What Information Is Included in a Background Check?

Tammy Cohen, PHR, SHRM-CP
March 14 2017
During the hiring process, you probably have answered what might seem like hundreds of questions about your qualifications and aspirations to see if they align with the company’s. This cross-examination can be exhausting, especially if you have been asked to meet with multiple members of a team. 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. 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. 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 you will be 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. This can involve calling past employers along with any character references to verify that you are as fantastic as you appear. They might also check military discharge records and education records to verify that you have the degree that you have claimed. They could also conduct social media search or 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. 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, and 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.

About Tammy Cohen

Tammy Cohen, an industry pioneer and expert in identity and employment screening, founded InfoMart 30 years ago. Deemed the “Queen of Screen,” she’s been a force behind industry-leading innovations. She was most recently the first-to-market with a fully compliant sanctions search, as well as a suite of identity services that modernizes talent onboarding. Tammy revolutionized the screening industry when she stepped into the field, developing the first client-facing application and a due diligence criminal search that has since become standard for all background screening companies. Cohen has received national awards and honors for her business and civic involvement, including Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Top 25 Women-Owned Firms in Atlanta, Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year award, the YWCA of Northwest Georgia’s Kathryn Woods Racial Justice Award, and a commendation in the 152nd Congressional Record. To learn more about Tammy, visit

About InfoMart

InfoMart has been revolutionizing the global background and identity screening industry for 30 years, providing businesses the information they need to make informed hiring decisions. They develop innovative technology that modernizes talent onboarding, including a first-to-market biometric identity authentication application and a verified sanctions search. The WBENC-certified company is a founding member of the Professional Background Screening Association, and they have achieved PBSA accreditation in recognition of their consistent business practices and commitment to compliance with the FCRA. The company is dedicated to customer service, speed, and accuracy, and it has been recognized for its success, workplace culture, and corporate citizenship with over 45 industry awards. To Get the Whole Story on InfoMart, please visit, follow @InfoMartUSA, or call (770) 984-2727.

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