what is background screening

Is Your Potential Employer Requesting a Background Screening? There's No Reason to Panic!

Last updated on May 11, 2021

You may have taken part in a number of interviews with a company, have excellent feedback from HR and feel as though an offer is coming through any moment. Suddenly the company sends a request do complete a background screening. Confusion hits and panic starts to set in. You were doing so well, right? What went wrong?

Absolutely nothing. If a potential new employer wished to conduct a background check on you, this usually means you are a top contender for the job, as companies typically do a background screening on the candidates they are truly interested in.

Employers want to check out an applicant’s background in order to get an indication of who you are as well as whether you are who you present yourself to be – and don’t worry, we’ve included an employment background check sample for you to see the type of information they’re interested in below. In the past, only government agencies and financial institutions ran this type of check. Today it is common practice in all fields.

What is Background Screening?

A background screening is a review of an individual’s commercial, criminal and sometimes financial records. The main objective of running these checks is to avoid hiring employees who may likely do something which might negatively reflect on the company in question.

According to HireRight, 85% of employers have caught people lying on their resumes. This includes stretching the truth about their job experience, their roles, and duties on the job, education as well as employment dates.

The type and scope of background check conducted is normally dependent on the job at hand. More intense checks are considered necessary for positions in which the employee is in close contact with private and sensitive customer information, handling money, operating machinery, driving a vehicle, working with children or with the elderly as well as special needs individuals.

Background checks are conducted with the full permission and knowledge of the applicant in question. You might be asked to fill out a form that includes information like your past addresses as well as granting permission for the background check to take place.

What is an Employment Background Check Sample Checking For?

The information that your potential employer can research includes things like your work history, education, criminal record, the credit history (if the job requires financial authority), as well as your social media profiles. The employer is unable to obtain information about your grades without your permission of criminal history that is longer than 10 years.

Employers are usually most focused on your past employment as well as your education and want to know if you really worked for a certain company in the past, and whether you really have that college degree. Other information employers are curious about is whether you have gotten fired in the past and the reasons behind your termination, whether it was something like job attendance or performance.

Let’s have a look at all the things an employment background check sample comes up with.

Employment Verification

Most often your potential future employer will want to contact past employers to verify the dates that you worked for the company as well as the position you held. They might even call the references which you have listed in order to confirm your credibility, performance, and character.

Education and Licenses

The background check will allow the employer to contact educational or licensing institutions that you’ve listed to verify any degrees or licenses that you earned. This includes checking id all your licenses are up to date.

Criminal Record

A background check will search for any criminal records including local, regional as well as federal. It all depends on the state when it comes to how far back this goes. Sometimes it can be ten years while others go back five or seven years.


An identity search makes sure that you have a valid ID and that your ID number matches up top all your details. You might have to provide a driver’s license or passport to confirm this.

Motor Vehicle Record

If your new position requires you to drive a company car, a school bus, delivery vehicle or a long-haul truck your employer will want to check out your MVR record. Any infractions including speeding tickets and DUIs will come up on the reports.

Drug Use

You might be asked by your employer to complete a drug screening. This will include you going to a collection site and providing either a saliva, hair or urine sample.

Why Do Employers Use a Background Check?

Here are some of the main reasons that employers use a background check on potential employees.


One of the major reasons a background check is conducted on future employees is to avoid harm or legal liability. This includes sexual harassment or workplace violence, assault on the organization’s customers, negligent driving, financial loss or reputational damage>

Negligent hiring is one of the most compelling reasons to run a background screening of criminal records of job applicants. A serious criminal record can be strong evidence that the person in question is not suitable for the position in question

Maximize Productivity

When it comes to looking into the future, many will look into the past as a strong indicator of what your future performance might look like. This includes checking on your professionalism, job skills, productivity, and interpersonal communication skills. Running a reference check will distinguish between an excellent future employee and someone who lacks all those qualities.

Data Verification

As mentioned earlier, as many as 85% of employers found that applicants had lied on their resume, which is an increase in the past five years. Making yourself seem better suited for a job than what you are in reality can cost an organization financially. The phrase fake it until you make it only goes so far.

“Many business owners are worried about employees stealing cash and inventory. This is a valid concern—a 2014 study by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners found that global occupational fraud totals nearly $3.7 trillion annually. The report explains that average theft is approximately 5% of revenues each year.”

Checking out your credentials, employer history, tenure as well as licensing details will provide insight into both your motivation and reliability.

Education History

People listing academic degrees are more common than you might think, with individuals frequently including educational institutions that they never attended. An example of this includes an admissions dean for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was forced to resign when it was discovered that she has falsely claimed to possesses three degrees, that she did earn.

Criminal History

Negligent hiring has caused many employers to prescreen job applicants. This is because in the past the people that were hired subsequently engaged in workplace violence or other acts like sexual assault and theft. This could have all been avoided If background checks had been completed on potential applicants.

Sometimes companies will also perform criminal background checks on their current employees when looking to transfer, promote or create other changes in their terms of employment.

