company background checks

What Companies Look for During Background Checks

If you’re looking for a new job, one of the most common things you’ll find during the application process are background checks—more than 2/3 of companies perform background checks before hiring employees.

While not every company performs background checks (and even some that say they might, won’t), a lot do, particularly if you’re going to be working with children, allowed access to people’s homes, or in any kind of medical facility. Worried that speeding ticket fifteen years ago is going to ruin a potential job at a bank? Well, that’s not exactly the goal of background checks—unless you’re applying for a driving job.

However, background checks do hold a lot more than just your criminal record. Here’s a look at what companies are looking for when performing background checks. 

Background Check Information

Background checks can release all kinds of information, from your education to your criminal history. Exactly what kind of things your potential employer is getting depends on what they’re looking for and how thorough they intend to be -- this will also have to do with which company they choose to go through. There are tons websites that offer monthly deals on online background checks, but they could also go through a third party background checking service, or the government. 

According to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a background check could include any or all of the following:

  • Driving records
  • Vehicle registration
  • Credit records
  • Criminal records
  • Social Security number
  • Education records
  • Court records
  • Workers' compensation
  • Bankruptcy
  • Character references
  • Medical records
  • Property ownership
  • Military records
  • State licensing records
  • Drug test records
  • Past employers
  • Personal references
  • Incarceration records
  • Sex offender lists

What Employers Looking For

Exactly what the employer is looking for is going to depend on what kind of position you are applying for. Your employer is essentially trying to ensure that you’ve provided them with true and accurate information. Companies want to make sure they aren’t hiring someone who could cause major problems: for the business, or for their clientele. This might mean checking to see if you went to school where you claimed, or if you actually held previous positions within companies you listed. 

Employers are also trying to make sure potential employees don’t have criminal records that may interfere with their ability to perform the job (i.e. sexual crimes in a school district, or possession with intent to distribute in a doctor’s office full of pharmaceutical samples). Unfortunately, if you have a criminal history, this can seriously limit where you can work. 

Credit and Medical History

Looking at your credit history may seem over the top, but it can guage not only how responsible you are, but if you’ve actually lived in the areas you claimed. As far as medical records are concerned, most of those are kept private. It may only be necessary in regards to Worker’s Compensation, or if the company requests a physical (so they can see the results). For the most part, employers are only allowed to ask about specific physical abilities required for the job -- like being able to lift 20 pounds or stand for long periods of time). 

Driving Records

Additionally, for positions that requiring driving -- whether that means a delivery driver, moving rental cars around the lot, or hauling passengers -- your employer is going to be very interested in your driving record. If you have a bad habit of speeding, get into frequent accidents, or have gotten a reckless endangerment charge, those are all gigantic signs you probably aren’t going to be a good fit for the position. 

Last Updated: January 10, 2018