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What Do Employers Look For In A Background Check?

Competitive candidates need to know what part of their history can disqualify them from a position. There are many types of background checks, each of which hones in on a specific part of your past. Here’s everything you need to know about employment background checks!

How Background Checks Are Done

Employment background checks utilize the information you provide, such as SSN, job history, etc. Using that info; background checks can uncover your criminal record, address history, and so much more. The average business partners with companies like KarmaCheck to get in-depth and reliable data on their candidates. The turnaround times for background checks vary based on which type of history is being run. 

Some states prevent criminal checks. For example, in Fair Chance Hiring states, employers cannot look into criminal history until after a job offer is made. Also, the average background check spans seven years of your past. 

Different Types of Background Checks

There are six major types of employment background checks. Here is a brief overview of each.

Identity Verification: This is a standard background check to verify your personal information and ensure you are who you say you are. 

Motor Vehicle Report: Also known as an MVR, a motor vehicle report covers your driving history, including traffic violations, DUIs, etc.

Address Verification: Address verification is used to verify past residences.

Fingerprint: Fingerprinting tests run your fingerprints through law enforcement systems and, in conjunction with address checks, can be used to uncover potential criminal history.

Credit Background: Credit background checks are used to verify credit scores and spending habits. This particular check is often used for jobs dealing directly with money or expensive items. It can also be used to hire for high-level leadership positions. 

Criminal Background: Despite what you may believe, criminal background checks aren’t the end all be all of background checks. Businesses mostly look for crimes that make you a danger or liability. For example, were you once arrested for a minor offense but have an otherwise clean record? Then chances are you’ll still be considered for the role.

What Employers Can and Will Look At

What do employers look for in a background check? Employers will review all of the data mentioned above. Additionally, they’ll likely dig deep into your job and education history. Smart employers will gather every piece of data available to make a fully informed decision. If something in your past can hinder your chances, then be prepared to explain it. 

What Employers Cannot Look At

With rare exceptions, the average employer can only see up to the last seven years of your history. Additionally, specific state laws prevent them from looking into your criminal history until they’re sure you’re the right candidate for the role. 

How to Prepare for an Employment Background Check

Thankfully, employment background checks only require a little prep on your part. Here are one or two things you can do for each type of background check to better your odds of hiring.

Identity Verification: Double-check your data. A typo in your social security number can result in a red flag. Public information is used for ID verification, so check your info beforehand to ensure it’s up to date.

Motor Vehicle Report: The DMV doesn’t always have the newest data. Additionally, niche scenarios like selling a car to a new owner who doesn’t register it in their name can cause issues. Cover your bases and check your online DMV history if you think an MVR is in your future.

Address Verification: There’s little you can do to double-check your address history. But, if you move frequently, it can be worthwhile to write down your most recent address so they’re at the front of your mind if asked about them. It can help create a more streamlined interview and present you as someone who can sort out details.

Credit Background: Financially savvy candidates stay on top of their finances by checking their credit scores monthly. File a credit bureau dispute if something in your credit report needs to be corrected. 

Criminal Background: No judgment if there’s a red flag in your criminal history. But you will need to explain it to the average employer. When preparing for the interview, don’t forget that you’ll likely be asked about your criminal history. With that in mind, consider those questions when you’re practicing.


Background checks are one of the first hurdles you’ll need to overcome for gainful employment. However, background checks are only part of the hiring equation. Having the proper credentials and performing well in the interview better your odds. Keep pursuing your job hunt due to failed background checks. Follow the tips in this article to better your odds!


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