What Employers Look for in a Background Check

Understanding Employment Background Checks

Understanding Employment Background Checks

As the world becomes more and more competitive, employers have become more cautious when making hiring decisions. They want to ensure that they are not taking unnecessary risks. Employers want to hire someone who has a clean record, leaves no stone unturned, and does not pose any threat to their company. This is where employment background checks come in. These checks are a glimpse into a person’s past, and they allow potential employers to make informed decisions. But what exactly shows up on these employment background checks?

An employment background check is a comprehensive search of a person’s history, both personal and professional. Such a background check can include but not limited to criminal records, credit history, and education verification. Many employers opt for a basic background check which covers criminal history, reference checks, and employment verification, but the extent of the check could vary depending on the job description. The level of background check desired depends majorly on an employer’s budget, the field of work, state or territories laws where this checks are permissible.

Criminal records are usually the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about any background check. In today’s world, most employers opt for a criminal history search through databases that provide criminal-related information. However, there is a limit to which information databases can provide. County criminal records search is a standard check, which involves visiting courts within the jurisdictions the applicant has lived in for the past decade. It is always crucial to find out which criminal charges and convictions can be used to eliminate an applicant from the hiring process. It’s important to note that employers are not allowed to conduct background checks that contain any discriminatory or unfair qualities.

Employment verification is the second most important item on the checklist. Has the person been truthful about their prior employment? Many employers use employment verification to ascertain if the job title, dates of employment, responsibilities, and the reason for leaving their previous jobs are accurate. Employers look out for gaps in your employment history and use various methods to check your employment history like reaching out to prior employers and examining income tax and social security records.

Educational verification is the next factor to consider. Lying about educational achievements is a common practice amongst job applicants. However, certain firms and industries require a minimum educational qualification for hiring. So this gives an employee no other choice than to verify the educational background of the applicant. This verification process ensures that the educational qualification mentioned by employee or the degree that he/she claims are authentic and also gives information on when and where the degree was earned. But employers must be careful not to cross the line by digging too deep into an applicant’s educational background history and make assumptions that may not be factual.

Credit history is also relevant in certain industries, particularly in finance, accounting, and banking. A good credit score shows that the applicant is reliable and can be trusted with handling finances. Credit checks but can be a controversial type of background check in the U.S.A, with certain states and cities having laws that restricts employers from using credit checks for hiring decisions Reason for credit checks is therefore the assessing details around the applicant’s management of finances such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, debt, and loans. It is highly recommended for employers to provide clear notification on credit checks while seeking permission and consent from the applicant.


Employment background checks are designed to provide thorough insights into a person’s history. By conducting a background check, employers get a clear picture of an employee’s history in terms of their professional and personal life. This process not only protects companies’ but also helps ensure that the applicant is a good fit for the company’s culture. To avoid discriminatory practices during background checks, it’s important for employers to have policies and procedures in place which ensures accurate and fair selection of employees.

Types of Information Included in Background Checks

Types of Information Included in Background Checks

Employment background checks are conducted by employers to verify the information provided by job applicants, as well as to assess their suitability for the job they are applying for. These checks can include a range of information, including criminal records, credit history, driving records, educational and employment history, as well as social media activity. However, not all employers use the same types of checks, and the specific information included in background checks can vary depending on the industry, the job, and the employer’s needs.

Criminal Records

Criminal records are one of the most common types of information checked in a background check. This information can be retrieved from county, state, and federal records, and can include felony and misdemeanor convictions, warrants, and pending charges. Depending on the job and the state laws, certain types of criminal history can disqualify an applicant from employment. For example, those applying for jobs in healthcare or education with a history of violent crimes or sexual offenses may be denied employment. However, some states have ‘ban the box’ laws, which prohibit employers from asking about criminal history until later in the hiring process.

