what shows up on a job background check

What to Expect During a Job Background Check


background check job hiring

A background check is a typical component of the job hiring process. An employer verifies some of the information that job candidates provide and investigates factors that can have an effect on employment eligibility or suitability. But, with shady employers prowling around and misusing the concept of background checks, you might have contemplated what exactly is included in a background check. Understanding what can be investigated throughout the process can help put you at ease and prepare for questions that may come up.

The comprehensive nature of a background check rests in the employer’s preferences but the typical factors evaluated are criminal history, employment history and education, motor vehicle registrations, reference checks, and drug screening results. Employers will examine their job candidate’s past performance, looking not only at accomplishments but also to check for red flags.

Employers can only perform a limited check of job applicants’ credit histories. In the US, the Fair Credit Reporting Act regulates credit information usage. Because of this, employers should have a legal reason to search your credit history, such as you being hired for a financial position. In most countries, investigations into criminal activity are a vital component of background checks, especially in sensitive industries such as law enforcement, healthcare, and education. Employers will typically search national databases for convictions and sexual offenses as well.

Overall, candidates can expect a considerable amount of scrutiny during the hiring process. Background checks project employers with an opportunity to verify not only job-related skills (like academic credentials and technical training) but gauge maturity level and the ability to fit into the organizational culture.

Employment History

Employment History

Employment history is one of the most common items checked by employers during a background check. This type of check will typically include verification of past jobs, positions held, and dates of employment. The purpose of this check is to ensure that the applicant has provided accurate information to their potential employer, and that they have the necessary skills and experience to perform the job in question.

Employment history checks are typically conducted by third-party companies hired by the employer, known as background screening companies. These companies will contact previous employers to verify that the applicant did in fact work there, and will check for any discrepancies in the information provided by the applicant.

One thing to keep in mind is that employment history checks are generally limited to the past seven years. However, some states have laws that allow employers to go back further than seven years when conducting background checks.

Another important consideration is that employers are prohibited from discriminating against applicants based on their employment history. This means that an employer cannot refuse to hire an applicant simply because they have a history of job hopping or because they were previously fired from a job.

Overall, employment history is a crucial component of any background check and provides valuable insight into an applicant’s work experience and qualifications. It is important for employers to conduct thorough and accurate employment history checks in order to ensure that they are hiring qualified and trustworthy employees.

Education and Credentials

Education and Credentials

Employers are keen on ensuring that job applicants meet the educational requirements for the job position, which is why education and credentials are often verified through a background check. This is because credentials and degrees not only demonstrate the applicant’s ability to meet the requirements of the position, but also showcase their work ethic and willingness to learn.

Employers will often verify the educational qualifications that an applicant has provided on their resume or job application. This may involve contacting the educational institutions attended to confirm the dates of attendance, type of degree obtained, and graduation date. Employers may request transcripts from the academic institution to verify that the applicant completed their degree as stated.

In addition to verifying educational qualifications, employers may also check for any professional licenses and certifications that are required for the job position. These licenses and certifications may demonstrate the applicant’s dedication to their field and may give them a competitive edge over other applicants. Employers may check with the issuing organization or licensing board to verify the validity and current status of the license or certification.

Some job positions may also require additional specialized knowledge or skills beyond educational and professional certifications. In this case, candidates may be required to undergo specific exams or testing to ensure they meet the requirements for the job position.

In conclusion, employers utilize background checks to verify the education, credentials, and licenses of job applicants. This ensures that the candidate has the necessary skills and qualifications required for the job position, and demonstrates their commitment to their field. Candidates should ensure that the information provided on their resume and job application is accurate and up-to-date to avoid any discrepancies that may arise during the background check.

Criminal Record

Criminal Record

When you apply for a job, it’s important to know that the employer will most likely conduct a background check on you. A background check is a process that involves investigating a person’s past to get an idea of their character and behavior. One of the things that employers look for in a background check is if an applicant has a criminal record.

A criminal record is a document that provides information about a person’s past arrests, charges, and convictions. This document is created by law enforcement agencies and is kept on file at the state or federal level. When an employer conducts a background check, they can access this information in some cases, depending on state laws.

There are several factors that will determine whether or not a criminal record will appear on a background check. One of these factors is the type of job you’re applying for. If the job requires a high level of trust, such as working with children or vulnerable adults, the employer will likely conduct a more thorough background check. This may include a search of national criminal databases, which can reveal criminal records from other states.

Another factor that determines whether or not your criminal record will appear on a background check is how long ago the crime occurred. In many cases, criminal records are expunged after a certain period of time has passed. This means that the record is no longer available for public view. However, this varies from state to state and depends on the severity of the crime committed.

It’s essential to be transparent about your criminal history when applying for a job. If you’ve been convicted of a crime, be upfront about it and explain the circumstances surrounding the offense. This can help to build trust with the employer and show that you’re taking responsibility for your actions.

If you have a criminal record and are concerned about how it will impact your job search, there are still steps you can take to increase your chances of being hired. One of these steps is to get a certificate of rehabilitation. This is a legal document that shows that you’ve been rehabilitated since your conviction and may help to convince potential employers that you’re a good candidate for the job.

