What Does a Background Check Show?

What Does a Background Check Show?

Many people wonder what does a background check show in its report. If you’re like most people, when you think of a background check, you think of a simple criminal history check. The truth is that a background check can reveal much more about someone than just their criminal records.

Most large organizations use a thorough background check to look at their candidate’s education & employment history, references, civil records, and of course, criminal records. Each piece of information serves as a crucial piece of the puzzle that is a candidate.

However, if you’re not sure what all is included in a background check, you are in the right place! Read on to find out what kind of information can be uncovered in a background check and how it can help protect your interests.

What is a background check? 

What Shows Up on A Criminal Background Check?

Almost all background checks include a criminal history check, based on the Social Security number and other information provided by the candidate.

These checks reveal misdemeanor and felony criminal convictions, history of incarceration as an adult, and pending criminal cases (if any). Arrests pending prosecution and arrests that did not lead to any convictions may also appear in some background checks.

Generally, records of juvenile detention and convictions that have been sealed don’t appear in these searches. Other than that, all other criminal convictions will appear in the background check unless they occurred in a state that forbids disclosure of such records after a certain period of time.

For example, Hawaii prohibits disclosure of any convictions after ten years. And disclosure of convictions more than 7 years old is forbidden in Washington, New York, New Hampshire, Maryland, Kansas, Montana, Massachusetts, and California.



What Shows Up on An Employment Verification Check?

Employment verification checks usually include criminal background checks along with verification of information on education, past employment, and professional licenses.

If you are an employer, you can request the candidate’s driving records during the check as well. Many organizations also require applicants to submit to drug testing as part of the verification process, especially for job roles involving the operation of vehicles and heavy machinery.

According to the state and federal laws, some information cannot be reported on the employment verification checks. For instance:

If a job applicant is being considered for a job that pays less than $75,000 a year, information on disciplinary measures regarding any professional licenses, government sanctions, and civil judgments will not appear in the background checks.

But if the job pays $75,000 or more, that information may appear in the checks even if it is older than 7 years.


What Shows Up on A Federal Background Check?

A federal background check is often used to screen candidates for jobs with the federal government agencies and companies that work for/with them.

This is a very thorough verification process that uncovers any and every interaction someone may have had with federal law enforcement agencies. This includes any minor crimes that cross state lines, , convictions, and arrests (even those that didn’t lead to conviction or indictment).

For a federal check, there are name-based checks as well as fingerprint checks. Sometimes the applicant will submit to fingerprinting with a federal law enforcement agency. These prints are then checked against the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) of the FBI.

IAFIS is a digital repository of fingerprints compiled by immigration officials, law enforcement agencies, and past employment checks. If you request one of these federal background checks on an applicant, their fingerprints will also be checked against the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. This database is the biggest compilation of data on sex offenders, wanted criminals, and terrorists.


  What Shows Up

Criminal Background Check Employment Verification Check Federal Background Check
Felony convictions *Included except when forbidden by state regulations.
Misdemeanor convictions *Included except when forbidden by state regulations.
Pending charges
Civil judgments *Included except when forbidden by state regulations.
Arrests that resulted in a conviction
Arrests that didn’t lead to a conviction *Included if requested by the employer. *Included if requested by the employer
Expunged or sealed charges
Sex offender database
Prison record *Included except when forbidden by state regulations.
Employment history
Traffic violations *Possibly included, but employers cannot consider them during hiring decisions. *Possibly included, but employers cannot consider them during hiring decisions.

✓ : Included

—: Not included


Background Check FAQs

As a background screening agency, we at Consumer Credentials receive a lot of questions from employers about specifically what type of information is included in the background checks. Let us break it down for you:


Do warrants appear on a background check?

Bench warrants (issued for failure to show up for a scheduled court proceeding) and open arrest warrants (issued when a law enforcement agency gives evidence that a suspect has committed a crime) many times do show up on a background check.

The warrant then becomes part of the criminal record once it has been executed, and this will show up in a criminal background check.

Does a DUI appear on a background check?

Yes. Driving under the influence is a criminal offense and it will show up on a criminal background check. If the employment verification check includes a motor vehicle record check (MVR) or driving record check, a DUI conviction will be reported on there too.

Do pending charges/cases appear on a background check?

Pending charges can show up if a criminal background check is requested.

But some states, like Kentucky, prohibit pending charges from appearing on background screenings. In Michigan, employers can only consider pending felonies – and not pending misdemeanors.

Will a background check contact the current employer?

Not without the applicant’s consent. At Consumer Credentials, we never contact the current employers unless we have authorized permission from the candidate to do so.

Does termination from the previous job show up on a background check?

Yes and No. If you were terminated from your last job, it is not likely to show up on a standard background check. A deeper dive can uncover previous terminations by investigations into your previous employers. But if the employer or hiring manager asks you to provide a reason for leaving the previous job, you should probably tell them.

Does unemployment show up on a background check?

No. A potential employer wouldn’t know if you received unemployment compensation from a background check since it doesn’t include sources of income or employment information.

However, unemployment can put a serious dent on one’s finances. Your credit card usage can increase if you have to live off unemployment compensation until you get a job. The amount of your CC debt on the credit report could tip off the prospective employer that you might have been out of work for a period.

Do seal or expunged records appear on a background check?

When a court expunges a trial or conviction record, the case files are sealed off from the public. This means the defendant or convicted party doesn’t have to disclose the case when they asked about their criminal history.

So, expunged cases will not show up in most employment verification checks.

That being said, if there is a considerable time delay between the resolution of a case and the ruling to expunge it, the records can still show up in criminal background checks until they are updated to reflect the expungement.

Does a background check show the entire work history?

Most probably, yes. An employment verification check will reveal all the previous job titles held by the applicant, including the salary history in locations where it’s legal to ask. Employers can also call the former employers and share the information supplied in the applicant’s job application to confirm its accuracy.

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