Credit History

Employers may also check an applicant’s credit history as part of a background check. This information is usually obtained through credit bureaus and includes credit scores, bankruptcies, and outstanding debt. While employers may be interested in credit history for certain types of jobs that require handling money or sensitive information, some states have laws that limit the use of credit history in hiring, as it may be seen as unfair to applicants who may have poor credit due to circumstances beyond their control.

Driving Records

Jobs that require driving, such as delivery or transportation, often require a check of an applicant’s driving record. This record includes a history of traffic violations, accidents, and license suspensions. Employers may consider certain types of violations or a poor driving record as a risk and may use this information to make hiring decisions.

Employment and Educational History

Employment and educational history are also commonly checked in a background check. Employers may verify an applicant’s work history, including job titles, dates of employment, and reasons for leaving, as well as educational history, such as degrees and certifications. This information may be important for certain jobs that require specific qualifications or experience. However, employers must be careful not to discriminate against applicants based on their employment or educational history.

Social Media Activity

Social media has become an increasingly common source of information for background checks. Employers may search for an applicant’s social media profiles to gather information on their character, behavior, and online presence. However, this practice has raised concerns about privacy and discrimination, as an applicant’s social media activity may reveal their race, religion, or political views. Some states have enacted laws limiting the use of social media in hiring decisions.

Overall, the type of information included in a background check can vary depending on the employer and the job requirements. Applicants should be aware of their rights and the laws in their state regarding background checks, and employers must be careful to conduct checks that are relevant and fair to all applicants.

Legal Requirements for Conducting Background Checks

Legal Requirements for Conducting Background Checks

Background checks are becoming more common in the hiring process in various industries, including healthcare, finance, and education. However, employers must comply with legal requirements when conducting background checks to avoid facing legal consequences. Here are some of the legal requirements that employers must follow when conducting background checks.

1. Compliance with Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

FCRA is a federal law that regulates the collection, dissemination, and use of consumer information by third-party consumer reporting agencies (CRAs). The FCRA outlines the employer’s obligations that order consumer reports from third-party providers. The employer must provide a disclosure to the job candidate stating that a background check will be required. The candidate must also give written consent to the employer to access the information. The candidates must receive a summary of their rights under FCRA before requesting a background check and must obtain a valid report about them before any decisions are made based on the report.

2. Adherence to Anti-Discrimination Laws

Employers must not use the background check information obtained for wrongful discriminatory purposes such as only screening out particular ethnicity or race of job candidates. The background check results should be used in a way that is job-related and must be based on objective criteria. Employers who engage in discriminatory hiring practices risk facing legal consequences, including damages, litigation, and interest groups’ campaigns against them.

3. Ban the Box Legislation

Ban the Box Legislation

Ban the Box is a new legislative movement where many states and hundreds of cities provide statutes to limit or prohibit employers from asking about criminal records or convictions on job applications. If employers ask questions about criminal records on job applications, they may be indirectly discriminating against candidates with criminal records and failing to afford them the opportunity for a fair judicial process. Rather than asking candidates about their criminal history, employers may wait until the interview stage or make an offer if a criminal record check reveals a disqualification. The Ban the Box legislation aims to make opportunities for the employed even for people who have been convicted of crimes in the past.

4. Predictable Schedules Legislation

Predictable Schedules Legislation

Predictable Schedules legislation requires employers to provide their staff with advance schedule notification, advanced pay, adequate time off, and other work-related concerns. The legislation is aimed at providing employees with stable schedules and harmonizing the employer-employee relationship. Additionally, employees get enough time to plan for their personal and family matters, which means increased productivity and better output.

Employers face various challenges when conducting background checks, including cost, time-consuming, and complexities involved in conducting checks that comply with various laws and regulations. However, with knowledge of the above laws and compliance, employers can create a positive perception of their brand and culture, ensuring better employees are hired for their business growth and success.

What Employers Can and Cannot Use in Making Hiring Decisions

background check in employment

Employment background checks are a routine part of the hiring process for many companies, as they help employers to verify a candidate’s qualifications, criminal history, and any other relevant information. However, there are certain things that employers can and cannot use in making hiring decisions, as mandated by federal and state laws. In this article, we’ll discuss what employers can and cannot use in a background check.

