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What do background checks show?

When most people think of a background check, they think of a simple criminal history check. A background check is much more than that. It’s the process by which you find your best candidate by looking at criminal records but also education and employment history, civil records, references, and more. Each is a critical piece of the puzzle. A background check helps your company stay safe through a criminal history check. It helps ensure applicants can do what they claim they can through employment and education verification. It verifies applicants are who they claim to be and aren’t wanted internationally. Background screenings, background checks, pre-employment screenings—call them what you will, they are always there to help protect your company, your employees, and your clients.

What shows up on a criminal history check?

When most people think of a background check they think of a simple criminal history check. In reality, a background check is much more than that. It’s the process by which you find your best candidate by looking at, yes, criminal records, but also education and employment history, civil records, references, etc. Each is a very important piece of the puzzle. A background check helps your company stay safe through the criminal history check. It helps ensure that applicants can do what they claim they can through employment and education verification. It verifies that applicants are who they claim to be and aren’t wanted internationally. Background screenings, background checks, pre-employment screenings – call them what you will, they help protect your company, your employees, and your clients.


Do arrests show on background checks?

The answer depends on the state. Some states have laws that prohibit employers from asking about arrest records or using them for employment-related decisions. Since arrests themselves are not proof of guilt, they are unreliable and often unfair when used as a barrier to employment. At backgroundchecks.com, we always exclude arrest history information from our background check reports to protect our customers from compliance issues. To learn whether your state legally allows the use of arrest records for hiring, read our white paper on the matter.

Do dismissed cases show on background checks?

Dismissed cases may show up on a candidate’s background check. A criminal charge stays on the person’s record even if the charges are dismissed, or the case ends in a not guilty verdict. With that said, as the employer, you should recognize the difference between a formal conviction and a charge that ultimately didn’t go anywhere. Read our full post about dismissed cases and background checks

Do expunged or sealed records show on background checks?

If a candidate has successfully petitioned to have his or her criminal records sealed or expunged, those convictions should no longer appear on the background check report in any form. An expunged record is essentially scrubbed from existence. If a person had one conviction on her record and had that conviction expunged, she could accurately answer, “No” to any variation of the question, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”.


Do you have candidates whose criminal histories are making them difficult to hire or provide with specific benefits? At backgroundchecks.com, we designed a program called MyClearStart to help employers get information about expungement into the hands of their applicants.

Do traffic tickets show on criminal background checks?
Will a speeding ticket show up on a criminal background check? In most cases, you will need to run a motor vehicle records check to find out about a candidate’s driving history. Simple traffic tickets do not show up on criminal history checks. These tickets are civil citations, which means they are not misdemeanors or felonies. With that said, there are driving offenses that are considered misdemeanors or felonies, including reckless driving and driving under the influence of alcohol. These convictions will appear on a criminal background report.
How far back do criminal history checks go?
How far a criminal background check goes depends on the state. There is no federal law on this subject. While the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) has rules limiting the “adverse information” a credit bureau can report about a consumer on a credit report—such as bankruptcy cases or tax liens—there is no corresponding rule for criminal history checks. Most states decide this matter on their own. The norm is for criminal background checks to go back seven years.

What Are Verification Checks?
Criminal history searches are just one piece of a thorough pre-employment background check process. Take time to verify the information your candidate provided on his or her resume and job application. A criminal background check won’t reveal anything about a person’s past employment or education. These details must instead by checked using verification checks. There are a few different types of verifications available from backgroundchecks.com, including employment history, education, professional licensing or certification, and reference checks.

How do employment history checks work?
An employment verification check is mostly meant to check the validity of the work history information a candidate provided on their resume. It’s not uncommon for job applicants to embellish their employment history to make it look more impressive. That might mean tweaking a job title, changing a start or end date, or listing job responsibilities that were outside the scope of the position. Employment verification checks involve contacting previous employers—usually HR staff—and verifying the accuracy of these key information points.


One common question is what employers can or cannot say about a previous employee. As an employer, you may be wondering what you can ask a former employer and what to say if an employer contacts you about an employee. Contrary to popular belief, there is no federal law restricting what employers can disclose about past employees. For instance, if the candidate you are screening was fired from a previous job, the employer can tell you that and explain the reasoning behind the decision.


Most employers tread carefully here for fear of defamation lawsuits. Employers don’t typically want to comment too much on the character or work ethic of past employees—especially if they don’t have anything nice to say. They don’t want to be taken to court for slandering that person. As a result, most employment verification checks focus on details that are objective and easily verifiable, such as employment dates, job title, duties or responsibilities, and salary information.