What Can Companies Look For In A Background Check?

Many professionals become so preoccupied with submitting the perfect resume during the job search process, sharpening their interview skills, and acing networking events that they forget another major hurdle to employment – background checks. Overcoming all the employment hurdles, from sending hundreds of job applications to passing difficult interviews, only allows an employer to reject your application because their findings from a background check can be pretty upsetting.

Given all the patience and effort it takes to navigate the job search process, it might pay to learn what a background check is and what information employers seek to find.

What Is a Background Check?

A background check is a thorough inspection of an individual’s public and private records, typically used by organizations to verify that potential candidates are who they claim to be. Background checks range from employment to personal, criminal, credit, professional licensing, and even universal checks; whether you are buying a firearm, applying for a job, or getting a new apartment, you may need to undergo a background check.

Many employers use employee background checks to gather crucial information about potential employees before extending them formal job offers. Since hiring, onboarding and training new employees is such a costly process, background checks are an ideal preliminary tool for identifying potential red flags before hiring the wrong candidate.

What Do Companies Look For In A Background Check?

According to a report by a HireRight, employers perform background checks to verify the following areas in descending order of importance:

  • Criminal history
  • Employment history
  • Identity

Other essential elements that rank high in employer background check priorities are education verification, credit history, and professional qualification verification. That said, here are some common areas that many employers might want to inspect.

1.       Employment Verification

Many employers value experienced employees, and as such, may want to dig into your employment history to confirm the validity of all the information stated on your resume. While it is unlikely that an employer may look into every tiny detail on your resume, they may call your previous employers to confirm whether you worked for them, your employment duration, job title, and performance.

Never include false information on your resume. Remember, employers might want to check whether you are as helpful as you claim in your application.

2.       Criminal Records

The type and importance of the information an employer can gather about a candidate’s criminal history vary by state and job requirement. Regardless, employers like to consider the nature of a candidate’s offense, when it happened, and its relation to the job in question. For instance, employers in the childcare industry might be particularly cautious of registered sex offenders if they committed the offense in the recent past.

3.       Work Eligibility

Employers have a legal mandate to request job candidates to present documents that prove their identity and permission to work in the country. A background check, in this case, can be something as simple as verifying your Social Security Number or work visa.

4.       Social Media Activity

The decision to decline a qualified candidate for a position based on their social media activity can be very complex from a legal standpoint. Nevertheless, always curate your social media profiles before a job application to avoid joining the long list of professionals who lost good opportunities due to harmful social media activity.

5.       Credit Check

A credit check is a report that dives into a candidate’s finances, including defaulted loans, credit card debt, mortgages, car payments, and more.

Tenant screening and background checks services are offered by top credit reporting agencies like TransUnion.

Credit checks are almost mandatory for candidates applying for financial positions. After all, why would a company hire a finance officer with a history of bankruptcies?


Background checks provide meaningful insight into a candidate’s history to assess their trustworthiness and fitness for a position. Although past actions do not necessarily predict a candidate’s future behavior, background checks are arguably the most reliable indicator of future actions.