During the hiring process, you probably have answered what might seem like hundreds of probing questions about your qualifications and aspirations to see if they align with the company’s idea of an ideal candidate. This cross-examination can be exhausting, especially if you have been asked to meet with multiple members of a team to determine if you are the right fit for the position. So it’s no surprise that when the time for a background check rolls around, you might be wondering what else the company could need to know.

Until this point, the company only has information that you have provided and it is prudent for the hiring managers to verify that this data is true. They also want to ensure that you are a quality investment, which is why they will dig into your potential criminal background. Before you begin to sweat over whether that parking ticket from ten years ago will cost you your dream job, take a moment and check out what is actually included in a pre-employment screening and how it will impact you.

Criminal History

A company will first check into your past to ensure there is no worrisome criminal activity. This can include checking criminal, incarceration and court records at the county and state level. They can also scan state licensing records, drug test records and sex offender lists along with your driving records and civil litigation history.

A criminal history check can also include a global homeland security search. This involves searching Homeland Security databases from around the world, including the U.S. Health and Human Services Exclusion List, Interpol Most Wanted, FBI’s Fugitive List, OFAC, and the World Bank Debarred List.

Credit History

A company also may want to verify that you have a good credit history to ensure that they are hiring a responsible employee. This report can include your credit records and any history of bankruptcy, workers’ compensation or property ownership.

A company may also run your Social Security number, not just to verify your citizenship status, but also to see where you’ve lived over the past years. Frequent moving or location changing can be seen as a bad sign.

Character Assessment

Your possible employer will want to perform a past employment verification to ensure that your job history matches what you presented on your resume, which can involve calling past employers along with personal and character references to verify that you are as fantastic as you appear. They might also check military discharge records along with education records to verify that you have the degree that you have claimed. They could also include a social media search or even a drug test to further assess your character.

However, there are some facts that do not show up in a screening. The general rule is that criminal background checks can only include arrest information from the past seven years as any information from before seven years cannot legally influence a hiring decision. According to federal law (Fair Credit Reporting Act), criminal convictions can be reported without respect to time frame, though many states place additional restrictions on records of convictions, pending cases, and arrests. Certain credit entries, such as medical records, are excluded due to privacy issues, and bankruptcy filings are reportable for a period of 10 years.

Certain states have further restrictions on what can be searched, but it is required by federal law that employers secure your permission before running the background check. Additionally, the information found during a background check cannot legally be used for discriminatory hiring practices.

So, while that speeding ticket from your youth probably won’t influence whether or not you are hired, you should ensure that you are truthful in any information you provide. Getting caught in a lie by a potential employer will be more detrimental to your reputation than admitting your limits and, with pre-employment screening companies available to all employers, your secrets will more than likely be uncovered.


Learn more about criminal reports from the state level.

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