1. Criminal History

criminal history

Employers are allowed to conduct a criminal background investigation on potential employees, but they are not allowed to discriminate based on a criminal record. In other words, they cannot reject an applicant solely based on their criminal history without taking into account other factors such as the nature of the conviction, how long ago the crime was committed, and how the crime relates to the position in question. Federal laws require that all employers follow the guidelines outlined in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) when conducting background checks.

2. Credit History

credit score

Employers are prohibited from using a candidate’s credit history as the basis for making a hiring decision, except in certain circumstances where the job requires financial responsibility. The reasoning behind this restriction is that credit reports often contain inaccurate or incomplete information, and credit history may not necessarily be an accurate predictor of job performance.

3. Medical Records

medical records

An employer cannot use a candidate’s medical history as the basis for making a hiring decision, with the exception of certain jobs that require employees to meet specific medical criteria. For example, a firefighter must be physically fit to perform their job duties, so an employer is permitted to collect medical information to ensure that an applicant meets the physical requirements of the position. However, in general, an employer cannot discriminate against an applicant based on their health status or disability.

4. Social Media Accounts

social media background check

Employers often conduct social media background checks on potential candidates to learn more about their personal lives and determine whether they are a good fit for the company culture. However, employers must exercise caution when using social media as a basis for making hiring decisions. They cannot discriminate against an applicant based on their race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, or any other protected characteristic that is revealed on social media. Additionally, employers must obtain the candidate’s written consent before conducting a social media background check, and they must avoid invading the candidate’s privacy or infringing on their rights.

In conclusion, employers must be aware of their legal obligations when conducting background checks on potential employees. They should only collect and use information that is directly related to the requirements of the job, and they must avoid discriminatory practices that may violate federal and state laws. By following these guidelines, employers can find the best candidates for their available positions while protecting the rights and privacy of all applicants.

Steps You Can Take If Negative Information Shows Up on Your Background Check

Advice for dealing with negative information on a background check

It is not uncommon to have negative information show up on your employment background check. Employers usually look for things like criminal records, credit history, education, and employment history. However, sometimes mistakes can happen, or someone may have misrepresented information about you. If you find yourself in this situation, there are steps you can take to address the issue.

1. Review the Report

person reviewing background check report

The first thing you should do is review the report to ensure that all the information included is accurate. This is particularly important if there is negative information that you believe is incorrect. If you spot an error, you should contact the reporting agency immediately. They will investigate the issue and fix it if needed.

2. Be Honest with Your Employer

person being interviewed by employer

If you have negative information on your background check that is accurate, it is best to be upfront and honest with your employer. They may still be willing to hire you, particularly if the issues are minor. Lying or hiding information is never a good idea and will likely lead to more problems in the long run.

3. Provide Explanations

person explaining situation to employer

If there is negative information on your background check that is accurate, but might be misconstrued, you should provide an explanation to your employer. This might include things like previous arrests that did not lead to convictions, or gaps in your employment history. Providing explanations can help your employer better understand the situation and why they should still consider you for the job.

4. Offer References

person providing references to employer

Another way to address negative information on your background check is to offer references from previous employers or acquaintances. Having someone vouch for your character and work ethic can help your employer feel more confident about hiring you, even if there are some negative marks on your report.

5. Seek Legal Advice

person seeking legal advice

If you believe that the negative information on your background check is incorrect, and the reporting agency has not been able to help you, it might be time to seek legal advice. You may have rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) or other laws that protect you from inaccurate or misleading background checks. A lawyer can help you understand your options and take action to address the issue.

Overall, it is important to remember that a negative mark on your background check does not necessarily mean the end of your employment prospects. There are steps you can take to address the issue and move forward. Being honest, providing explanations, and offering references can all help demonstrate your character and professionalism to potential employers. And if you believe that the information on your report is incorrect, seeking legal advice can help protect your rights and clear your name.

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