UPDATED December 11, 2021 This piece has been updated to reflect the emergence of new technology

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Untitled-design.jpg

Christian Mathews Security Writer

Background checks are standard procedures during an employer’s hiring process. A set of reviews and verification of employee data is done to screen job candidates and avoid any risky hires. While some employees conduct background checks before hiring, some may conduct them after they have hired an employee. While employers are interested in how to do an employee background check, as an employee, it’s important to know what comes up on a background check.

Background checks ensure the credibility of the potential employee and avoid any future complications.

Employers could opt for a simple identification verification to a more detailed credit and criminal history check based on the nature of the job. To learn more on how to do your own professional background check click through to a book by Valerie McGilvrey.

1What Do Employment Background Checks Show

There are many reasons that a company would require a background check. Every new hire is considered both an asset and a risk. Hiring decisions are based on the potential employee bringing more value to the organization rather than presenting a risky situation.

Bad hires can be an expensive mistake for a company. Once the employer decides to terminate a bad hire, they stand the risk of legal repercussions, loss of productivity, and increased costs involved in hiring replacements, training, and so on. Getting it the first time right is the best solution, and hence, background checks form a vital part of the hiring process.

A background check can provide information on the candidate’s commercial, criminal, employment, and financial records.

Consistent findings from the background checks also cite reasons for disqualification in the adverse action notice. This information also provides a way for the employer to dispute the report and make clarifications on their part.

23rd Party Check vs. Self-Background Check

An employer can perform a background check in two ways.

  • Hiring a third-party service to conduct background checks
  • The employer carries out the background checks themselves.

The important part of conducting background checks is to follow the relevant laws and protect the rights of the person in question.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulates the rules and extent of how a background check can be conducted. There are certain restrictions on what the employer can look into. The candidate, too, should be aware of their rights.

A third-party service can be used to conduct background checks, however, they must inform the candidate and get written authorization to carry out the background check. The third-party employment screening companies can then take up your profile and check with public records and notify the information back to the employer.

If the employer were to conduct their background check for a candidate, they can do so without the need to inform the candidate. This usually involves basic verifications like checking up with the employee’s previous organization or looking them up for any public information online. The employees’ social media profile is used for this purpose. This includes any public posts made by the person being verified.

3What Can The Employers Check And Cannot?

Generally, the information the employer tries to access will be related to the job. For instance, it is necessary to know of a person’s criminal records and the nature of crime if they were to work in child care or patient care. For a government job requiring a high-security clearance, the background check would be very strict and thorough.

Certain personal data is prohibited from being accessed. The following information is not utilized:

  • Bankruptcies ten years. Employers may not cite bankruptcies as reasons for termination or disqualification for a job.
  • Civil suits and judgments preceding seven years from now
  • Tax records and accounts are placed for collection preceding seven years from now.
  • School and military records require proper authorization.
  • Criminal records that are past a certain date, may not be allowed to be accessed. This time limit could vary depending on the local state laws.
  • Medical records are highly confidential. Employers may not disqualify a candidate based on a disability. However, they can inquire with the candidate directly on their ability to perform the job.

4Background Check For Employment: What Do They Check

Wondering what do employee background checks look for? Here is all that you need to know:

  • Social security verification

Social security verification is a basic background check that ensures that the candidate is exactly who they are claiming to be. Further checks on the current residential address and previous residence can also add value to the credibility of a person’s profile.

  • Credit check

The employer can verify the recent credit history. Credit reports use various sources by credit bureaus. A credit score gives an approximate figure of your financial health and credibility.

The credit reports from different agencies may not be identical. The information collected is approximated. These sources include credit card payments, loan accounts, bankruptcies, and so on.

Employees can conduct their credit checks so that they can fix any discrepancies before an employer points them out.

  •  Employment history verification

Previous employment records can be useful information for judging an employee’s abilities and claims. The employer can call up and check with the previous employee and cross-check the information provided by the candidate.

  • Drug tests

Drug tests may provide information on the sobriety and sound mind of the person under consideration for employment. Tests are performed only with the proper authorization of the candidate being tested.

  • Criminal records

Criminal records can show any past criminal or risky behavior that may make a person unfit for a job. As an example, a person involved in embezzlement may not be fit for a job handling financial transactions. Criminal records may show any ongoing or convicted charges for any criminal offense at the state, country, or federal level.

  • Academic history verification

Educational qualification is of primary concern and provides the basic eligibility criteria for any job role. Hence the employer might look into the credibility of the academic history mentioned in the candidate’s resume.

  • Driving record

Driving records may be of concern for certain job roles and can also serve as an identification document.

  • Personal and professional references

Personal and professional references that the candidate provides may be cross-verified for authenticity.


Background checks are a necessary part of the hiring process. Hence, both the employee and job candidates must be aware of the regulations and rights concerning background checks and make sure privacy rights are upheld. 

Potential employees must be honest in the information they provide the employer and make sure they are responsible for what information they share on public platforms like social media. Knowing what comes up on a background check can help an applicant better prepare for the application process.