed they terminated my contract for said reason, as it just seems to be a company technically based in the US, but its main operations are offshore and I believe they don't really have a "HR" department per se. I have a couple of references of the employees I worked with at the contracted position, so should I be that worried?

In my resume and LinkedIn I've put a contract role, and during the interview process they never really asked if I was terminated or why I left...so I never brought it up. I'll be devastated if my previous job prompts my failure of a background check, how worried should I be in this situation? And what could I do to possible prepare for this situation in terms of getting references ready or calling my previous employer to check?

For reference if this helps as well this is in the Financial Industry and I have about 3 years of experience, but this was my last job.

  • Welcome to The Workplace user120992! You provided quite a bit of detail but one vital element is what this organisation you worked for will say about your employment. Am I right to summarise that you were an employee for 2 years then converted to a contractor but were still employed for the full 4 years? If so, their records probably won't show that you were fired but you'd likely have to check. And how did your contract end with this company? Do you know if you'll be given an opportunity to provide a detailed work history or extra information for the background check? – Lilienthal Aug 31 at 16:08
  • @Lilienthal Thank you for responding, let me clear some details up. As per the original way this job was described was basically a contract-to-hire. But the contract was abysmally long basically. (Usually it is for 6 months or so), but for this...4 years, at the time I was desperate and needed a job. I was terminated 2 years in, I started as a W2 and a couple months in they turned me into a contractor (1099). Which is why I am nervous how this company could answer, as they are not a traditional company in the sense that they are just using the US to hire cheap talent. – user120992 Sep 1 at 9:06
  • Ah, I indeed misread that. Thanks for clarifying. I've updated your question with this. Are you able to reach out to this company to ask what they will say if asked to confirm your employment dates and reason you left? People sometimes recommend to call them as if you're an employer checking a reference for that to see what is said. (A legal and moral gray area but potentially warranted here.) – Lilienthal Sep 1 at 9:22
  • Oh boy, after @Lilienthal edit it seems I have extremely misread the question. – Tymoteusz Paul Sep 1 at 10:57
  • @TymoteuszPaul You're not alone. Your answer is useful still I think, but you could consider addressing the fact OP is possibly considered fired. Though I'm wondering if he might not be better off posting a new question to ask specifically about addressing a malicious company firing you on your resume and whether or not to treat it as a "real" termination when discussing it with employers. It feels like a different question from the more specific situation the OP is asking about here. – Lilienthal Sep 1 at 14:07
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And what could I do to possible prepare for this situation in terms of getting references ready or calling my previous employer to check?

Whenever facing a not-so-great background check the best policy tends to be own it and be upfront about whatever may come up on it.

This allows you to control the narrative around the issue, something akin of "oh, this was just tax paperwork so I can take more money home, so we switched from employment to contracting" would probably make this whole thing as a non-issue as it's not unheard of, and in some places quite common. Additionally if it comes up during a background check then the reaction will be "ah, this is what he was talking about" instead of "ugh... what is this?".

On the other hand if you don't mention it and then it comes up during a background check then you no longer control the narrative and, on top of that, the person who is recruiting you will be served with a rather unpleasant surprise on top of it. And in case that needs saying, unpleasant surprises are never good. Planned unpleasantness can usually be handled (depends on how bad) but it's stuff that gets you out of nowhere that tends to cause the most damage.

Now it's probably too late to do that, so just have to sit and wait to see what happened. But if you feel otherwise, you could always shoot an email explaining the situation now, which is going to be awkward as the time to say so was before the background check has started. My guess would be that this issue won't come up, at all, so why highlight it.

so should I be that worried?

Probably no, and for two reasons.

One: it's unlikely to come up, if I had some employee I liked, who then turned into a contractor, then my reference would still be positive and probably make no mention of the switch at all, and certainly would not include the word "fired".

Two: worrying solves nothing. Continue job hunting, as you should until you have a signed contract in hand and carry on with as little worrying as possible.

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I'm going to answer what I think is your actual question: will the company pass on hiring you because of this? And my reading is: it's relatively unlikely.

You have to understand the process that's involved with hiring someone. Generally, it comes down to four main elements:

  1. Weeding out applicants that, on the surface, are not a fit for the position.
  2. Conducting an interview (or multiple interviews)
  3. Each party deciding: is this where I want to work and is the applicant that I want?
  4. Doing a final check to make sure the applicant that was interviewed is the actual applicant they'd be hiring.

#4 isn't an "identity theft" sort of thing. It's a "did they completely BS with their job history?" or "are they wanted for 5 counts of embezzlement?" or such - making sure that the face you presented at your interview and on your CV is actually real and not a complete snowjob. At step #4, you're the person the manager wants.

With that in mind, a lot of your worries go away. They're not looking for "What is the tax status of the companies this person worked" or "Were they technically an independent contractor or a part time employee or what?"

You're the person the hiring manager wants. The background/criminal/history check isn't a "tip-the-balance" measure. It's a final sanity check to make sure you're not a convicted felon that made a bogus resume and BS'ed their way through the interview.

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A previous employer of mine hired a new kid who – somehow – "immediately triggered my Spidey Sense.™" He was subsequently let-go only after ... problems I can't discuss here.

But, only then did my employer do a criminal background check on this individual. "Yeah ... that."

Oh, he seemed like a very nice guy – beguilingly so, even . . .

Companies worldwide have therefore learned their lesson. Superficial criminal background checks are easy and cheap to get, and a negative report won't automatically be "The Mark of Cain." They've learned the very hard way that "looks can be deceiving." (And, would you want to be working – as I briefly was – with someone who, "little did you or your employer know ...?")

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    This isn't a comment on the crux of your answer, but just a suggestion on the writing: you should generally make an argument and then defend the argument afterwards. Your argument is "Employers know that surface appearances can be deceiving, and so they might not just write you off from a superficial check." But you have to get to the last sentence before you actually say that. And your example kinda goes against that thesis (person with a negative background check should not have been hired, but was.) Those two things made this answer a bit tough to read and process. – Kevin Aug 31 at 17:29
  • @Kevin I think the implication of this answer is that they should have run a background check on this employee, but didn’t. – nick012000 Sep 3 at 0:13
  • @nick012000 - Agreed, sort of. That implication is supposed to support the idea "Looks can be deceiving, a negative review won't sink you." It's just that it's an example that doesn't really work the best for the thesis, and burying the thesis until the very end makes it very hard to process what this answer is trying to say. The thing reads much easier if you grab those last two sentences (not including the ones in parenthesis) and put them at the very top. The example is still a bit off-kilter, but it's at least it's a lot easier to understand the point of it. – Kevin Sep 3 at 13:41

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