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What Shows Up On a Background Check for Employment

What Shows Up on an Employment Background Check - ResumeCompass

One of the biggest things that cause concern and anxiety for job seekers and professionals are background checks that are often associated with pre-employment checks or employment verifications. Often times this anxiety isn’t the result of what might be found in the background check but is related to the overall process and procedure of the background check itself. We’ve outlined all of the things that might show up on a background check for employment, what the process is like, things that will be excluded from the report, and what you can do to reduce your anxiety and enhance the results of your background check.

What Is A Background Check?

When you’re getting ready to start hunting for a new job, or you’re in the middle of getting ready to sign all the paperwork after reviewing the documentation they’ve sent you, one of the things that is part of the normal routine is to get a background check done on behalf of the employer. Employers ask for these background checks because they want to make sure that there aren’t any red flags that might arise from hiring you or considering you for the position.

Background checks will evaluate a wide array of different things to ensure that they protect themselves against future litigation or lawsuits that might arise from hiring someone who shouldn’t be working in a certain environment, who have displayed negligence in the past, or who might cost the company and employer thousands of dollars in the event that something goes wrong. Essentially, background checks are a way for companies and employers to confirm that what the applicant has stated is true and that they can find the relevant and important information about the employee or candidate.

Background checks aren’t all the same, as some employers and organizations don’t want the full write-up for each candidate or employee they’re reviewing. Sometimes they want a simple background check which will check certain things like employment history, while others might want a more comprehensive and complete background check done. It all depends on the position, nature of the role, employer precedent, and more.

Background checks are often one of the last steps in the process to secure that position that you’ve been considering, so you shouldn’t worry about it too early on in the process of looking for future positions.

Even though getting a background check is something that is done late in the process, it helps to know exactly what’s on it, what the procedures are, and what you can do to both alleviate some of the anxiety that might arise and ensure that you get a good background check result.

How Do Background Checks Help Employers and Organizations?

Background checks help employers and organizations in several different ways, Liability, Compliance, Culture / Company Fit, and Safety.

1. Liability

The first way is that they help the employer and organization reduce some of the risk and exposure they have to potential lawsuits. Candidates and applicants who have a checkered past might present serious issues for an organization and employer if they’re left to manage important company details like company finances. Employers and companies will often conduct employee background checks or applicant background checks to make sure there isn’t anything that could be a potential liability for the organization. They don’t want to hire someone if there is going to be potential backlash down the road.

In the event that there is a little bit of concern for liability with a candidate, employers and organizations will often have a discussion amongst themselves about whether or not they should consider this candidate even with the liability. If the liability isn’t that concerning, they might even raise their concerns with the candidate to make sure they are aware of some of their hesitation and to make sure everyone is aware of the issue. In today’s modern workforce, most companies will choose to move on from candidates that present considerable liabilities, so it’s in your best interest as an employee or a job applicant to make sure that you don’t have any alarming concerns when they conduct a background check on you.

2. Compliance

Another reason for employers to conduct a background check on future employees is because they are legally required to do so. In some sectors or industries, conducting an employee background check is a requirement when considering any new candidate. One such sector is the government, where all employees must be screened and have a background check pass approval.

In many cases where the sector or industry requires that an employee background is required, employers and organizations cannot simply choose to ignore conducting a background check or opt to do it later at some point. They must be done before the employee is officially hired in order to be compliant with industry or government regulations. Failure to follow these strict guidelines could result in significant fines or action against companies and organizations that are legally required to conduct background checks on employees or job applicants.

3. Culture or Company Fit

The next reason that many employers and organizations will conduct background checks is to evaluate potential culture fit or evaluate potential company dynamics. Background checks aren’t just related to their legal or criminal history. Often times, background checks are used to identify a host of other things like previous employment, reference suggestions, and more. Background checks offer employers and organizations an opportunity to check a candidate or employee’s past to determine if they’d be a good company fit.

One of the ways that organizations and employers will evaluate this is to check if the candidate’s values from their previous organizations. Do their references back up what they’ve mentioned or do they raise alarms? Are candidates capable of working in a new environment with others in a team environment based on their previous experience or does their past indicate that they’ve struggled to work with others? These are just a few of the things that background checks might show for employers when they’re evaluating whether or not a candidate might or might not fit with existing team dynamics or company culture.

4. Safety

Another reason that companies and employers choose to conduct employment background checks is to make sure that everyone within their organization is safe. It doesn’t stop there though, as all organizations and employers also have a responsibility to make sure that their customers and clients are also safe. Employers and organizations do not want to unnecessarily expose their customers, clients, and employees to potential applicants who might do them or the business any harm.

