- 13 Apr 2021
What is a background check?
- Updated on 13 Apr 2021
An employment or pre-employment background check is a legal investigation into a person’s past that helps inform decisions about whether to hire, promote, contract with or use a person’s services.
Employers and volunteer organizations commonly run background checks on job applicants and existing employees to confirm that they’re qualified for the position and that they don’t pose a risk to other employees, volunteers, clients, or the organization’s reputation.
In some industries, state or federal regulations require employers to screen prospective employees. However, even when they’re not required to, most organizations still choose to run background checks. Because employment screening results can influence whether someone gets a job, companies that run background checks must follow the rules outlined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
What Information Will Employers Check?
Employers and volunteer organizations have different screening goals depending on the nature of the work positions they’re filling.
Most organizations check for criminal records. If the position requires driving, they may check your motor vehicle records. Some employers also verify your past employment, your education history, and any professional licenses you might have. Financial services, managerial positions, and roles that involve handling money may involve an employment credit check. Some companies also screen for illegal drug use.
Many companies that screen job candidates or volunteers will hire a background check company (like GoodHire) to perform the search. These companies, called “consumer reporting agencies” (CRAs), gather publicly available data to compile background check results in a way that complies with FCRA requirements. This publicly available data generally originates from local, state and national law enforcement and government databases.
What Shows Up On A Background Check?
The information that shows up on an employment background check is based in part on the type of check an employer orders from a CRA. Although the contents of a check can vary, nearly all checks, will include felony and misdemeanor criminal convictions, misdemeanor criminal convictions, and any pending criminal cases. If the employer requests from a CRA information related to your driving record, past employment, education, and professional licenses, that information, along with any criminal convictions will also appear in your check.
GoodHire doesn’t include arrests that didn’t result in conviction in your background check results. We do this because we believe it reinforces fairness in hiring and to conform to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines. Keep in mind that other background checking companies may include this information in a background check.
Some time limitations, based on state and federal laws, determine what can come back on an employment background check.
If the salary for the position you’re applying for is less than $75,000, some information (such as civil judgments, government sanctions and discipline on professional licenses, for example) that’s older than seven years will not appear in your background check results.
However, if the salary for your position is $75,000 or more, that information may appear in your results, even if it’s older than seven years.
Keep in mind that criminal convictions are always reported, regardless of salary level, unless laws in the state where you live restrict conviction information to the past seven years. (Examples include: California, New York, and New Mexico)
How Long Does A Background Check Take?
Some background checks return results the same day. However, many employers conduct more thorough checks that look for criminal records at the county level, where the records are the most up to date. These checks may take longer, especially in counties where the records aren’t available online or that require the assistance of a court employee.
Employment background checks have become a common part of the job search and hiring process. Education and employment verifications are not instantaneous. For these checks, companies you’ve worked for or the schools you attended will be contacted to confirm work history (including dates, titles, and salary, if available) and degrees achieved or programs attended.