In conclusion, having a criminal record isn’t necessarily a barrier to employment. However, it’s important to be honest about your past and take steps to prove that you’re a trustworthy and reliable candidate. By doing so, you can increase your chances of landing the job you want and moving forward in your career.

What is a Motor Vehicle Record?

Motor Vehicle Record

A Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) is a report of a person’s driving record. It contains a history of legal driving status, license suspensions, revocations, and violations – including DUI and other drug-related convictions. It also includes information about accidents reported by police, traffic law convictions and fines.

Why is a Motor Vehicle Record Checked?

Background check

An MVR is checked as part of a background check when a job involves driving or operating machinery. The purpose is to verify that the applicant meets the job requirements. Employers want to ensure that their employees are safe and reliable drivers, and that they have a clean driving record.

What Information do Employers Look for in an MVR?

Driving license

Employers look for several pieces of information when checking an MVR, including:

  • The applicant’s current driving status and license expiry date
  • Any previous license suspensions or revocations
  • Driving violations, such as speeding tickets, running red lights, and other moving violations
  • Any convictions for DUI, drug-related offenses, or other crimes involving driving
  • Details of any accidents that the applicant was involved in

How is an MVR Obtained?

Driving record

An MVR can be obtained from the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Employers must get written permission from a job applicant before running an MVR, as required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The information contained in an MVR is confidential, and only authorized persons can access it. However, employers can use the information obtained in the MVR to make a hiring decision as long as it is job-related.

What Happens if an MVR Comes Back Negative?

Confused driver

If an MVR comes back negative, it may impact the employer’s decision to hire the applicant. However, the employer must be careful not to discriminate against the applicant based on race, religion, gender, or other protected classes. Before making any adverse employment decisions based on an MVR, the employer must give the applicant a chance to review and explain any negative information revealed in the MVR.

In conclusion, if you are applying for a job that involves driving or operating machinery, you should expect your MVR to be checked as part of the hiring process. A clean MVR could help you stand out from other candidates and give you an edge over the competition.

Credit History

Credit History

When applying for a job that involves handling money or financial transactions, it’s not uncommon for the employer or the agency to inquire about your credit history. A credit check is often conducted to assess your financial responsibility and determine if you pose a financial risk to the company.

Your credit history is a record of your borrowing and repayment activities with banks and other financial institutions. It provides a picture of your financial habits, including your payment history, credit utilization, and outstanding debts.

Credit scores range from 300 to 850, with a higher score indicating better creditworthiness. Employers often set a minimum credit score requirement for certain positions, and may even disqualify candidates with poor credit.

So, what do employers look for when they conduct a credit check?

Firstly, employers need to assess if the employee can manage their own finances properly. If a potential hire has a history of missed or late payments or has defaulted on loans, this may indicate poor financial management. In this case, the employer may decide that the candidate is not suitable for a position that involves financial responsibility.

Additionally, employers may also view an applicant’s credit report to determine if there are any financial red flags, such as a high amount of debt that could potentially harm the company’s financial wellbeing.

Another factor that could impact an employee’s suitability for a financial role is fraud, particularly pertaining to their credit reporting. Cases of identity theft, for example, could potentially harm an organization. This is why employers want to ensure that the candidate they hire has a solid financial background.

In conclusion, a credit check serves as a valuable tool for employers to verify an employee’s financial history and judgment. It helps employers make informed hiring decisions by assessing their level of responsibility and financial stability. It’s essential to maintain good financial habits and regularly monitor your credit report to ensure you don’t run into any surprises during the hiring process.

Reference Checks

Reference Checks

One of the most common practices in a job background check is the reference check. Employers use this method to gather additional information about the candidate from people who have worked with them in the past. These references could be former supervisors, colleagues, or even clients.

The employer will contact the references listed by the job candidate to verify their employment history, education, and other information that have been mentioned in the resume. Reference checks also help the employer to evaluate the candidate’s personality, work ethics, and communication skills.

During the reference check, the employer will typically ask basic questions related to the candidate’s past work experience. This could include the candidate’s job title, the duration of their employment, their job duties, and their performance. The employer may also ask about the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, their ability to work in a team, and their overall demeanor in the workplace.

It is also important to note that employers may reach out to references that are not listed by the candidate. This could include anyone the employer believes could provide relevant information about the candidate. Therefore, it is wise to maintain a good working relationship with everyone you work with, as they may be contacted as a reference in the future.

It is important to ensure that the references listed by the candidate are credible and reliable. Employers are likely to check the references thoroughly, and providing incorrect or fake references can have serious consequences that can negatively impact the candidate’s job search.

Overall, reference checks are an essential part of the background check process and should not be taken lightly. Candidates should be prepared to provide a list of references who can speak highly of their skills and experience and can vouch for their character and work ethic.

