Personal Development
What Do Employers Look For in a Background Check?

What Do Employers Look For in a Background Check?

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What is an Employee Background Check?

An employee background check is a vetting process used by employers to verify a candidate's personal and professional information. Companies might consider a range of information, including criminal records, credit history, employment history, education, and social media use. There are restrictions and regulations in place to protect a potential employee's rights, so understanding what employers look for and having the relevant documents prepared can help you navigate the process successfully.

What do Employers Look For?

Employers typically assess your qualifications for a role, including your educational and work history, as well as criminal history and credit report information. Every employer is different and some may not perform a background check. It is important however, to ensure that any third-party information reported is accurate and up-to-date.

How do Employers Conduct Background Checks?

Employers often use third-party organizations to conduct background checks. They must provide written notification in advance and ask for written consent from the potential employee. Larger organizations may choose to conduct background checks internally. Employers may also conduct screenings, where they check your social media, education, and work history independently.

What Are the Consequences of Denying a Background Check?

Some states or jurisdictions have laws to protect an individual's right to refuse a background check, however employers can reject their application. Depending on the state, refusing a background check can result in a fine or even criminal charges.

Key Takeaways

  • Employee background checks are becoming increasingly commonplace as employers want to hire reliable and qualified candidates.
  • It is important to understand what employers look for on a background check and be prepared with the appropriate records or documents.
  • Be aware of any potential consequences when it comes to refusing a background check, as this can be subject to state or jurisdiction specific regulations.

Preparing for an Employee Background Check

Employment background checks are a crucial part of the job application process. In order to make sure your background check experience is successful, it is important to be aware of the legal restrictions, know what employers are looking for, and be equipped with the necessary documentation. Following these five tips can help job seekers make a great impression.

Common Elements of Employer Background Checks

Employers conducting background screenings are looking for a combination of elements. This usually includes identity verification, employment verification, educational verification, criminal record, financial history, medical history, social media, and driving records. It is important to be aware of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) in order to know what information employers are not allowed to use, such as bankruptcies over 10 years old, civil suits, judgments over seven years old, and paid tax liens over seven years old. Additionally, it is important to be aware of local laws that may impose additional restrictions.

For certain professions that require licenses, certifications, or degrees, employers may request educational verification. For roles that involve driving, employers may contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in the applicant's state, though a signed release form is usually required. Social Security numbers should not be asked for during the hiring process unless absolutely necessary.

Tips for Preparing for a Background Check

  • Be aware of the type of background check being ordered.
  • Check your credit report in advance.
  • Let your references know they may be contacted.
  • Know your rights under the FCRA.
  • Keep your online presence professional.

Dangers of Failing a Background Check

Different organizations have different standards when it comes to background checks; however, certain issues will always raise red flags for potential employers. A severe criminal history, dishonesty about qualifications or work history, or an unflattering online presence could all be cause for rejection. If possible, be prepared to explain any criminal record and provide references that attest to your skills and abilities.


Having the knowledge to successfully navigate a background check is an important part of the job search process. Understanding the FCRA, local laws, and employers' expectations will give you an advantage when it comes to putting your best foot forward in the application process. Honesty is always the best policy when providing information to potential employers.

Employee Background Checks: Preparation and What to Expect

Having a good understanding of the process can help ensure a successful outcome and secure the job of your dreams. Employee background checks are a normal part of the screening process for many job opportunities, so being proactive and taking the right steps before the results come in can bring peace of mind.

What is an Employee Background Check?

A background check is essentially a review of an individual's public records, credit reports, and other sources of information. It is used to verify identity and assess suitability for the job. Employers may also require a background check of existing employees to comply with legal requirements or internal security protocols. Commonly, they look into criminal or financial records, addresses, driving and credit histories, educational qualifications, work experience, and professional licenses. Drug screening and criminal background checks may also be mandatory, depending on the employer.

Things to Keep in Mind When Going Through a Background Check

Legality is of utmost importance. Employers are limited to requesting job-related, relevant information, and any personal data such as gender, age, race, or religion is strictly forbidden from being used in making a hiring decision.

Preparing for the background check beforehand is essential. Gather all relevant paperwork, update resume information, and double-check accuracy in all job applications and resumes. Honesty is paramount; being transparent about any issues that could raise a red flag will save any potential headaches or surprises later on.

If the background check is denied, the employer must provide a written explanation, such as inaccuracies or omissions in the applicant's information. They must also provide an avenue for the applicant to dispute the results and challenge the accuracy of the information.

Procedures for Conducting a Background Check

Employers typically follow a few standard procedures when conducting background checks. These may include a review of public records, a credit check, criminal background check, and confirmation of employment and educational history. Third-party services may be utilized, and employers must stay compliant with state and federal laws. Additionally, they should remain updated on the latest developments in the background check process.

Background Checks: What to Expect

Having an idea of what to expect when going through a background check can be immensely helpful. It's important to remember that personal data such as gender, age, race, religion, etc. are not allowed to be requested or used. This means employers must stick to job-specific information when evaluating potential or current employees.

When preparing for a background check, there are some key steps that can help set you up for success:

  • Gather all relevant paperwork in advance.
  • Update resume information.
  • Ensure accuracy in all job applications and resumes.
  • Be prepared to answer questions about past employment and educational history.


Understanding the background check process and properly preparing for it is key to having a successful background check. Gathering all necessary paperwork, ensuring accuracy in all documents, and being honest with employers can help make the process much smoother and more successful.

Understand the Background Check Process

Employers should research legal restrictions and stay informed about the latest developments in background check processes.

Be Honest With Employers

It is important to be upfront and honest about anything that could raise a red flag in your background. Failing to disclose relevant information could lead to legal repercussions or a denied background check. If a background check is denied, employers must provide the applicant with an explanation as to why. This includes a statement of any inaccuracies or omissions in the information provided by the applicant.

Applicants have the right to dispute the results and question the accuracy of the information in question.

Preparation Steps

When performing background checks, employers typically review public records, credit information, criminal background check results, and employment history and educational credentials. Employers may use third-party services to help with the process. All employers must remain compliant with state and federal laws while conducting background checks.

Before authorizing a background check, review the terms and conditions of the document carefully. Failing to authorize a background check could lead to refusal to hire or termination of employment. Employers may also immediately dismiss applicants if false or misleading information is provided.

Be Prepared

Although background checks can be intimidating, being prepared will make the process smoother. Gather all relevant paperwork and information beforehand and be prepared to answer questions about your past. Understand the terms and conditions of the background check authorization so that there are no surprises during the process.

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