What kind of background checks do employers use?

If you’re applying for a job (or perhaps if you’re an employer preparing to start utilizing background checks), you may be wondering what kind of background check employers typically use (and the kind of information that’s likely to be found).

To begin with, an employer is required to first tell you that they may use the information contained in a background check to determine your eligibility/suitability for employment in writing and separately from an employment application.  The prospective employer is also required to ask for your permission to have the background check conducted (i.e. in writing); this is typically part of the background check disclosure that they are required to provide.

If you agree to a background check, your information (typically, a name, date of birth and social security number) will be disclosed to a third party background check/employment screening company.  This information will be run against a database of public information to search for whatever specific information the employer is interested in (for example, criminal records, an address history, etc.). This is the most commonly sought information and, typically, isn’t very different from what you’d receive from an “unofficial” instant online background check. You can run one on yourself below to explore the information they’d likely find:






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Depending on the employer, further background check information might include confirming past employers, education verification, motor vehicle records, and a host of other information that may not be in the public record. For these items, the employer needs your express permission so that they can seek them from the agencies/institutions that may have them (such as universities, state DMVs, etc.). They may also request permission to run a credit check from one or more of the major credit agencies, which will reveal details about your financial history.  All of the information provided to an employer in a background check must be FCRA-compliant; that is, the background check company used must verify and guarantee that the information provided is definitively correct.

Most employer background checks can take from 3-5 working days to compile and then an employer has the opportunity to weigh the information. Should they see something in the background check report that makes them determine that they do not want to hire you, they must provide you with a copy of the report that they used. This way, you can verify for yourself that the information is correct and – if it is not – you can dispute the report (and potentially take other legal action).

Employers that don’t require background checks are becoming more of the exception than the norm, so they’re often difficult to avoid. Fortunately, if you’re completely candid in your application/resume, you can feel confident that the information furnished in your background check will be accurate – and you have legal recourse if it’s not!

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