What does a background check report look like? While many individuals have submitted to a background check for a job, that doesn’t mean each one of them has seen a background check report.
You don’t have to run a background screening to see such a report. At backgroundchecks.com, we provide sample reports for each type of background check that we provide. Our sample reports are useful for informing our customers about what they should expect from a background check, whether it’s a criminal history search, an employment verification check, or a motor vehicle record (MVR) check.
Perhaps you are going to be a hiring manager for the first time at your company, or maybe you just want to know about which information is included when an employer runs a background check on you. Either way, exploring sample background check reports is worthwhile. Discover our commentary on five different sample reports from background checks that we offer at backgroundchecks.com.
Elements of a Standard Background Check
Before we examine sample pre-employment screening reports, let’s define the elements of a standard background check.
A “standard” employment background check is actually a compilation of multiple checks. Employers will conduct multiple pre-employment background searches to gather as much information about their candidates as possible.
For the purposes of this post, the elements of a background check are types of background checks within a larger screening and vetting process. Criminal history is an element of the background check process; so is driving record. Employers conduct separate background checks to learn more about their candidates, and those background check elements inform the sample employment screening reports that we will review.
While there can be many background check elements within the vetting process—address history checks, for instance, or credit checks—not all employers utilize all types of screenings. We will focus on the four most common background check elements: criminal history, verification searches, MVR checks, and drug screenings.
Element 1: Criminal searches
The first and most common element of any pre-employment background check is the criminal history search. Employers want to know whether a candidate they are considering for a job has been convicted of a crime—especially if the crime was particularly severe or has specific relevance to the position.
Felony offenses are typically the biggest barrier that criminal offenders face to employment. Violent offenses, sex crimes, severe theft or drug offenses: these types of crimes are felonies, and they will often cause employers to pause if they show up on candidate background checks. A job applicant who is a registered sex offender or who has a history of violent assault may appear to be a potentially dangerous hire to the average employer.
Per the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers are not allowed to disqualify candidates based on any sign of criminal history. Instead, EEOC guidance holds that employers should consider each piece of criminal history in the context of the job at hand. A candidate who has a single conviction for shoplifting, for instance, can probably still perform the responsibilities of a desk job without their criminal history posing a significant risk to the employer or anyone else.
EEOC guidance also states that employers should consider other details from the background check report—such as the amount of time that has elapsed since a criminal offense, and whether the candidate has repeat offenses on their record—when deciding how much weight to ascribe to a piece of criminal history.
Element 2: Verifications
Employers typically make hiring decisions based largely on the information that a candidate provides on their resume, presents on a job application, or discusses in their interview. The resume in particular can indicate that a candidate has the qualifications, credentials, and experience necessary to succeed in the position. Problems occur when a candidate is not entirely honest on their resume.
Lying on a resume has become a relatively common phenomenon over the past several decades. The good news for employers is that detecting these lies is not difficult. By making smart use of verifications as part of their background checks, employers can validate virtually everything that a candidate says on the resume, on the job application, or in the interview.
There are four types of verification checks: education verifications, work history verifications, reference verifications, and professional license or certification verifications. These checks involve contacting educational institutions, past employers, state licensing agencies, and personal or business references to learn more about a candidate and verify that the information they have provided about themselves is accurate.
In running these background checks, employers can secure greater confidence that they are making their hiring decisions based on truths rather than lies.
Element 3: MVR checks
Unlike criminal background checks and verifications, MVR checks are not a background check element that most employers will utilize. Not all jobs involve driving, so not all employers will incorporate background checks that look at driving history.
For positions that will require an employee to get behind the wheel of a vehicle—from delivery drivers to bus drivers to long-haul truckers—the MVR check is an essential part of the process. Making sure that a candidate is safe behind the wheel can drastically minimize an employer’s liability risk.
MVR checks can show a variety of information about a candidate’s driving history, including driving violations (such as driving while intoxicated or license revocations) and license classifications.
Element 4: Drug screening
While marijuana legalization has made drug screenings less common in job settings, many employers are still dedicated to maintaining drug-free workplaces. In fact, for some positions—such as jobs in the trucking and logistics industry—operators are federally required to drug test their employees.
Implementing drug testing as a condition of employment or as part of a random screening policy for monitoring existing employees’ behavior and performance can help employers to create more alert, engaged employees, which can lead to safer and more productive workplaces.
Workplace drug tests can typically detect a variety of different substances in a subject’s system, including marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine, barbiturates, and opiates.
