LEGAL GUIDE
Written by Avvo Staff | Dec 9, 2015

What shows up on a background check?

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Employers have the ability to find out information about you, from criminal convictions to credit reports. You might want to know what your employer or potential employer could learn in a standard background check.

What do employers look for in background checks?

Employers want to know if some part of your history will affect your ability to perform the job. This means employers will often look for information related to employment history, work-related misconduct, drug use, and criminal records.

What information shows up in a background check?

Background screenings can reveal various types of information about an individual, including:

  • Criminal history and court records
  • Social security numbers
  • Worker’s compensation claims
  • Education, certifications, and professional licenses
  • Personal and professional references
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Medical conditions
  • Credit scores, bankruptcy filings, and other financial information
  • Driving records
  • Employment history

The type of information that your employer will find out depends on what the employer is looking for, and whether the employer contracts with a consumer reporting agency to conduct the background checks. Consumer reporting agencies have access to a larger scope of information.

Will a criminal record show up in a background check?

Employees and potential employees are often most concerned about their employers finding out about their criminal record. Information that employers might learn related to your criminal record includes:

  • Convictions
  • Arrests without convictions
  • Outstanding warrants
  • Reduced charges
  • Deferred adjudications and prosecutions
  • Juvenile records
  • Expunged or sealed records

However, the information that is available to employers about criminal records depends on the employee’s salary, whether the employer uses a consumer reporting agency, and how old the records are. State laws may offer more protections than federal laws by prohibiting employers from accessing certain types of criminal record information. While employers may learn about your criminal history, the law generally only permits employers to consider final criminal convictions in making hiring and firing decisions.

How thorough are background checks?

If the employer conducts the background screening, they may only be able to access public records such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce documents, and some criminal records.

If the employer uses a consumer reporting agency, the background screening may be more thorough. Sometimes the screening includes social security scans, which reveal information such as an employee’s name, address, age, and employment history. Some go even further into your education, credit history, and arrest records.

Reviewing your background check

Before applying for a job or agreeing to an employment background check, you may want to request a free credit report. You can also check your own court and arrest records by calling the court or law enforcement agencies directly. You might also seek expungement or sealing of court records before applying for jobs or promotions.

If you are unsure if something will show up on your background check, you talk to an employment lawyer to explain your options.

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