What shows up on a background check for a job?
Employment background checks vary in scope, but they all have the core purpose of verifying that an applicant is honest, qualified, and trustworthy. To this end, most background checks will include at least three types of information.
The most basic thing employers want to know is that applicants are who they say they are. Background checks involve searching the applicant’s social security number in federal databases to confirm that it is a valid number belonging to the applicant. The applicant’s reported address may also be compared against records.
Identity verification can go further, checking that the applicant’s education, professional licensing, and employment history were accurately represented.
A background check will typically include a credit report, which will include a list of the applicant’s lending accounts (including the amounts borrowed, types of accounts, the dates the accounts were opened, and payment history), past credit inquiries, credit score, and possibly bankruptcies.
Employers are naturally concerned about bad credit when hiring someone to deal with money, but even in non-financial positions, defaulted loans and bankruptcies may raise questions about an applicant’s judgment and moral character. Employers filling highly sensitive roles may also worry about the potential for bribery of a financially strained employee.
Whether employers seek to exclude applicants with certain criminal histories due to the type of work (e.g. preventing violent felons from having access to children), or simply to get a general sense of the applicant’s behavior, they will want to know about any criminal record before making hiring decisions. A complete background check will include not only convictions (both misdemeanor and felony), but charges that were acquitted or dismissed, and pending charges. The only charges that will not appear in a background check are those that a court has ordered sealed or expunged.
If a position involves driving, an employer may request a driving record in addition to the standard criminal background check.