Social Media Presence

Social Media Presence

In today’s digital age, social media has become an integral part of our daily lives. From Facebook to LinkedIn and Twitter to Instagram, most people have at least one social media account. While using social media to connect with friends and family is common, some users tend to share a lot of personal information publicly. This information, whether intended or not, can leave a lasting impression on potential employers.

More and more employers are checking social media profiles to assess a job candidate’s online presence and professionalism. It’s not uncommon for hiring managers to Google a candidate’s name, check their LinkedIn profile, and even browse through their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. The goal is to get a sense of who the candidate is beyond their resume and cover letter.

For job seekers, it’s important to be mindful of what they share on social media and how it can impact their job prospects. Posts that contain discriminatory language, inappropriate jokes, or references to drugs and alcohol can be a red flag for employers. Similarly, photos of candidates engaging in unprofessional behavior or misconduct can hurt their chances of getting hired. It’s essential to keep personal and professional lives separate on social media.

On the other hand, having a positive social media presence can make a candidate stand out from the crowd. A well-curated LinkedIn profile that highlights a candidate’s skills and accomplishments can showcase their expertise, while a Twitter account that shares industry news and insights can demonstrate their interest and knowledge in the field. Moreover, social media can also be used to network and connect with professionals in the same industry.

Overall, a candidate’s social media presence can have a significant impact on their job search. It’s essential to be aware of what one shares on social media and its potential consequences. Employers will continue to use social media to screen candidates, making it more crucial than ever for job seekers to maintain a professional online presence.

Criminal History

Criminal History

One of the primary reasons employers conduct background checks is to uncover any criminal history. This includes any felony or misdemeanor convictions, as well as pending criminal cases. Any arrests that did not result in a conviction may also show up depending on the employer’s policies and the specific job position being applied for.

It’s important to note that not all criminal offenses will automatically disqualify a candidate from a job. The severity of the offense, the length of time since it occurred, and how it relates to the job responsibilities will all be taken into account by the employer.

Those with a criminal history may want to be upfront and honest about their past during the hiring process. This can help build trust with the employer and may even increase the chances of getting hired by showing responsibility and accountability for past actions.

Drug and Alcohol Tests

Drug and Alcohol Tests

Some employers may require drug and alcohol tests as part of the background check process. This is especially common in fields where safety is a top priority, such as transportation or healthcare.

Drug tests typically screen for marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, and PCP, while alcohol tests may measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC). It’s important to note that even if an individual lives in a state where marijuana is legal, it may still be prohibited by an employer’s policies.

Job seekers should be aware of their state and employer’s drug and alcohol policies, and may want to consider abstaining from these substances if they are concerned about the results of a drug or alcohol test.

Employment History

Employment History

Employers may investigate an individual’s employment history to verify their past work experience and job performance. This may include contacting previous employers and reviewing job references. It’s important for job seekers to be honest and accurate about their employment history on their resume and job application, as any discrepancies may raise red flags for potential employers.

Individuals with employment gaps may want to explain those gaps proactively in their job application or during an interview. This can help dispel any concerns about their job stability or reliability.

Education History

Education History

Employers may also verify an individual’s education history, including degrees earned and any certifications or licenses. It’s important for job seekers to be honest about their education history, as any false claims or inaccuracies could lead to disqualification from the hiring process.

Those who do not have a high school diploma or equivalent may want to consider obtaining a GED or other certification to demonstrate their education level and work readiness.

Credit History

Credit History

While less common, some employers may conduct credit checks as part of the background check process. This is especially prevalent in positions related to finance or accounting, where an individual’s financial responsibility and trustworthiness may be critical.

It’s important for job seekers to be aware of their credit history and to address any outstanding debts or other issues proactively. Disputing any errors on a credit report can also be helpful, as these could potentially harm job prospects.

Driving Record

Driving Record

Those applying for jobs that require driving may have their driving record reviewed as part of the background check process. This may include any traffic violations, accidents, and license suspensions.

Individuals with a clean driving record may want to be proactive about highlighting this during the hiring process, as it can be a valuable asset to potential employers. Those with a less-than-stellar driving record may want to take steps to address any issues, such as attending defensive driving courses or avoiding risky driving behaviors.

Sexual Offender Registry

Sexual Offender Registry

Some employers may also conduct a search of the sexual offender registry to ensure job candidates do not have any relevant convictions. This is especially common in positions working with vulnerable populations, such as children or the elderly.

Those who have been convicted of a sexual offense may want to be upfront about this during the hiring process and be prepared to explain any steps taken for rehabilitation or reintegration into society.

Social Media Presence

Social Media Presence

Employers may also review an individual’s social media presence as part of the background check process. This includes any public profiles on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Employers may be looking for signs of unprofessional behavior, such as discriminatory language, drug or alcohol use, or inappropriate photos or comments.

Job seekers should be mindful of their social media presence and may want to clean up any questionable content before starting a job search. Being professional and respectful online can also help build a positive impression with potential employers.


Knowing what may show up on a background check can help job seekers prepare and potentially address any potential concerns proactively. While it may be tempting to conceal certain information, such as criminal convictions or employment gaps, being honest and upfront can ultimately lead to a stronger and more successful job search.

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