Don’t Fear Those MBA Admissions Background Checks

mba background checks

MBA background checks are more common for some schools than others, but their overall use is growing. Some programs vet every admitted applicant, others randomly select a percentage of candidates and still others delve further only when something seems to raise a red flag. The process usually takes place in the spring, after all application rounds have passed and candidates begin sending in their deposits.

Last season, one of our clients shared, “I am a little worried about the background check process.  How detailed is the search? How do they verify earnings for example?”

Two former MBA Admissions Officers on the SBC team–from Harvard HBS and Duke Fuqua–replied to concur with the following.

It depends on the company the school hires; but, they will verify undergraduate degree and GPA as well as dates of employment, positions held and salary with the HR departments and/or direct supervisors”

Another former MBA Admissions Officer on the SBC team added, “I have had a client who exaggerated his salary (without me knowing!) and freaked out after having been admitted by Wharton because the background company was asking him to show proof. Ultimately, he was able to explain it with a bonus that his employer verified.”

Bottom line: if you were honest and can explain or document any discrepancy, you should be okay.  Note: this applies to almost any inconsistency the background check companies discover.

The vast majority of people shouldn’t stress over this verification process. Business schools aren’t on a mission to grill candidates about every last detail of their applications. They simply want to ensure that applicants have honestly represented themselves, their experience and their accomplishments.

Make sure you’re meticulous about presenting the facts, haven’t exaggerated or lied, and have explained any lapses in judgment that could come back to haunt you,  and you’ll have nothing to worry about.

Navigating Unique, Non-Traditional Employment or other Situations

Sometimes applicants are screened because their profile is unusual or difficult to verify, such as if their work experience included time in a startup or at a failed startup, in a small family firm or at a company abroad, and the admissions office simply needs to clarify and confirm the details through a verification process.

Our MBA background check expert, Lisa, says presentation is key to ensure a smooth background check once admitted.  Lisa recalled the following client scenario:

I carefully advised a client last season on how to present his employment because he was an independent contractor that established his own LLC. With all payments for employment running through the LLC and then also doing some side consulting work that he invoiced through the LLC, we had to make sure his employment was accurately presented on his application in a way that was both understandable and would not raise flags during a future background check. The client took my advice on how to report his employment throughout the application.

SBC’s MBA PreCheck: for Applicants and Admits who Need Guidance

Do you need some guidance? We often support clients who need feedback on what aspects of their pending or submitted application can be scrutinized by MBA Admissions, as our clients sometimes worry about a failed MBA background check. We provide this feedback and also recommendations for how to mitigate the risks through our MBA PreCheck service. 

SBC’s MBA PreCheck service includes an offline review of the application and a 30 minute strategy phone conversation with our background check expert. This service can address:

  • if there are any high risk areas to your application
  • whether to include or explain something in your application or after submission
  • gap(s) in employment history
  • personal incidents that don’t appear anywhere on your official record
  • an MBA admission that is conditional pending corroboration of your background
  • any next steps to take to mitigate identified risks

Please contact us for rate and service availability by emailing or visiting our MBA PreCheck service page.

When MBA Programs Reject an Admitted Candidate

Business school background checks, on rare occasions, can result in rescinding the admit. Typical reasons for rejecting a candidate include ethical lapses or questionable behavior, not disclosing a layoff or firing, evidence of plagiarism and not disclosing a criminal conviction. Willful deception or lying by omission will jeopardize your admission – not minor discrepancies such as being off by a month when listing your employment dates. Most schools give applicants a chance to explain any plausible mistakes.

Though we can’t share specific examples due to confidentiality issues, we have had clients who have had problems with background checks. In some cases, an offer of admission was revoked following the background check. In one situation, the student had already started school and was escorted out due to an omission on the application. It wasn’t because of a lie, but rather that this person failed to include information the program would have wanted to know about during the application process.

Business schools can investigate application details that include everything from recommenders, employment, and education history, extracurricular and professional involvements, leadership roles and even authenticate anecdotes from application essays.

Major failures can translate into a story about lessons learned and self-improvement which can actually help your candidacy if you show how you’ve become a wiser, more humble person because of them.

SBC’s star-studded consultant team is unparalleled. Our clients benefit from current intelligence that we receive from the former MBA Admissions Officers from Harvard HBS, Wharton and every elite business program in the US and Europe.  These MBA Admissions Officers have chosen to work exclusively with SBC.

Just two of the many superstars on the SBC team:
Meet Anthony, who served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he dedicated over 10 years of expertise.

Meet Andrea, who served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions Marketing at Harvard Business School (HBS) for over five years.

Tap into this inside knowledge for your MBA applications by requesting a consultation.


(323) 934-3936

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