Companies and organizations also have a legal responsibility to ensure that everyone is also legally safe to work with and for the organization in some capacity. Therefore, employers and organizations will conduct background checks to ensure that every single candidate they consider for employment will keep their work environment and organization safe.

What Types of Background Checks Are There For Employment?

There are a variety of different types of background checks that can be conducted when an organization is considering a candidate for employment. We’ve outlined some of the most common background checks and evaluations that an employer might conduct.

1. Identity Verification

The most common background check that an employer will conduct is an identity check. This background check is designed to ensure that the applicant and candidate is who they say they are. This background check is used to check the Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration to identify if the SSN the candidate or employee listed is accurate and valid, identify who it belongs to, and confirm that it hasn’t been used in the past.

Part of checking to ensure that the candidate’s SSN is valid is to ensure that the individual is allowed to work in the United States without restrictions. If there are certain restrictions, employers need to know this so they can identify what they need to do or what considerations they need to make.

Another part of the identify verification is to confirm that the individual’s license is valid and accurate. This is to ensure that the candidate and applicant is who they say they are with updated identification details, and that they have a valid license to ensure they can get to and from work without any restrictions. Additional details might also arise when they submit the license for a driving history check which we’ve highlighted below.

Additional details might include the candidate’s full name, their date of birth, and other important relevant information. In addition, employers and organizations will also evaluate the residential information that employees or candidates have listed to confirm its accuracy.

2. Employment History

The second type of background check that can be conducted is to verify the employment history of the candidate or employee. This is to make sure that all of the information on the candidate’s resume is correct. Part of the things that the employment history check will confirm is the previous places of employment, how long you worked there, potential salary, and the job title. The employment history check is to confirm that you did indeed work in the locations you’ve listed on your resume and that you did hold the jobs and titles you’ve listed.

Employment history checks are also another way for employers and organizations to confirm your skills, abilities, and to ensure that you’re not falsifying information you’ve listed. Employment history checks are one of the methods that employers and organizations use to weed out candidates who have been exaggerating details on their resume.

Employees and job candidates who falsify their resume details will get caught immediately during this employment history check, as the employment history check is often conducted in two different ways: 1.) Manual checks, or 2.) Automated checks. Manual checks occur when employers and organizations call up a candidate’s previous workplace to confirm the details they’ve listed on their resume. Automated checks are often services or products that will automatically check a candidate’s history based on other sources.

The best method to avoid getting stuck here is to be absolutely truthful when you’re listing your previous places of employment.

3. Reference Check

Reference checks are conducted by calling or talking to a candidate’s listed references. Essentially, employers and organizations will get in touch with the references that have been listed to get a third-party assessment on what the candidate or applicant is like, what they value, how effective they were in previous workplaces, and more. Unfortunately, one of the downsides of listing references in the modern work world is that employers, recruiters, and organizations understand that a candidate or applicant isn’t going to list someone who wouldn’t speak favorably about the candidate.

Instead, companies and organizations will ask questions to the references in regards to the candidate’s abilities in certain areas, their responsibilities, their work ethic, and more. The reference check is a good way for employers and organizations to get an understanding of how the candidate or applicant might also fit into existing team dynamics and culture fit like we’ve outlined earlier.

4. Criminal Background Check

The criminal background check is designed to evaluate whether or not an employee or job candidate has a criminal background. This criminal background check will return relevant information about whether or not there are any felony convictions, arrest records, acquitted charges, dismissed charges, misdemeanor convictions, or pending charges on the candidate or employee. These criminal background checks are often conducted to determine if there are any county, state, or federal level offenses. In addition, part of this criminal background check will also highlight whether or not the employee or applicant is on any sex offender registry. Another check that might be associated with the criminal background check is the terrorism registry. This evaluates whether or not a candidate is on any watchdog lists or terrorism watch lists nationwide.

5. Civil Criminal Background Check

A civil criminal background check is different than a standard criminal background check. A standard criminal background check will often only evaluate a candidate’s criminal history as it relates to the state or federal level. A civil criminal background check will be more narrow in nature and will evaluate whether or not there was any legal or criminal action against a candidate at the civil level.

Some things that might show up here from this background check include anything that might be settled in a civil court like litigation from another individual, potential wrongdoing suit, or judgements against the candidate.

6. Driving History Check

The next background check that an employer might conduct would be a driving history check. These background checks are designed to evaluate a candidate or applicant’s previous driving history. Some industries or sectors often require a driving history check if the employee or candidate is going to be operating a motor vehicle or driving to and from work with company property at any point. In addition, some employers will check a candidate’s driving history to identify any potential negligence in the past, as it reflects the overall character of the individual.

7. Education History Check

Nearly every job posting requires has some form of education required to be considered for the position. Education requirements serve two purposes, 1.) To ensure that the candidate can accurately and completely do the job that is advertised, and 2.) To narrow candidates down to individuals who are the most qualified for the position. Education history checks and education background checks are used to confirm that the candidate or applicant has the education that they’ve listed on their resume.

