To set up the question.

I was offered a position, and it is contingent on a successful background check. I have a solid educational and career experience background. I recently finished grad school, and while finishing my thesis, worked on my own entrepreneurial project, a website (that deals with dynamic data management), which I developed with a partner. In addition to building it, I shopped the website to investors, potential partners, and worked to find people to test the product, but have never gotten to the point where it was validated as a business and therefore it made no sense to incorporate, charge people, etc because we were more interested in development and functionality than spending money at the time. It is scheduled to be beta tested in use soon at which point decisions like that would be made.

The existence of my work is verifiable. The website functions at a high level, and I have plenty of proof of the time, conversations and effort put into the product. The website was discussed in the interviews, my responsibilities have been represented correctly, and I did not claim to have collected a salary from the website (additionally, the salary offer from the hiring company has already been submitted). The long and short of it, I've been upfront about the project and never represented it as a functioning business, I did however include it as part of my work history, because it is.

So the issue I have run into is with the background check. They have their instructions to verify, and they have their limits on what they can accept as verification. Since this was included as part of my work history, its something that they wanted to look into. They reached out to me for more information, however where the website's current development is, doesn't fit into (incoproration, w-2, 1099's, etc). They are also unwilling to speak with my development partner. Due to this and based on my conversation with them, they are likely to report it as "unable to verify."

I'm wondering what the correct process is to handle with the hiring company's H.R.? Like I said, I haven't hid anything about the website, and in my application, cover letter, resume and 3 rounds of interviews, represented the work as it existed and was performed. To clarify, I explained clearly in the interviews that it was an entrepreneurial project and that unfortunately we hadn't found investors to grow the project as I had hoped. The website and its functions are relatable to the position. I include it as part of my resume because its relevant to my skill set and understanding of the field I work in.

I know that it is likely to be the only checkered mark on the background check, and I'm wondering what I should do to address it to H.R. or the hiring managers.

  • 3
    Sounds like you're worrying too much. HR is not the end-all, be-all. Your hiring manager is the one who would care - HR doesn't know what they're looking at. They don't want to talk to your partner because he isn't necessarily disinterested - he might have reasons for making either a really good or really bad reference. If you have people that don't have a direct reputational or financial interest in the website but know their way around it's internals, give them as a reference. Dec 6, 2013 at 9:07

1 Answer 1


The function of an HR department varies state to state, and obviously company to company, so I'll try to answer as generically as possible.

As a hiring manager HR helps me out by weeding candidates on the criteria I establish in the job requirements (degree, years of experience, language fluency, etc). Once I've selected a finalist or two I ask them to verify everything on the resume and job application. They don't make the hiring decision, I do.

So even if HR can't verify it very well, just correctly explain to them via an email what you did in your question here and leave it at that. It will get around to the hiring manager who can do with that information what they wish. If you're really concerned, email the hiring manager directly as well. Don't imply that you're worried about the HR department, but simply say "We discussed my project in the interview and I wanted to give you more details if you're interested, here they are...".

The only caveats to this, and times when HR does indeed make a call to not hire someone, is generally if they find something so egregiously and legally wrong that it can't be reconciled and it puts the hiring company in real hot water. Hiring someone with an outstanding felony warrant, hiring someone who wouldn't be able to get a security clearance and needs one for their job, someone who isn't in the country legally, etc.

Those types of rules vary state to state and year by year as employment litigation battles play out in the courts.

It's pretty common for HR departments to be unable to verify parts of your work history. Companies close down, references die or move away, etc. It's possible this will snag your hiring process a bit, but unlikely that it will be a death knell.

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