Background checks: what banking candidates need to know

Background Check investment Banking

Banking Investment / May 3, 2016

It’s four days before you start your new full-time gig, and you just received a short email from HR:

“After further consideration, we have decided not to proceed with an offer of employment at Goldman Stanley, LLC. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused you.”


Yes, that’s right: your offer was just rescinded.

You planned your entire life around this job, signed a year-long apartment lease, and told everyone about it.

And now it’s gone.

So what happened, and what can you do about it?

Why Banks Rescind Offers

A bank might rescind your internship or job offer for one of four reasons:

  1. You did something stupid.
  2. You did something silly.
  3. You have legal troubles that may never go away.
  4. Circumstances at the firm have changed massively, or something else outside of your control happened.

Let’s go through each reason and look at a few examples:

You Did Something Stupid

Your offer could be rescinded if you outright lied on your resume, sent in a fake transcript, listed a false GPA, or made up something that’s easy to disprove with a bit of research.

A long time ago, banks were not especially stringent with background checks: as long as you passed the drug test and didn’t have any crimes on your record, you were good to go.

They also verified the employment dates for past jobs/internships, but that was about it.

But banks, especially large banks, have become significantly stricter over the years.

They are now going well beyond rudimentary checks and are also verifying what you did in each internship/job.

In the past year alone, I’ve heard multiple stories of offers getting rescinded because someone exaggerated too much on their resume (e.g., pretending back-office experience was client-facing work).

If you’re unsure whether you’re spinning too much, ask us first.

Negotiating too much or making absurd requests also falls into this category.

For example, some people win internship or job offers and then ask to “defer” them for a year.

But banks are not universities.

They spend a lot of time and money recruiting you – sometimes around $5, 000 per entry-level candidate – and they may not have the same hiring needs the next year.

So you accept the offer and start when they want you to start, or you lose the offer.

You Did Something Silly

A long time ago, I interviewed with a boutique bank as a “Plan C” option.

I was also interviewing with bigger banks, hedge funds, and prop trading firms at the same time.

I won an offer from the boutique bank but then proved “unresponsive” to their follow-up emails and calls.

For example, I took more than 24 hours to respond to emails, sometimes I let messages go to voicemail, and I didn’t call everyone back.

They correctly interpreted this behavior as me not being interested in the firm… and a week later, they rescinded my offer.

Banks, just like outside recruiters, focus on the highest-probability hires.

An MD’s time might be worth between $350 and $1, 000 per hour, so he/she cannot afford to take time away from deals and chase a student who is uninterested in the firm.

The firm decided to cut its losses by rescinding my offer and focusing on more interested candidates.

Other Examples of Silliness

I’ve also seen offers get rescinded when candidates try to negotiate too much, especially at smaller firms that appear to be open to negotiations.

For example, you push for a 5% salary increase and a month off before you start, but they give you only two weeks.

They agree to the salary increase, but not the month off, so you ask again – and they rescind the offer.

That won’t happen everywhere, but if the firm is very conservative, don’t push your luck.

Exaggerating your accomplishments can also fall into this category.

Interviewers might call you on this if they notice it during the interview, but they might not realize until much later on.

If you went too far or “copied” someone else’s experience, they could rescind your offer.

You Have Legal Troubles That May Never Go Away

Banks can rescind your job offer for almost any reason, including:

These issues can result in a rescinded job offer even if you disclose everything, and the bank says you’re “OK” at first.

Nope, life is not fair.

These legal issues are much bigger risks at the bulge-bracket banks because of their regulation and compliance requirements.

Circumstances Have Changed