What Does Decisional Mean On A Background Check

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As we move closer to a more connected world, more and more companies are gravitating towards doing background checks on their applicants. Large companies like Amazon, Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash added background checks to their recruitment processes.

However, some people don’t fully understand the need for a background check. From the average person’s perspective, it might seem a little excessive for a company to do a full background check on its applicants.

On the contrary, background checks allow companies to pick the applicants with the least likelihood of creating problems around their workplace by disqualifying applicants with unwanted qualities according to their pasts.

And since a background check is essentially a test, you might think there are only two outcomes when one is conducted. Either the applicant fails or passes. However, some background checks come back decisional. So keep reading as we explain what that means.

The Short Answer

When your background check results come back as decisional, that means that the company’s decision algorithm decided that your results were not bad enough to disqualify you but not good enough to green-light you.

Decisional means that hiring you is left to the hiring team to decide.

My Background Check Results Came Back Decisional

Instead of hiring a large team to review all background check results, some companies opt for a decision matrix to do the job instead.

A decision matrix contains a table filled with the company’s hiring requirements, and the matrix compares the background check results to that table.

If the comparison goes well, the applicant is given the green light. And if the results don’t match the matrix, the applicant is disqualified. However, sometimes your results can be neither great nor horrible. Therefore, the decision matrix labels the result decisional.

At this point, the results are forwarded to the hiring team for a manual review to decide whether or not to hire the applicant.

Are All Decision Matrices the Same?

No, not all companies have the same hiring rules and requirements. For example, some companies require a certain level of education that others don’t.

On the other hand, some companies may be more likely to hire an applicant with a criminal record or a bad MVR (Motor Vehicle Record), while others wouldn’t tolerate the slightest stain on an applicant’s past.

Therefore, every company has a decision matrix that fits its needs.

Reasons Why a Background Check Result Might Say Decisional


If your results are decisional, and you’re not entirely sure what could’ve caused the matrix to classify you as such, there’s no need to worry. We’ve listed the most common reasons a decision algorithm might classify a background check as decisional.

Criminal Misdemeanors

There is no standard on how tolerant companies should be towards applicants with misdemeanors on their criminal records. But, generally speaking, misdemeanors contain many victimless crimes that wouldn’t compel a company to instantly disqualify applicants.

Here’s a list of misdemeanors that might confuse the matrix and lead it to forward the results to a hiring team for a closer review.

  • Trespassing. This isn’t necessarily a violent crime, and some companies hire applicants with trespassing on their records.
  • Vandalism. Spray painting a wall years ago doesn’t mean you can’t do a good job as a delivery driver.
  • Cyber-bullying. While this might not sound serious, some companies can disqualify an applicant if they show signs of toxic behavior.

Bad Motor Vehicle Record

If you’re applying for a job as a delivery driver, it’s understandable for a company to want to ensure they’re entrusting their delivery trucks and packages to responsible drivers. However, some incidents on a motor vehicle record aren’t clear red flags according to a decision matrix, so a closer look is needed.

Driving Under the Influence

If your motor vehicle record has a single entry, many companies are willing to classify that as a one-time mistake and hire you. However, having two or three DUIs is a pattern. In this case, you might be disqualified right away.

Frequent Accidents

A few minor accidents here and there are nothing too serious. But if you show a clear pattern of constantly getting into major accidents, the company will not trust you to work delivery for them.

Frequent Driving Violations

Driving violations include not signaling, speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, and distracted driving. Having a history of driving violations isn’t a big deal, but it’s up to a company’s policy to decide whether or not they want such a driver.

License Suspensions and Fines

A decision matrix will likely classify your background check as decisional if it finds several fines or license suspensions since this signifies an irresponsible driver.

Past Use of Drugs

Since most background checks also include drug testing, a decision matrix might leave the hiring decision to a team in case of a positive drug test.

You might be wondering, shouldn’t a decision matrix instantly disqualify an applicant that uses recreational drugs? Not necessarily. Some companies like Amazon don’t consider the use of marijuana as a red flag. Instead, they treat it the same way they treat alcohol use. So it eventually boils down to the individual company’s rules.

Education Requirements Don’t Match

Education is a tricky subject that often requires a hiring team to review. For instance, if a job position requires a person with a degree in computer science and an applicant has a degree in software engineering, that wouldn’t instantly disqualify the applicant since these two things are not entirely different.

Can I Still Fail a Background Check if It Says Decisional?

While decisional doesn’t mean you’re disqualified, it also means that a hiring team will look at your results to make the decision the algorithm failed to make. And if they find your results are not good enough for their vacant position, they will disqualify you.