Just like their previous employment history, some candidates have been known to tell a little lie here and there when it comes to their education because they think they might have an increased chance of landing the position. Unfortunately, these education history checks and education background checks will quickly identify whether or not a candidate has lied about the education they’ve obtained or are currently working towards completing. Some of these education checks are automated, and some are manual where the employer or organization has to call up the institutions to confirm the details.

8. Credit Report

The next background check that an employer might request is a credit report. A credit report isn’t always necessary, but it is useful in helping an employer determine whether or not a candidate is fiscally responsible. If a candidate has made some bad financial decisions in the past or has a lot of outstanding debt that would be considered unreasonable, then it might indicate that they’re not responsible or capable of handling a job where finances are involved. Credit history also plays a role in determining what kind of decision making the employee or candidate might make while on the job.

A candidate or employee who displays sound financial responsibility would also indicate that they’d be responsible in other aspects of the job if they were given different tasks.

9. Drug Tests

The next background check that an employer or organization might request is a drug test. This is to check and evaluate whether or not a candidate or employee has any active drugs or controlled substances in their system. For those industries, sectors, or jobs that require employees to operate heavy machinery, this type of check or test could be conducted on a regular basis to ensure there is no wrongdoing or unsafe activities going on.

Two Methods of Criminal Background Checks for Employment Background Checks

Employers and organizations can use two different types of criminal background checks on their employees or job candidates. We’ve outlined the two different types of criminal background checks that can be conducted.

1. Name-Based Criminal Background Checks

Name-based background checks are the standard background check you might think of when it comes to checking a candidate’s criminal history. These types of checks take in a candidate’s name, their birthdate, social security numbers. These types of background checks are often limited in scope to what we’ve outlined earlier, and often aren’t comprehensive enough for more serious positions or government-level positions.

2. Fingerprint Criminal Background Checks

One of the more comprehensive ways to evaluate a candidate or employee’s entire criminal background is to use a fingerprint when conducting a background check. This is a more comprehensive method because a fingerprint can be used to check all identification databases at the federal or government level, and can also help employers identify anything they need to know as it might pertain to an individual employee or candidate outside of their domestic country’s borders.These types of criminal employment background checks are rarer, and you most likely will never have a background check like this unless you’re pursuing high-level positions.

Why You Should Care About Background Checks During a Job Search

Background checks are an important part of making sure that a candidate is safe to hire for organizations and employers. As a candidate, job seeker, or professional, you should do your utmost to ensure that your background check clears to reduce all of the extra hassle that might be involved or ensure that you won’t be eliminated from contention in a job that you’re interested in.

How To Reduce Background Check Anxiety and Improve Results

There are several things that you can do to ensure that you reduce the amount of anxiety you feel towards background checks and ultimately improve the results. We’ve outlined several of the key ways that you can do this below.

1. Run a Background Check On Yourself

One of the best ways to reduce your anxiety that you might be feeling towards background checks is to simply conduct your own background check. There are plenty of services available that you can use or hire to run a background check so you can see the results. These personal background checks will also let you see if there’s something you should be concerned about before an employer or organization conducts one themselves. By conducting a self background check, you can also ensure the validity of the findings and take steps to rectify anything that might be inaccurate or wrong. You want to do this before it becomes an issue when someone else runs a background check on you.

2. Be Truthful With The Organization and Employer

The next way to reduce the anxiety and improve your results is to be forthcoming and truthful. Don’t try to hide or exaggerate some of the things on any official documents. Instead, be absolutely truthful and upfront when you’re explaining things about your past or filling out official documentation. You don’t want to be caught in a lie or raise some concerns later on because you weren’t one hundred percent honest with them.

3. Provide Additional Explanation If Necessary

As we’ve outlined earlier above, there are going to be certain cases where employers are willing to overlook certain issues in your past and still consider you for the role. If that’s the case, you need to be willing to provide additional explanation when necessary. You shouldn’t come across as if you’ve got something to hide, otherwise it’ll just raise more red flags to the employer.

4. Know Your Rights

It’s important to understand what employers and organizations can actually do when it comes to running background checks on you and your personal and professional history. Some states have different requirements and you should do a little bit of research to know what can and can’t be done. In the event that you’re concerned or you cannot find enough research on your own, you should consider reaching out to an attorney to get their feedback and learn some more info.


Background checks are a necessary step for nearly every line of work or job that you might hold in your professional career. Often times they might lead to anxiety or concern for each professional or job seeker, but there really isn’t much fuss to worry about. Be completely upfront and honest on all the paperwork and documentation you submit to employers, and you should be just fine!

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