Summarizing the Ballotpedia entry,
Committee hearings allow a close examination of the nominee, looking
for partisanship and views on public policy. ... Once committee
hearings are closed, most committees have a set amount of time before
a vote is taken on whether the nominee is reported to the Senate
favorably, unfavorably or without recommendation. They also have the
option not to take action on the nominee. If action is taken, the
committee notifies the executive clerk. ... Only one cabinet position
since 1945 has been confirmed by the Senate after being reported as
unfavorable by a committee. ... Following a vote of cloture, the
Senate conducts a simple majority vote on whether to confirm, reject
or take no action on the nomination.
So after committee hearings, the committee might choose to not take action on a candidate. I don't think this would put anyone on the committee in a good light. If the committee returns a unfavorable report, it is a defacto denial given that there has only been one who has been appointed with an unfavorable report. Yet, this only highlights that in theory they could approve a unfavorable report. A group in the senate might try to deny cloture, but that is not the same as denying them the position.
Ultimately, it comes down to the simple majority vote. If they have that majority, they can get appointed even over a unfavorable report. However, even with a favorable report, they can be down voted by the senate and be denied the position.