What Is an Employment Background Check and What Does It Include?

What Is an Employment Background Check and What Does It Include?

Employment background checks are the most common type of background check. Generally, employers want to see if you're financially responsible, law abiding, and allowed to work in the US.

Employers can run a background check on you if you're already employed by them, but more commonly, you'll receive a job offer that's contingent on you passing a background check.

So what can you expect from an employment background check? The answer to that question can vary depending on the role you're applying for and your employer. For example, if you're applying to be a truck driver, then your driving record will be a very important part of your background check. If you're applying to be a waitress, then your driving record probably won't be checked at all.

That said, there are generally a handful of background checks your employer will run, no matter which job you're applying for.

Criminal Records

Your criminal records will make up a sizeable portion of your employment background check. One study found that 92% of businesses conduct criminal background checks on some or all of their candidates.

Your employer can look at county, state, and federal court records. County records are the most common type of criminal check, as they usually have the most detailed records. Your criminal records can include arrests, misdemeanor and felony convictions, sentences, incarceration records, and any court warrants. You can learn more about the types of criminal background checks here.

Having a criminal record doesn't necessarily exclude you from getting a job. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission gives employers guidelines as to how they should take convictions and arrests into account without violating your civil rights.

Identity and Work Status Validation

Federal law requires businesses to employ only those who are legally allowed to work in the US (including non-citizens). Because of that, employers will likely use the government service, E-Verify, or the I-9 form when performing employment background checks. Employers may also use an online service that verifies social security numbers to confirm your identity.

Credit Report

While this is one of the more controversial aspects of an employment background check, keep in mind that under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), an employer must get your written consent before obtaining your credit report. If you do give written consent, your employer will be able to see your debt, loans, accounts up for collection, address, and name. etc.

However, employers cannot access your credit score, account numbers, date of birth, or information about your spouse.

Employers tend to use credit reports to find out if employees are financially responsible and can be trusted with financial information. Credit reports are most common if the role you're applying for requires a security clearance or deals with money.

If you think your employer is going to pull your credit report, make sure to check it first, so you can contest any errors.


During an employment background check, your employer can call any personal or professional references you include in your application. There is also the possibility that your employer will call your last employer to verify your salary and good standing.

Education and Licensing Validation

To verify that you earned the degrees or certifications on your resume, your employer can use a service like the National Student Clearing House or ask you for official transcripts. You have the right to obtain your own student records, and if you notice any errors you can contest them.

If you are licensed by a local, state, or federal organization, your employer might check with those organizations to ensure your licenses are valid.

Driving Records

Jobs that require any sort of driving (school bus drivers, truckers, etc.) will usually involve a thorough check of your driving records. What's included in driving records varies by state, but can include convictions, violations, collisions, suspensions, and failures to appear at court. Check with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles to see what's included in your driving records.

Social Media Accounts

One study found that 51% of employers who research job candidates on social media found content that caused them to not hire the candidate. Social media background checks are more informal and less regulated than other types of background checks, but they're widely used. Your employer will likely search your name online and look at any social media content that's public.

So, What Is an Employment Background Check?

An employment background check reassures potential employers that you are a trustworthy employee. While the most common types of employment background checks include criminal records, work status validation, and reviews of social media accounts, your employer may also ask for a drug test, a physical evaluation, or additional financial information (like bankruptcies). You can learn more about other types of background checks employers might consider running here.

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