What Is an Extensive Background Check?

By Michael Klazema on 4/14/2020

Most employers do not provide details about what their employee background checks entail. Trying to find this information on employer websites, job postings, or employment applications is often an exercise in futility. Rather than providing specifics, most employers will say, “We require every new hire to pass an extensive background check.” This type of vague statement begs an important question: what constitutes an “extensive background check”?

What qualifies as “extensive” varies from one employer to the next. Perhaps the most extensive employee background checks in the United States are those run by the federal government, and even those checks vary from job to job.

Federal jobs often come with security clearances in different tiers. Someone applying for a job with the highest level of security clearance (“Top Secret”) will need to go through an extensive background check. These high-level federal checks incorporate criminal history, financial information, address history, and much more. They even involve interviews with the candidate’s acquaintances, from co-workers to neighbors.

No private employer goes to quite the same lengths with its employee background checks, which means that the phrase “extensive background check” typically has a different connotation. Usually, a private company interested in going in-depth with a candidate background check will run multiple screenings as part of that process. The foundation is likely a criminal history check, but other common pre-employment checks include verifications for educationemployment history, and professional licenses or certificationschecks of aliases or past namesdriving record checkscredit history checks, and civil history checks.

Sometimes, the word “extensive” denotes a more robust criminal background check. Criminal records are spread across many different databases, from county courthouses to state repositories and beyond. An employer that only runs a county criminal history check in the area risks overlooking crimes that a candidate may have committed outside of the county or state.

An “extensive” criminal background check may be one that incorporates multiple tiers of criminal history search (countymetropolitan areastatefederal, and multi-jurisdictional) or one that utilizes address history to pinpoint counties where a candidate has lived, and potentially committed crimes, in the past.

It is difficult to know for sure what information an employer will be looking for when they claim to conduct “extensive” employee background checks. Even two multi-jurisdictional criminal history searches can turn up different results since all databases don’t include identical information. Overall, candidates can expect “extensive” to mean thorough background checks. By utilizing more thorough checks, employers reduce their risk of overlooking a piece of information that may prove crucial to their hiring decision.

Visit the products page to get a better sense of which background checks are available—all tools that a thorough employer might utilize to learn more about their candidates.

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