What Does a Background Check Reveal?

Understanding the Basics of a Background Check

background check

A background check is a vital tool used by employers and organizations to verify and investigate an individual’s past, including their employment history, criminal records, financial status, education, and more. The primary aim of conducting a background check is to ensure that companies and individuals do not hire someone unsuitable, unverified, or untrustworthy, thus protecting their business and interests. Before delving into its intricacies, let’s understand what a background check entails.

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Most background checks will include basic information such as full name, addresses, date of birth, nationality, and social security number. This information serves as a reference point for the subsequent searches and verifications carried out. The depth of the check depends on the particular requirements of the employer or the organization requesting the check.

A typical background check typically includes several levels of investigation. The most basic investigation is verifying the details entered on the job application, followed by checks on an individual’s identity and employment history. The next level involves a criminal record check. This process includes looking into an individual’s past criminal records to see if they have any convictions or criminal charges.

The third and final level typically includes a review of the individual’s financial history, educational qualifications, and any professional licenses or certifications they may hold. This level usually requires consent from the individual as it involves accessing financial institutions, education records, and licensing agencies.

The background check usually takes place through a third-party service provider who specializes in performing thorough investigations. In some cases, organizations use online platforms that provide instant results, while in other cases, the checks may take several weeks or months to complete. This period depends on the depth of the check and the amount of information that needs to be verified.

The information obtained during a background check holds significant weight in a hiring decision. Suppose there are any discrepancies or concerns during the investigation. In that case, the individual will be asked for an explanation, and in severe cases, it could impact their employment prospects.

The bottom line is that background checks serve as an essential safeguard for individuals and employers. They ensure that the individuals hired are qualified, trustworthy, and do not pose any significant risk to the business or organization they work for.

Criminal History and Record Keeping

Criminal History and Record Keeping

A background check provides information about an applicant’s criminal history and any past convictions. A criminal history record check (CHRC) is a search of an individual’s criminal history based on fingerprint identification that enables the identification of all criminal arrests and convictions. These types of checks can be performed at federal, state, and local levels to give an employer a comprehensive understanding of an individual’s criminal history.

A criminal history check is usually performed by a background screening company and involves searching public records for any criminal offenses. The background screening company pulls information from various sources, including court records, police reports, and other public records of convictions, arrests, and civil judgments. The information that is obtained in these searches can reveal any criminal activity that may have been hidden from the employer or application. Employers can use this information to make more informed hiring decisions.

It is important to note that not all criminal offenses will show up on a criminal history search. Only convictions will appear on a criminal record. Arrest records may also be present but in certain cases, they may not be visible depending on the state laws and regulations. This is dependent on individual state laws and criteria around reporting arrests vs. convictions and sealing/expunging records.

When it comes to record keeping, there are strict rules and regulations in place to ensure that criminal history information is regulated. The FBI is responsible for maintaining the records of all arrests and convictions that occur at a federal level and state authorities are responsible for keeping records at a state level. Records are typically kept indefinitely, but in some cases, they may be expunged or sealed.

In some states, criminal history record retention laws restrict the amount of time that an arrest or conviction record is available. For instance, records involving juvenile offenders may be sealed when the offender turns 18. Records of criminal activity that has taken place a certain number of years ago but does not fall under specific criteria, may also be sealed as per the discretion of individual states.

Employers who conduct pre-employment background checks must also comply with federal laws (such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act – FCRA), state law, and local regulations surrounding securing and processing these critical records. This includes maintaining appropriate safeguards for the protection and confidentiality of an individual’s personal and criminal history data.

Criminal history checks are essential for industries where employee safety is paramount, such as healthcare, education, and law enforcement. These checks can protect an organization from hiring an individual with a history of violence, fraud, or other criminal activity that could put employees, vulnerable populations, or the general public at risk.

Overall, a criminal history record check is an essential part of any comprehensive background screening process.

Credit and Financial Information in Background Checks

Credit and Financial Information in Background Checks

A background check can provide significant insight into a person’s financial history. What appears in a credit or financial history check can vary based on the type and degree of check conducted. A background check can reveal several pieces of financial information such as bankruptcies, tax liens, and past employers.

