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  • Malvika Patil

How Deep Do MBA Background Checks Go?

When business schools close all application rounds, and candidates begin paying their deposits, schools start background checks for admitted applicants. Typically it’s in Spring every year. The background check is a process where business schools verify the information that an applicant has provided in their MBA application to make sure that they have accurately represented themselves.

Not all business schools vet every admitted applicant. Some others have a select percentage of candidates they will screen, and others only perform checks on applicants who seem to have obvious discrepancies in their application.

What do schools look for in background checks?

When you write your MBA application and resume, you will need to discuss your background, achievements, and career in specific detail. Typically, the background check will verify the following details:

  • Degree(s) and School(s): The school may verify that you have attended the institutions you’ve claimed to attend and check your academic transcripts, including grades earned.

  • Employment History: The school may verify the job titles you have held, starting and ending dates for each role, salary, and rank(s).

  • References: The school may contact your recommenders to confirm their identity and relationship with you, and check that they are the genuine authors of your recommendations.

  • Test Scores & Certifications: The school may verify your standardized test scores or certifications with the issuing institution.

  • Extracurricular Activities: The school may confirm the length, nature, and other details of your involvement in community or extracurricular activities. 

In most cases, schools will outsource the background check process to dedicated verification services like ReVera or risk consulting firms like Kroll. 

But remember, these are MBA background checks, not FBI probes! These services will reach out directly to recommenders, HR departments, and other professional contacts, confirm the information you have provided, and report any discrepancies to the school. They will not question your recommenders about your specific contribution to a project. Nor will they tap into sensitive information like your social security number or credit score. They will only check the high-level details that the school requests them to verify. 

Will the background check alert my employer about my decision to apply for an MBA?

If you have not informed your employer of your MBA plans, you may not want them to find out from a third party like ReVera or Kroll. In this case, you can email a request to the relevant service to hold the verification process for your current company. Schools are typically quite discreet about verification, however, and may not necessarily reveal that you have applied for an MBA.

In any case, the background check process usually takes place after you have been admitted by the school. By this time, most applicants have given their current employer enough notice and may even have taken time off before starting their program. 

What if there are minor inconsistencies in my application and the background check?

Based on the background check, the verification service may send a report to the business school, noting any risk areas in your application. It’s rare that admitted applicants have large, unexplainable discrepancies like fake jobs, blown up salaries, or altered transcripts and scores; it would be silly to risk your admission that way!

More often, what happens is that applicants mistakenly enter details like dates and numbers. Or they may be unsure of how to convert GPA scores from their university to the required format. Perhaps they forgot to mention a bonus they received. Human errors or different recording systems used by companies constitute the majority of “red flags” in background checks.

In most cases of inconsistencies, the verification service will contact you directly for a routine inquiry. You may need to provide additional information or documentation. If the inconsistency is still unresolved, it will then be forwarded to the school’s AdCom, who may contact you again to clarify it. Minor inconsistencies or omissions are usually overlooked.

Alternatively, if you hit Submit and realize that there is a serious issue with your application, consider contacting the AdCom to clarify. 

However, note that if a significant issue is found in your background check and if it remains unresolved, your admission offer can be revoked by the school. Every year, a handful of MBA candidates have their admission offers revoked due to the background screening process.

What if I have an unusual job profile?

Applicants who may face challenges in the background verification process include self-employed professionals/entrepreneurs, company founders operating in foreign jurisdictions, early stage startup employees, people working in companies that have gone under or those that don’t have an established HR department, foreign NGO employees, or military professionals.

If you are self-employed or a small business owner, you may need to provide additional tax or incorporation documentation, depending on your country of filing. You may also be asked to provide Form W-2, an IRS form (for US applicants), and other supporting documents to verify your employment history.

If the company you have worked in is no longer in business or does not have an established HR department, the verification service may ask you for documents that prove your salary, tenure, and rank. They will also research the company on their own, but you can expect them to reach out to you if they need any information or contacts. 

If you were in the US military, you will be asked for a copy of your DD-214 form (your discharge papers). If you are currently in the US military, you may be asked for your social security number or Leaves and Earning Statement. International military applicants may be asked for an equivalent of these documents. 

Is there anything I can do to help the process?

Our (obvious) advice would be to be honest! Make sure you fill in your application details accurately and transparently. Don’t be lazy with dates and figures; retrieve old forms, statements, and documents and check with former employers while entering your profile information. If the school reaches out to you to confirm something, co-operate. Be meticulous about the information you provide, and you will have nothing to worry about!

Your business school application will almost certainly have an Additional Information or Optional Essay section for you to explain any discrepancies in your profile, employment gaps, low GPA or GMAT/GRE scores, choice of recommenders, or criminal records/academic probations. Here’s how to approach these topics.

Get started with your MBA applications and refer to real optional essay examples based on successful applicants. Join now!


Want to discuss your MBA application "red flags"? Book a free chat with one of our expert consultants today.


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