Summarizes the initial red-flag, the applicant doubling down on her claimed birthday, and Imperative uncovering the applicant's relevant criminal history

A few weeks ago, one of our analysts mentioned that a job applicant on whom we were conducting a background check was insisting that the California DMV gave us the wrong date of birth when we ran her driving record.

That would be a first for me in over 20 years in this business.

While processing a law-firm client’s request for an employment background check, our analyst noted that the applicant-provided date of birth was three months earlier than that reflected on the driving history.

Our other identity research also supported the driving history’s date of birth.

This discrepancy is not totally unheard of. Applicants sometimes make honest typos.

Other times, however, they try to muddle their identity information to hide issues in their past.

Per our procedures, the analyst updated the background check to reflect the more likely date of birth and initiated the rest of the research on our report.

She also notified our client of the change.

Normally, this would have been the end of the story (making for a very boring blog post).

However, in this case, the applicant called our office and disputed the new date of birth. (The employer had wisely provided her a copy of the information we’d shared.)

She insisted that she’d provided the correct date of birth and that the California DMV must have made a mistake.

We explained that the information was automated and came directly from the DMV’s files.

But just to be sure that this wasn’t some sort of one-off reporting error, we ran her driving history again—with the same results.

The applicant promised to visit the DMV the very next day to clear this up.

She sounded extremely perplexed and credible (the best ones always do)—perhaps the California DMV really had made some sort of mistake?

In the meantime, the criminal background check continued using the corrected date of birth.

This may be too inside baseball, but just a quick explanation about why the date of birth is so important.

Criminal cases are indexed in the courts’ files by the defendant’s name and date of birth and we almost never see a social security number in a defendant’s court records. An applicant trying to hide a criminal history might submit a variation of their name or date of birth to try and hide that history.

Anyway, the next day, the applicant emailed a PDF containing a copy of her driver’s license… reflecting the date of birth she was claiming.

We examined the image closely and there was no indication that the DL had been altered. Of course, this was just an image and basic Photoshop skills are not uncommon.

We asked the applicant if she had spoken to the California DMV about why they might have provided us a different date of birth and she indicated that she would visit the DMV office the next day.

The following day brought another email from the applicant.

This time, it included a copy of her driving history from the California DMV. Indeed, it contained the same traffic infraction included on our report.

However, it reflected the date of birth that the applicant continued to insist was accurate.

Again, this was a PDF of a document and we had no way of validating its authenticity.

We spoke to the applicant, who indicated that “the lady at the DMV” was just as bewildered as we were as to why their system was providing the wrong date of birth.

We promised to look further into it and get back to her.

About this time, our public records research team began receiving the results of the county criminal research we’d requested using the date of birth on her driving record.

It turns out that under the DMV date of birth, the applicant had a significant criminal history across California and Nevada. Her offenses included multiple convictions in the past seven years involving jail time for:

Grand theft,

Burglary, and…

Wait for it…

Forgery of a government document.

She also had an outstanding warrant for her arrest.

She also had six other criminal cases that were older than seven years, which under California law, our client could not consider.

All of these cases reflected the date of birth reflected on her California driver’s license.

Several of her criminal files also included her California driver’s license number—the same number she provided us.

No wonder she doubled down on the fake date of birth! She had quite a history to hide!

I called our client, a prestigious law firm, to update their HR manager.

Our client had not requested that we verify the applicant’s previous employment but she had checked with the applicant’s professional references, each of whom had verified her employment claims.

The problem was that the applicant’s jail time overlapped the periods of employment verified by her “professional references.”

At our client’s request, I began trying to verify the applicant’s employment claims.

The applicant’s current employer, another notable law firm, was marked as “do not contact.” This is not uncommon (though we recommend that employers always verify current employment after the candidate has accepted an offer, if not sooner).

So, to verify that she really worked there, I called the law firm’s main number and simply asked to speak to the applicant.

The receptionist paused for a moment and then, in a conspiratorial half-whisper, told me “She no longer works here.”


“No problem,” I responded cheerily. “May I speak to your HR department or someone who can verify her previous employment?”

A longer pause and then she asked if I could wait a moment.

After a long wait, the receptionist returned and explained that I would need to speak to the law firm’s senior partner, who was not currently available. I thanked her and provided my contact info.

The previous employer listed by the applicant was another law firm, where she claimed to have worked for almost 13 years. Under “Reason for Leaving,” she indicated that the firm had gone out of business.

A quick Google search confirmed that the firm had, in fact, been absorbed by a larger multinational law firm in 2013, when the applicant indicated that she had terminated.

I called the larger law firm and negotiated my way to their HR department. Six years after an acquisition, I knew it was unlikely that the firm would have employment records from the acquired firm—but they did!

Within minutes, the HR department told me that, yes, she had worked for the law firm from 2001 through 2003.

Cue record-scratch sound.

2003? The applicant indicated she worked there until 2013.

No, the helpful HR generalist told me, she was terminated involuntarily in 2003—ten years earlier than she claimed.

And no, it wasn’t a layoff. It was an involuntary termination.

I updated our report and called our client with an update about both employers.

The next morning, our client called.

The applicant had contacted her, claiming that she had obviously been victim to some significant identity theft and as it would likely take her a long time to clean up the mess. And, so that she could focus on cleaning up the mess, she was withdrawing herself from consideration for the position.

Our clients don’t order background checks on candidates that they don’t intend to hire.

Had this law firm not run a quality background check through Imperative, the criminal history research would likely have been completed using the wrong date of birth—and resulted in no criminal records.

Lessons for employers:

  • Make sure your background screening partner is doing more than simply running an “SSN Trace.” They should be looking for any discrepancies between the information from various sources and the information provided by the applicant. Most don’t.
  • Criminal research conducted with the wrong identity information will usually cause you to miss legitimate criminal records.
  • Always verify documents provided by applicants. We’ve seen fake IDs, court documents, and degrees. Make sure your screening partner goes to the original source for verification.
  • Anytime your background screening partner provides you information that concerns you, initiate the pre-adverse action process, even if the entire background check hasn’t been completed. This is fair to the applicant and, in the case where you have an applicant who is being dishonest, gives them a chance to opt out of consideration earlier in the process, freeing you up to start looking for you next (and better) candidate!

Don't become the victim of a Bad Hire Day!

Download our eBook 7 Steps to Making Bulletproof Hiring Decisions to learn how to create a thorough background screening process that starts before an applicant even walks through your door. 

Don't become the victim of a Bad Hire Day!

Download our eBook 7 Steps to Making Bulletproof Hiring Decisions to learn how to create a thorough background screening process that starts before an applicant even walks through your door.