“The average cost of a negligent hiring lawsuit is estimated to be $1 million. And, when such cases are brought to court, employers lose about 70% of the time. Given the cost and bad publicity a negligence lawsuit can create, it’s in an employer’s best interest to fully vet candidates with a thorough background check.”

Consumer Credit Reports

Credit report checks are often sought for those candidates who might be applying for positions that have a lot of financial responsibility. This type of report will assist the employer in concluding whether the applicant’s financial status might be a risk if the position involves either handling money or giving financial advice to others.

Credit reports are restricted by state laws which prohibit their use when an employer cannot give a compelling argument for needing such a report. Put simply, these should only be asked of you if you are looking to work in a position requiring financial reliability.


Thorough background checks are able to uncover bankruptcy filings. What the employer does not see on the background check is the reason as to why you filed for bankruptcy. This means that you will have to prepare in advance to share as to what your financial troubles were in the past and which steps you have taken to overcome them.

Things like medical issues, divorce as well as other unexpected events are typically understood by employers, however, it is a conversation which you need to have in person.

Motor Vehicle Records

It is vital and required by law for some employers to take out an MVR on employees who operate a company vehicle. An MVR usually includes information such as your license status, license class, any traffic violations, expiration date, arrests, license suspensions or cancellations as well as convictions for driving under the influence.

Specific Industry Mandates

Some jobs require a background investigation either by federal or state law. Positions include fields like health care, education, child care, public transportation, national security, and others.

Social Media Information

A lot can be discovered on social media which might indicate whether a person is right for the company in question. Your profile will give more information that some of the other listed elements of the background check, which will give an employer reason to hire you or to look at other candidates.

Protecting Your Rights

If a potential employer uses your background information to make a decision in terms of employment, it is essential that they comply with federal laws that are there to protect you from discrimination. This includes making a decision based on race, color, sex, religion, genetic information, national origin, and age.

Since employment background checks are normally run through third-party services it is necessary that they also comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act or the FCRA. It is advised that employees make sure to understand the laws in their state as well as a municipality when it comes to background checks. Some states regulate the use of that information for employment purposes.

Should an employer find a red flag within the report of your employment background screening, they are required to send you a written explanation of what it is they found. You will find an attached copy of the report and have typically at least five days to correct or respond to the issue.

According to an article in the Huffington Post,

“The Federal National Child Protection Act gives an authority to the officials to get access to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database for different positions including working with the disabled, the children and with the seniors. This kind of service is given in order to prohibit kidnapping, abuse and endangering the lives of such weak groups.

Potential employers are all doing identity and criminal verifications to keep away from any security issues that are related to terrorism. This is true regarding the financial institutions which require knowledge about their labor in a way they know about their customers. They often hire third parties which scan a number of databases as a part of their background checks and public records keeping.”

If the employer comes to the conclusion that they are not ready to hire you based on something that came up in the background check but went with someone else instead, they need to provide you with the contact information of the company which generated the report.

How You Can Prepare For a Background Check

If you’re feeling really great about a position, and feel as though a background check might be looming the best way to prepare for one is to conduct one yourself.

Make sure to find out information that could come up as well as prepare to answer whatever questions you think your potential employer might have for you.

In addition to getting a background check on yourself, scan the internet by doing a quick Google search on your name. List through the first ten pages of results to see what has come up and what could potentially do some damage. Be thorough and include any variations on your name and add any keywords that you think others might use when looking you up.

As soon as you discover what information is out there about you it is time to start cleaning it up. Start with the easiest things that you have control over which might pose as a red flag to an employer. This includes any posts or images that can be found on your social media profiles including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and others.

Think about it, your employer probably doesn’t want to see revealing images or photos of you stumbling out of a club on your recent night out. They might also be wary if they find posts which you might have posted or comments with derogatory and explicit language.

Remove such posts or set them to private so that only you can see them.

The last step is to build your brand as well as you can. This will ensure that your employer will see how committed you are to your industry and how you can add to the growth of the company in question. Think about what it is your employer would want to see and include various links regarding your field proving that you do in fact love what you do.

Not only will this help impress your potential employer, but you will consistently make strides in opening doors to new opportunities. What many people don’t realize is that potential employers constantly refer to social media in attempts to find potential employees. This could mean that someone is recognizing your talents right now and you’re probably not even aware of it.


Receiving a request to conduct a background screening is something that usually evokes panic in potential employees, but this shouldn’t be the case. If you think those few rounds of interviews that you completed went really well, chances are they have. This is especially true for those who are asked to comply with a background check.

Think about it, employers cannot just go taking everyone’s word regarding their previous work experience, education and license statements. In order to know that you are who you say you are, and avoid the cost of hiring the wrong person, they often need to do a background check.

This should be seen as a positive thing. If they are asking to complete a background check on you, that means they have probably done so with other employees which means that your potential co-workers are the best for your working environment.

Having a background check done will not result in your getting arrested or anything of the sort. It is simply an extra precaution taken by employers to make sure they do not waste money on a new hire.

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