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What Does an Employment Background Check Show?

what does a background check show

Most employers understand the importance of conducting pre-employment background checks on prospective candidates.

Did you know that 94% of employers reported they conduct at least one type of background check?

Performing pre-employment screenings can help protect the safety of your workplace and customers.

What does an employment background check show?

Based on our experience conducting employment background checks for employers across the nation, we’ve written this guide to help you understand what to expect.

What is an Employment Background Check?

An employment background check is a screening process through which an applicant’s criminal, employment, education, and other relevant records can be reviewed by employers.

Many companies conduct background checks on prospective candidates once they have been interviewed and are under serious consideration for the job.

Before an employer can conduct background checks, they must notify their applicants that they intend to do so and secure their signed authorizations under the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

The FCRA is a federal law that limits the types of information that can be checked by third-party consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) and how employers can use the information to make employment decisions.

Other federal and state laws also govern employment background checks and might restrict the types of information that can be reported and used.

What Does a Background Check for Employment Show?

Many people wonder what might appear on an employment background check.

This depends on the types of searches an employer requests and the laws in their jurisdictions.

In general, background checks for employment might show information about an applicant’s identity, past employment, education, professional license, driving record, and more.

What Employers Will See

What an employer might see will depend on the types of checks they request.

The following types of reports might be requested:

  • Criminal background checks
  • Employment verification
  • Education verification
  • Professional license verification
  • Identity verification/SSN trace
  • Motor vehicle records checks for jobs requiring driving
  • Pre-employment drug screens
  • Domestic terrorist watch list information
  • Sex offender registry check
  • Credit history

Let’s take a look at what might appear on these reports.

Criminal History

The FCRA restricts reporting of arrests not resulting in convictions that are seven or more years old for jobs paying less than $75,000.

However, it does not restrict the reporting of conviction information or data about pending charges.

On a pre-employment criminal record check, an employer can see the following types of information about convictions and pending charges:

  • Date of offense
  • Offense type
  • Offense severity level (misdemeanor or felony)
  • Disposition (if disposed)
  • Date of disposition (if disposed)
  • Sentence (if disposed)

Some states have expungement laws that allow people with certain types of convictions to petition the courts for an expungement.

Criminal background checks for employment won’t show expunged convictions.

Employment Verification

Employment verification confirms the information applicants report on their resumes and applications about their employment history.

An employer will see the following information about each of an applicant’s past jobs with employment verification:

  • Employer’s name and address
  • Employment dates
  • Job titles/positions held for each employer

Education Verification

Education verification shows information about an applicant’s education.

Employers will see the following types of information about an applicant’s past schools:

  • Name and address of each school
  • Attendance dates
  • Diplomas or degrees awarded

Professional License Verification

Many jobs require professional licenses or certifications.

Employers that request professional license verification checks see the following types of information:

  • License/certification type
  • Date of issuance
  • License/certification status
  • Expiration date
  • Sanctions or discipline against the license/licensee

Identity Verification/SSN Trace

Identity verification and Social Security number traces verify the identity of the applicant and show whether the SSN reported by the applicant is theirs, is valid, and whether it has been used in the past.

Motor Vehicle Records

Employers that hire for jobs involving driving typically request motor vehicle records checks.

A driving record check will show the following information:

  • Driver’s license number
  • License type
  • Issuance date
  • Expiration date
  • The holder’s full legal name
  • Physical descriptors
  • Assessed points
  • Traffic violations
  • Traffic crimes
  • License suspensions
  • Accidents


Reference checks are separate from employment verification and serve a different purpose.

While employment verification confirms the accuracy of the employment information an applicant reports on their resume, reference checks involve communicating with people who can disclose specific information regarding a candidate’s skills, job performance, and character.

Professional references will generally be contacted directly by employers to gather more information about a candidate.

Credit Checks

Some states have enacted laws restricting the use of credit reports for employment decisions, including California, Colorado, and others.

In addition, some cities, including New York, have also enacted laws restricting the use of credit reports. These laws limit the use of credit background checks to certain types of positions in which the employees will handle money and/or confidential information.

When they are allowed, credit checks for employment reveal the following types of information:

  • Payment history
  • Debt-to-income ratio
  • Available credit
  • Bankruptcies
  • Collection accounts
  • Other credit inquiries
  • Other indicators of financial distress and mismanagement

For jobs paying less than $75,000 per year, the FCRA restricts CRAs from reporting the following types of credit-related information when they are older than seven years:

  • Liens
  • Judgments
  • Civil lawsuits
  • Bankruptcies

Credit background checks for employment do not report credit scores and are soft inquiries, so they also do not affect the applicant’s credit.

What Employers Won’t See

While employers can request many different types of background information, there are certain types of information that they can’t access through a pre-employment background check.

School Transcripts

Education verification does not include transcripts from the different colleges and schools an applicant has attended.

