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What Does a Background Check Show?

What does a background check show

Did you know that around 96% of employers conduct background checks before hiring someone?

It makes sense. When you interview a person, you are only meeting them for a few minutes. A background check, like contacting references, gives an employer more insight it a potential employee’s character.

But what information, exactly, can you expect to get when running a background check on a potential job candidate? If you’re wondering, “What does a background check show?” then keep reading to learn more.

What You Can’t Ask For

First, it’s important to keep in mind that, by federal law, there are some things employers cannot do when screening potential employees. 

In general, it is considered discriminatory to only conduct background checks on certain applicants and not others. For instance, only looking at criminal records for job applicants of a certain race or only checking financial histories for applicants under a certain age would be against the law.

It is not necessary to conduct background checks on every single applicant you consider to be compliant with this rule. Rather, you can wait to conduct a background check until you have decided to move forward with a candidate.

You will also need to notify the employee that you are conducting the check. Additionally, there are limitations on what an employer can do with background check information. The files typically must be destroyed within a year.

Criminal History

A background check will check the state and federal criminal records for the individual, and will also search for their name in the sex offender database. Additionally, a background check will cross-reference any government watchlists. 

Generally, most of the offenses that appear in a background check are felony level, but some misdemeanors may also appear. Depending on what state you are in, arrests that did not lead to a criminal conviction may or may not appear on a background check.

In many states, crimes that were committed as a juvenile will not be included. These are often sealed as part of a person’s juvenile record. 

It is standard for background checks to look at the last seven years, but it is possible to run a longer history.

Employment, Education, and Certification

Background checks can also be used to verify information the applicant provided regarding past employment, education, and certification. This is particularly important in skilled professions like medicine and law, where specific certifications and credentials are required to practice.

Depending on the nature of the job duties the person will perform, some background checks will look at driving records. Even with a driving check, however, simple infractions like speeding tickets typically do not show up, because they are considered civil infractions. That said, violations for drunk driving or reckless driving will appear. 

What Does a Background Check Show? No Need to Wonder

If you’ve been wondering, “What does a background check show?” this article provides a good overview to help you know what to expect. By running a background check before hiring, you can learn more about your prospective employees.

Do you have more questions about pre-employment screening? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions page for more information. 


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