Individual Background Check – What to Look For in a Candidate

A background check contains a person’s criminal records, including felony and misdemeanor convictions. It also includes pending and dismissed criminal charges.


It can also show a person’s work history, verifying employment records and titles. It can also confirm a person’s education by examining transcripts and confirming degrees obtained.

EEOC and state laws protect candidates from invasive and discriminatory checks, including social media searches.

Credit Reports

Credit checks can be used to help employers gauge a candidate’s financial responsibility. A check will look for indicators of responsible financial behavior like whether they have a history of paying debts on time, filing for bankruptcy or having accounts in collections. This type of screening is often done in roles with significant financial responsibilities, such as management or those that handle cash or confidential information.

A credit report contains public records that include financial history, legal actions like lawsuits and liens, and identifying information such as your name, date of birth, address and social security number. A background check that includes a credit report will usually also reveal your current balances on any active accounts, as well as the number of credit inquiries you have and the total amount of your debt.

Employers that conduct a credit check for employment purposes are required to inform the applicant of their purpose and obtain their permission before proceeding with the check. They must also follow certification or credentialing regulations if they run the check themselves rather than using a third-party consumer reporting agency.

Criminal Records

A criminal record, or rap sheet, is a record of all contacts with the justice system. It contains information about arrests, convictions, apprehensions, and releases as well as felonies, misdemeanors, and traffic violations. It may also contain details about height, weight, eye and hair color, identifying marks, aliases used, dates of birth, fingerprint classification, and other data.

Most states have official statewide criminal history repositories that are contributed to by county courts and law enforcement agencies. These are often available to employers and landlords. However, they can only be accessed with the subject’s permission. It is illegal for employers to reject job applicants or refuse public housing because of a criminal record.

Some states, such as New York, also have databases that include driving records and statewide arrest data. These can help employers decide whether an applicant is able to drive or handle a company’s monetary assets. They can also be useful for determining an occupation candidate’s character shortcomings. These checks are frequently done before offering a position or contracting with a company. They can likewise help an organization ensure that its staff is not prone to theft and other security issues.

Driving Records

If a company employee is going to be driving on the organization’s behalf, then an individual background check that includes their driver history report can help determine how safe they may be behind the wheel. This is also an important factor for employers looking to hire employees for positions that require extensive driving.

A personal driver record shows an individual’s past traffic violations, citations, and arrests. It can help a company decide whether to hire someone who has a suspended or revoked license.

Different infractions stay on a driving record for different amounts of time. Some are removed from records after a certain amount of time, while others, like DUIs, can stay on for a decade or more.

Companies often use continuous criminal monitoring to proactively run employees’ names against nationwide arrest data 24/7. This alerts HR managers as soon as there are relevant arrests, which can be a great way to mitigate risk and ensure that all company policies are being followed. In addition, it can be a helpful tool to identify any issues that may need to be addressed by legal counsel.

Education Records

Educational background checks verify that a candidate’s education credentials are what they claim. This type of search contacts universities and other schools to confirm degrees or certifications, from high school to doctorates. This can be particularly important in fields that require extensive training or licenses, as well as protecting employers from liability when a candidate misrepresents their qualifications.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) requires that school systems keep students’ records confidential, except for what’s known as directory information — personal notes written by teachers and other school officials that can be shared with other staff; photos of participants in extracurricular activities; and the height and weight of student athletes. FERPA exceptions allow schools to disclose directory information for purposes such as promoting attendance at a school, or providing financial aid.

While teacher background checks are some of the most in-depth, other school employee background checks vary by position. For example, a custodial worker or cafeteria employee won’t need a background check that includes a criminal history check since their positions don’t involve direct contact with students.

Social Media Accounts

While social media sites can feel invasive and may not offer much insight into how individuals will behave in the workplace, they can sometimes reveal red flags that are difficult to detect during a job interview. Especially with the current emphasis on data security, employers want to make sure that their new employees will be a positive addition to their teams and not a risk to company information.

Twitter is a particular source of interest for employers, given that many individuals share their opinions on controversial topics in short, public posts. Similarly, Instagram can help employers glean insights about a candidate by examining photographs that they might upload to the platform.

While it is possible to perform social media searches on your own, it is generally best to have a third party conduct the search on your behalf. This is because if you request login information from applicants, they are likely to be in violation of their platform’s terms of service and could sue you for discrimination. Third parties typically omit protected information from reports to ensure that you are not violating any laws in the process.