Employers can’t see the courses and grades an applicant completed and received.

Transcripts must be directly requested from the school by the applicant and can’t be accessed through a regular employment background check.

Military Records

Military records are not available through employment background checks conducted by private employers.

Applicants can voluntarily provide that type of information, but detailed information from their military records can’t be accessed.

Medical Records

An applicant’s medical records are private and confidential, and they are not available through an employment background check.

How Can I Prepare for an Employment Background Check?

There are several steps applicants can take to prepare for employment background checks.

1. Know What a Past Employer Might Say

Most employers limit what they say when they are called for employment verification and stick to the person’s job title, employment dates, eligibility for rehire, and reason for leaving.

Most do not go beyond basic information and will often decline to answer other questions to prevent potential legal claims.

2. Run a Self-Check

An applicant who is concerned about what might appear on a background check might consider running a check on themselves.

This can allow an applicant to see what the employer will see. It can also provide the applicant with a chance to challenge any inaccurate information that might appear before going through an employment background check.

3. Check Your Credit Reports

If you are applying for jobs that will likely check your credit history, you should obtain copies of your credit reports.

You can get one free copy of your reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies, including TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, once per year at

4. Review Your Online Presence

Many employers check their applicants’ online presence. Review your social media accounts, blogs, websites, and other places you post to see whether you are presenting yourself professionally.

Clean up your social media pages and remove anything that might be questionable to an employer.

Many states make it illegal for employers to ask applicants or employees for their social media passwords, add them as friends, or ask them to search their sites in front of the employers so that the employers can view their pages.

However, it’s not illegal for an employer to search for applicants online and view anything that is publicly available.

If you haven’t already, change your privacy settings to private to prevent others from reviewing your pages.


1. What items cause concern on a background check?

Multiple things can be considered adverse information on background checks.

Some of the most common reasons why an employer might decide against hiring someone based on an employment background check include the following:

  • Lying about past jobs or omitting former employers
  • Dishonesty about educational attainment, degrees, licenses, or schools attended
  • Failing a pre-employment drug test
  • Having a poor driving record for a job that requires driving

2. How Far Does an Employment Background Check Go?

The FCRA restricts how far back employment background checks can go for jobs paying less than $75,000 per year. For these types of positions, the following types of information can’t be reported when it is seven or more years old:

  • Arrests not resulting in convictions
  • Civil lawsuits
  • Judgments
  • Bankruptcies
  • Liens

These restrictions don’t apply to positions paying at least $75,000 per year.

Some states might also have laws restricting how far back certain types of information can be reported.

The FCRA’s restrictions don’t apply to information about education, employment, and other types of relevant background data, however.

3. How long does a background check take to complete?

How long it might take to complete a background check depends on the methods used by the employer.

If an employer tries to take a do-it-yourself approach by sending requests to numerous state and federal agencies, courts, schools, and former employers, the process could take weeks or more and might return incomplete, inaccurate information that doesn’t comply with the FCRA and other employment background check laws.

If the employer instead partners with a reliable background check provider like iprospectcheck, the process is much faster.

We always return FCRA-compliant background check reports and have extensive resources.

Because of our cutting-edge research methods and advanced technology, we often can return comprehensive background check reports in as little as a few hours.

4. How do you know if you passed your background check?

After the employer receives a background check report, the hiring manager might take a few days to review the report. If you pass it, the hiring manager will likely send an email to you with your job offer or contact you by phone.

If the employer decides against hiring you based on information contained in your background check, the FCRA requires them to complete the adverse action process.

The employer will need to send you a pre-adverse action notice that includes a copy of the report. You will then have the chance to review the information, challenge anything inaccurate, and present mitigating evidence.

If the employer still decides not to hire you, you will receive a final adverse action notice and a copy of your rights.

iprospectcheck: Your Reliable, Trusted Employment Background Check Provider

Conducting employment background checks on all prospective candidates can protect your business and prevent issues that could otherwise arise.

Understanding what you might see in a comprehensive background check report might help you decide the types of reports you should request.

To learn more about our employment background checks and clinical services and to receive a free quote, contact iprospectcheck today: (888) 509-1979

DISCLAIMER: The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Consult your counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

Know Before You Hire

About the Author
Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers is a highly accomplished business executive with over 30 years of experience providing strategic vision and leadership to companies ranging from the fortune 500 to iprospectcheck, a company which he co-founded over a decade ago. Matthew is a valued consultant who is dedicated to helping companies create and implement efficient, cost effective and compliant employment screening programs. Matt has been a member of the Professional Background Screeners Association since 2009 . When not focused on iprospectcheck, he can be found spending time with his family, fly fishing, or occasionally running the wild rivers of the American west. A lifetime member of American Whitewater, Matt is passionate about protecting and restoring America’s whitewater rivers.