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A contingency is a caveat or exception to the agreed upon terms of a contract or offer. In employment, a contingent job offer means the employer has presented you with an offer, verbally or in writing, but the company has covered itself in the event it discovers information that impedes your ability to do the job. Many job offers are contingent on a few common factors.
The primary purpose of a contingent job offer is to serve the interests of the employer. Once a hiring manager identifies the best prospect for a position, he wants to communicate the intent to hire to protect against losing the candidate to another employer. However, the hiring manager is often restricted in his ability to make an immediate offer because of standard human resource procedures. The contingent offer allows for prompt communication to the new hire, but also gives the company an out if a background check turns up problems.
One of the most common job offer contingencies centers on the background check. Many employers hire third-party agents to conduct an extensive check of your previous employment, credit, criminal history and driving record. This process can take two to three weeks, which is why the contingent offer is normally made before the check is completed. If the employer uncovers criminal problems or other character problems that a person didn't disclose or that pose a problem, the offer may be rescinded.
Health Screening and Drug Tests
Some employers require health screenings and drug testing on new employees. Drug tests are common in a variety of work environments to ensure the company doesn't hire someone actively using drugs. This testing normally takes a few days to schedule and complete. Health screenings are less common, but are required in certain professions. Airline pilots, for instance, must undergo health screenings to ensure they are in good health because of the safety risks to passengers and crew.
References and Employment Verification
Many employers contact a final candidate's references before extending a job offer. However, if it takes longer than expected, the hiring manager may want to reach out to the candidate with a contingent offer. Along with checking references a candidate provides, employers may also need to contact current or recent employers to verify work history and experiences. While employment verification is sometimes included in the background check, the employer wants to verify that you performed the duties and gained the skills you indicated.
In a June 2012 article, background and reference check professional Paul Barada Sr. pointed out that contingent job offers are somewhat risky for employers. When a company makes an offer and rescinds it after checking references and backgrounds, the employee can put two and two together to realize what happened. Employees have the legal right, according to Barada, to review materials used in the decision. Such a review could make the company vulnerable to civil lawsuits if the employee discovers any damaging information that he can prove is false.
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