Background Check Examples
Now that we have a sense of the types of background screenings that hiring managers are most likely to use, let’s take a closer look at background check samples. Exploring these samples will provide a clear sense of what a background check report resembles and how to read it.
To start, you will see these three sections on any of our background check reports.
- Search criteria: This section recaps the information that the customer provides to us so that we can pull their subject’s records. We ask employers to provide a range of key identifying information for a candidate, including full name (first, middle, and last), Social Security Number, date of birth, workplace state, address, and gender.
- SSN validation and death master index check: The reason that we ask for Social Security Number as part of the criminal background search is that checking an SSN can help us detect whether the candidate is lying about their identity.
- Order summary: This section outlines the specific criteria of the search, including the type of check to run (such as a county criminal search or an employment verification) and what we searched (such as the name that we used for the criminal background check or the specific employers that we called to verify job history).
Beyond our sample reports, you can learn more about background checks by accessing our Learning Center.
Example 1: County criminal history
Most employers start their criminal records searches at the county level. Since most criminal records are filed at the county level, and since most perpetrators commit crimes close to home, it’s a logical move for employers to pull criminal records from the courthouse in the county where they are located.
The key section on a criminal background check report is the “Crimes and Offenses” section. Here, you will see a basic timeline of the subject’s life, including their age and any hits we recorded from their criminal report. Further down, you will be able to see any hits that our check uncovered.
Checks that do return one or more hits will detail the criminal records that we found, providing case number, the perpetrator’s name, the date when the case was filed, the nature of the conviction, the type of crime (misdemeanor or felony, etc.), and any disposition information.
Example 2: Employment verification
Verification checks are similar in how the information appears on a background check report. We will look at a sample report for an employment verification—you can expect comparable results for education verifications, license verifications, and reference verifications.
Note that each employment verification request only checks one past job. Hiring managers who wish to verify other jobs on a candidate’s resume will need to run individual verification checks for each.
Note that in the order summary section, this report outlines two employers that we contacted as part of the verification process. That means that the customer paid for us to run two employment verifications: one for the company FREE Projects, and one for the business Doe Marina & Yacht.
The key section of any verification check is labeled “Verifications.” This segment is the body of the report, where we provide the findings of the verification check or checks. Each verification check appears in a table format, with one side of the table listing the information that you provided and one outlining what we verified.
This structure allows employers to see a side-by-side comparison between the information that their candidate provided to them and what the background check found. Information that we can verify includes the name, location, and phone number of the employer plus position held, salary, start date and end date, and reason for leaving.
Example 3: MVR report
The primary section to pay attention to in an MVR report is “Driving Record.” This section can provide extensive information, starting with the driver’s license information that the employer gave us (including the state that issued the license and the license number) and extending to license class and class description, license status and status description, and dates for when the license was issued and when it expires or expired.
Note on this report that there is one violation, one suspension, and one revocation. The critical details to examine in these sections are the date (to see how recently each issue occurred) and the description (which outlines the circumstances that led to the violation). In this sample case, the violation was “driving when privilege suspended” and it occurred in March 2007; the suspension happened due to a “failure to appear” and it occurred in July 2007.
Example 4: Drug screening
At backgroundchecks.com, we offer five types of drug screenings, ranging from 5-panel to 10-panel screenings. The number of panels reflects the number of substances for which the checks test.
The section to note is “Drug Screening”. It includes a simple breakdown of the test results for each substance. This background check report shows the results for an 8-panel drug test. As you can see, the candidate tested negative for propoxyphene, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and amphetamines but tested positive for PCP, opiates, marijuana, and cocaine. The section also lists the date of the lab results.
What does a background check look like?
Background check reports will typically include summary information, including the subject’s key identifying information (name, SSN, date of birth, etc.), and details about the specific check that the employer is running. A section of the background check report will outline the results of the background check, revealing criminal history details, driving record information, or drug test results.
What is the most common background check?
Criminal history checks are the most common type of employment background check.
What is revealed in a background check?
Background checks can reveal a wide array of information depending on the type of check. Criminal history checks can reveal misdemeanor and felony convictions. Drug tests can show which substances are present in a subject’s system. Verification checks can reveal whether a candidate lied about job history, education, or other credentials on their resume. Driving record checks can provide a detailed account of an individual’s history behind the wheel.
What do most employers use for background checks?
Criminal history checks and verification checks are the most common types of employment background checks, followed by driving history checks and drug tests.
About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is Chief Marketing Technologist at EY-VODW.com and has over two decades of experience in digital consulting, online product management, and technology innovation. He is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments.