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I applied for a job in a bank. HR told me that the next step is that they would like to perform a background check on me. In my past experience with applying for a job, I have always gotten the offer letter first then was asked to do a background check. Is this practice customary for banks or am I missing something?

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  • To me, that seems the obvious sequence... first check whether you want to hire someone, then make them an offer. But I know it's different elsewhere, so I guess "it depends". Can you add a country tag, to get better insights into what is customary in your country?
    – nvoigt
    Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 14:01
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    Yes, this is usual for scammers. It's the perfect way to harvest private information of their next people. Be careful. Make sure you're talking to the people who actually work at that bank you applied to. Once you're sure they're the right people, then you can go ahead. Commented Nov 13, 2022 at 1:28
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    @StephanBranczyk Can't the scammers just send a fake offer letter? Commented Nov 13, 2022 at 11:46
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    @StephanBranczyk That seems orthogonal to the question. Commented Nov 13, 2022 at 18:36
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    @StephanBranczyk Yeah, I'd wait until after the interview. But either before or after the offer is made makes no difference to me. Commented Nov 13, 2022 at 18:51

4 Answers 4

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In my experience (US, Tech industry), the common sequence is an offer letter first, then the background check. The offer is made subject to the successful completion of the background check.

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    Your post seems to be contradicting itself, or maybe I can't read today..
    – Al rl
    Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 16:51
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    The offer essentially says "if you pass the background check." No contradiction.
    – keshlam
    Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 17:39
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    @Alrl, I agree with you. It seems a contradiction. It seems like a circular dependency. :-) Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 23:56
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    What is so hard to understand? The offer letter says it is made contingent on passing the background check. If you pass, you get it, if you don't the offer is void.
    – Ido Sarig
    Commented Nov 13, 2022 at 14:56
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    I'm not sure why people are having trouble with the wording. It's very clear: an offer is extended to the applicant. The offer includes a clause that says it's contingent on a successful background check.
    – DaveG
    Commented Nov 13, 2022 at 18:40
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I have worked in the financial industry starting first as a contractor, then being converted to full time. I received an offer and it was contingent upon a successful background check. This is the normal sequence of things. The FDIC requires a criminal background check to screen out people convicted of certain crimes. Most companies also verify your work and education and do a credit check. That level of background check requires a financial and time investment from the company.

They will want to ensure that you are serious about the position and let you know they are serious about hiring you before they pay for a check that can take a significant amount of time. They generally won't start the background check without some confirmation from you that you will accept the position they've offered.

If a company decides not to hire you based on the background check, legally they have to give you a copy of the report and a pre-adverse action letter. Then they have to wait a "reasonable" amount of time to give you a chance to correct any mistakes in the report before telling you they won't hire you because of the results. If they do the check without extending an offer, they may be able to legally skip over that part, but it would be shady.

It is very unusual for someone to try to do the background check before they make you an offer in the US, and I personally would not agree to it.

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    I find this answer useful as it explains why a background check is performed only after candidate accepts conditional offer.
    – paulj
    Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 20:59
  • Thank you for your thorough response. I felt it was somewhat odd myself. Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 0:19
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I applied for a job in a bank. HR told me that the next step is that they would like to perform a background check on me.

Background check have several types. Some places only do some of them, other places do all of them.

They can look into:

  • Criminal history
  • Financial history
  • Drug use
  • Work history

Because this is a bank they may know that what trips up the candidates is financial and criminal. It is possible that they ask you to sign all the forms to do the full background check, but then only do the ones that they can do electronically :criminal, and financial.

If you pass those initial checks then they can give you a conditional offer letter. The condition is to pass the entire background check.

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  • Education verification (to confirm that a candidate attended the institutions and earned the degrees and certifications they claim) is another common part of background checks, and has been for more than a decade.
    – njuffa
    Commented Nov 13, 2022 at 22:41
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It's not unusual for contracts to have clauses that invalidate the contract if the background check fails. Because background checks can take a while, it can be suitable to offer a contract before it is completed. Sometimes even employment can begin before the check is complete.

This is not always appropriate however.

With respect to your situation, there can be regulatory requirements in some industries for a background check to be completed before employment commences.

I wouldn't be surprised if a bank has a firm requirement that a background check is completed before even the contract is discussed. This ensure there is no mix-up where the check is pending, but you start work.

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