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What Does a Background Check Look For?

By Michael Klazema on 10/31/2018

What does a background check look for? The answer to this question depends on several factors, including the type of background check and the company preparing the report.

Let’s start with criminal history checks, the most common type of pre-employment background check. In the simplest terms, these checks are looking for criminal history. More specifically, these checks are looking for information about criminal convictions. At backgroundchecks.com, our criminal history screenings typically report the defendant’s name, the charge, the case number, the filing date, the degree of the offense, the disposition/disposition date, and the sentence.

Where these checks look for this information varies depending on the check. There are criminal checks that focus on county recordsstate recordsfederal records, and multi-jurisdictional databases.

What our checks don’t look for are arrests or expunged offensesExpunged crimes are typically removed from the criminal record entirely, which means even a background check looking for them probably wouldn’t find anything. Arrests are usually a part of the public record and can come up on criminal background checks. With that said, some states have laws that bar employers from considering arrest records in hiring decisions. At backgroundchecks.com, we exclude arrest records from our criminal background check reports to protect our clients.

Other types of checks can widen the scope. For instance, the backgroundchecks.com US OneSEARCH service incorporates searches of sex offender registries and terrorism sources into a criminal background check. Driving record checks are typically meant to identify violations, suspensions, or other red flags in a person’s background that might make them unfit to fill a job that involves driving. Verification checks—including employment verificationseducation verifications, and professional license verifications—are intended to check the information a person has presented on their resume and make sure it is accurate.         

Employers use background checks to form a fuller and more nuanced portrait of who their candidates are. As a result, the answer to a question like “What do background checks look for?” is not as simple as a one or two-word answer. Background checks can be used to uncover many different types of information about a person. In hiring, employers use this information to determine whether a candidate is a smart or safe hire.


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  • November 20 The #MeToo movement is bringing about legislative changes employers need to know about. We review some of the laws recently passed in California.
  • November 15

    Replacing an inconsistent array of procedures, Ontario's government has passed into law a reform act intended to clarify how police departments should handle requests for information to be used in background checks. 


  • November 14 The federal government has vowed to cut its backlog of security clearance background checks in half by spring. Currently, the backlog is approximately 600,000 names strong.
  • November 08 A Texas-based company was found to be supplying landlords with inaccurate background check results, potentially affecting housing decisions. The company must pay a record-setting settlement.
  • November 07 Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt brand trusts backgroundchecks.com to perform the crucial function of background checks on job candidates before extending offers of employment.
  • November 06 The man previously responsible for running background checks on New York City’s school bus drivers says the city’s Department of Education has been pushing back against more thorough checks. The DOE reportedly circumnavigated proper bus driver vetting channels for most of the spring and summer this year.
  • November 06 If you have a series of speeding tickets or other traffic violations, do you need to disclose them as criminal history?
  • November 01 South Carolina's legislature recently adopted a measure to expand access to expungement opportunities for the state's ex-convicts, but other gaps in the process remain. Advocates disagree on how to address the problem to protect offenders as well as the public.
  • October 31 Background checks will show different things depending on the type of check. Here are a few ways employers can use background checks to learn about candidates.
  • October 30 The Pentagon recently disclosed a breach that exposed the personal information of roughly 30,000 personnel. The government blamed the breach on a contractor, calling into question background check policies for federal government vendors.