A financial background check may also show the individual’s credit score, payment history, and any outstanding debts or loans. Employers may obtain this type of check to confirm that the employee is responsible and can manage company expenses and handling finances. In most cases, employers want to make sure their employees are trustworthy, reliable, and stable financially.

Credit history typically shows credit utilization, payment history, total debt, and any accounts that are past due. Employers also use credit reports to determine if an employee has any delinquent payments, late payments, or if any negative marks exist on their report. In some cases, an employer may use this information as a labor screening tool before extending an employee contract or promotion.

At times some background checks also map out an individual’s financial obligations and credit accounts. Employers might scrutinize credit reports to determine if a candidate holds a responsibility towards his debt repayments and tracks his finances accurately. Credit checks, together with other financial reports, aid the hiring manager in determining a candidate’s character, capability to fulfill all responsibilities owed to the company, and financial reliability.

Employers might also delve into an Applicant’s financial status if they are applying for senior-level management positions. These could be roles with authority and control over sensitive financial details about the company’s investment portfolios, financial statements, and expenses. In such cases, it is essential to ensure that the individual they hire is fiscally sound and possesses the knowledge required to execute complex financial roles.

Discrepancies in credit reports and financial backgrounds can raise concerns and prevent a candidate from being considered for certain job opportunities or promotions. Financial background checks add another layer of information compared with default background checks because employees with financial responsibilities affect the overall health of the company.

Employers must ensure that they are conforming to FCRA or the Fair Credit Reporting Act — a federal statute that determines how credit bureaus can share credit report data. This act defines who has access to an individual’s financial information, what is shared, where it is distributed, and how it is used.

One must note that the employer must obtain written consent from the candidate before performing a credit check. Employers cannot use the provided information to segregate any employee or applicant, or as an act of discrimination based on race, religion, or creed.

Overall, financial background checks provide transparency into an individual’s creditworthiness, financial management skills, and character. It allows employers to make informed decisions and trust that a candidate or employee with financial responsibilities is trustworthy, loyal, and responsible in terms of financial security for company operations.

Employment Verification and Education Check

Employment Verification and Education Check

When conducting a background check, employers usually conduct an employment verification and education check. These checks are usually done to verify that the information that a candidate has provided in their resume or job application is truthful and accurate.

Employment Verification

Employment verification usually involves contacting the previous employers that a candidate has listed on their resume. This is done to verify the job titles that the candidate has held and the dates of their employment. Employers may also ask previous employers about the candidate’s job performance and any disciplinary actions that were taken during their employment. Other information that may be verified include the candidate’s reason for leaving and their salary.

Employment verification is important because it ensures that the candidate’s background matches what they have said in their job applications. It also helps employers to avoid hiring candidates who have lied about their work history or previous job performance. In some cases, employment verification may also help employers to identify candidates who have a history of problematic behavior in the workplace.

Education Check

Education checks are another important part of a background check. They are usually done to verify the academic credentials that a candidate has listed on their resume or job application. This may include verifying the candidate’s degrees, diplomas, and other educational certificates. Employers may also verify the candidate’s attendance and graduation dates in order to confirm their educational history.

Education checks are important because they help employers to ensure that the candidate has the required education and qualifications for the position that they are applying for. It is also a way for employers to avoid hiring candidates who have lied about their educational background. In some cases, education checks may also allow employers to identify candidates who have falsified their educational credentials in order to gain an unfair advantage over other candidates.

What Employers Can’t Check

Although employment verification and education checks are important parts of a background check, employers are limited in what they can legally check. For example, employers are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of race, gender, religion, or disability when making hiring decisions. They are also not allowed to access a candidate’s medical records without their consent.

Employers may also be limited in what they can check in certain states or jurisdictions. For example, some states may prohibit employers from conducting credit checks or criminal history checks unless certain conditions are met. Employers should therefore make sure they are familiar with the laws and regulations in their area before conducting a background check.


In conclusion, employment verification and education checks are important parts of a background check. They help employers to verify the information that a candidate has provided in their job application and ensure that the candidate is qualified for the position that they are applying for. Employers should be aware of what they are legally allowed to check and should make sure that they follow established guidelines and procedures when conducting a background check.

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