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How Far Back Does a Background Check Go?

It’s 2023, and the US job market is surging. Hundreds of thousands of new jobs are being filled, and hiring managers are tasked now more than ever with finding the ideal candidate. Candidates must be reliable, experienced, driven, and able to work collaboratively. That’s one of the many reasons that background checks are essential to the hiring process. But how far back does a background check go? And how relevant is the information? After all, you don’t want to make hiring decisions based on outdated info. 

Here’s what every hiring manager needs to know about background check history. 

Relevance and Timing

The general rule is that background checks go back seven years or more. And the “more” is important. Certain positions, laws, and background check types go back more than seven years. Where does the seven-year rule come from? The Fair Credit Reporting Act or FCRA prevents most employers and background checks from exceeding the seven-year mandate. One of the biggest reasons for this is relevance and timing. For example, imagine running a Motor Vehicle Report before hiring a company driver and finding out they had a single speeding ticket ten years prior. How much would that impact your hiring decision? Chances are it wouldn’t. Therefore the data is irrelevant. 

Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

The Fair Credit Reporting Act, created in 1970, ensures information businesses and employers use is accurate, reported without bias, and comes from accredited sources. A common misconception is that the FCRA only applies to credit reports and scores. While traditional credit reporting 100% falls under FCRA, it’s only a part of what the law protects. Credit Reporting Agencies or CRA doesn’t just include credit bureaus but instead encompasses any organization that reports info related to a candidate’s character, financial readiness and history, and other private information. That means criminal record checks, insurance companies, college placement offices, and more fall under FCRA.

Criminal Background Check

Criminal background checks show seven years’ worth of history. Expunged and juvenile records remain the exception to this rule. However, not every state prohibits juvenile records from appearing on adult background checks—research to determine if your state automatically expunges juvenile records.  

Some states have Second Chance Hiring laws that prevent criminal background checks until an official offer of employment has been made. These laws are in place to limit employer bias toward former inmates and to improve employment rates. Fun fact: Casinos are one of the biggest industries for former inmates. Much like financial institutions, casinos are primarily critical of criminal histories, including fraud and theft.

Credit History Check

Credit History checks extend back seven years. They will include current and past debt management, collections, bankruptcies, etc. One exception to this rule is any accounts removed due to a credit history dispute. If a credit history dispute goes in a borrower’s favor, then changes are retroactive and, as such, won’t appear on a background check. Another exception is if a candidate has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is visible for up to ten years. That can be a significant factor for any employer hiring for a cash-handling or money management position.

Credit history checks are a great way to judge a candidate’s financial readiness and how they handle responsibility. However, credit history won’t give you the complete picture of a candidate’s spending habits. Credit checks don’t include checking and savings account history and other key factors. Nor can you directly ask for this information. If you’re unsure about a candidate due to their credit history check, consider leveraging their references to learn more about how they handle financial responsibility. 

Employment History Check

Employment history checks show seven years of history, which is generous considering that even the best candidates would have difficulty leveraging jobs older than seven years. Candidates with gaps in their resume, such as stay-at-home-parents, may be one of the few exceptions to this rule as they may willingly offer their last known job. It’s worth mentioning that some employers may require longer than seven years of history – especially for high-paying, executive-level positions.

Get a Background Check with KarmaCheck

Background checks are subject to strict federal and state laws. Thankfully KarmaCheck has you covered. Whether you take advantage of our cost-effective pricing or use the KarmaCheck API to streamline the process, you’ll get information you can rely on faster than ever. And all of that while staying well within compliance. The perfect background check isn’t just about how far back it goes but also how relevant and accurate the data is. As a trusted source of candidate history, KarmaCheck provides you with everything you need to make an informed decision. Contact us today to learn your options.


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