Worried young woman using a laptop

What Comes up on a Background Check

by , on March 16, 2020
What shows up on an employment background check?

Going through the job application and interview process can be nerve-wracking. You’ve got to polish up your resume, ask the right questions, and wear the right clothes to the interview.

But the scariest part may be a common step that is beyond your current control: your background check.

Pre-employment background checks tell a potential employer a lot about your past activities–good and bad. While the Fair Credit Reporting Act imposes certain restrictions on what employers can check, there is still a wide range of information that they can legally investigate.

A criminal background check means an employer could find information—such as a criminal conviction, poor credit, a record of motor vehicle violations, or inaccuracies in your education or work history—that could, in some cases, disqualify you from a specific position.

An employer can also do a background check for employment history and contact your former employers, supervisors, co-workers and educators to verify your previous employment and to learn more about your abilities, work habits, and character.

Let’s look at the things that may–and may not--come up during your background check for employment.

Identity and Social Security Verification

Tracing your Social Security number provides a report of your current and previous addresses, any current or past aliases, and any relevant public information. Some reports also provide credit activity or criminal history.

A Social Security trace does not verify that the Social Security number belongs to you and does not tie the number to any type of consumer report. This means information obtained with a Social Security number trace cannot be used as a basis for hiring or rejecting you as a candidate.

Criminal Background Check
  • Misdemeanors such as public intoxication, vandalism, petty theft
  • Felonies such as robbery, drug trafficking, fraud, assault, or driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Name or any known aliases
  • Sex offender registry entry Charges or criminal convictions
  • Prison sentences or terms

Name or any known aliases

Sex offender registry entry Charges or criminal convictions
Prison sentences or terms

In most cases, a potential employer can conduct a state, local, or federal background check using resources such as court records, police reports, or other relevant legal documents.

Some states prohibit criminal background checks from including information connected with any criminal activity. If you have concerns about what may show up in a criminal background check, consult your state’s laws.

You can learn more about your background check rights, and a potential employer’s rights, on the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC) website.

Employment Verification

An employment background check allows an employer to check the validity of the work history that you provide on a resume or application. The employer may contact previous employers or HR staff and verify information such as job position, accomplishments, years employed, or duties.

You may be wondering what information about you a previous employer can provide beyond the resume. For instance, can they ask if you were fired from a previous employer and the reason why? Contrary to popular belief, a previous employer can share this type of information.

However, many employers refrain from sharing too much for fear of getting involved in a defamation lawsuit. As a result, most employment verification checks include details that are easily verifiable and more objective.

Professional License Check

If you claim to have professional licenses required for a position, an employer can conduct a professional license check to verify that information, including contacting the organization that issued the license.

Professional license verification confirms an applicant’s name, certification areas, and whether the license is still active and in good standing. An employer can also find out if there are any sanctions or restrictions on the license. Some states or boards may include information about any incidents or criminal records associated with the license.

It’s important for you to look over your own records and verify information such as dates and duties on your resume before you apply for a position that may require an employment background check. It’s also critical to keep any licenses and certifications you hold up-to-date and accurate. Did you leave your previous jobs on good terms? If not, will you be able to defend yourself against a bad reference? These are all things for you to consider and to be prepared to discuss during the hiring process.

For more tips and insider information that can help you get the job you want, subscribe to LandrumHR’s blog .