Individual Background Check – How a Criminal Background Check Can Help You Land a Job

You’ve crafted a standout resume, tapped into your professional network and delivered an impressive interview. But one thing could still prevent you from landing the job: a criminal background check.


The EEOC and state law offer you protections. Employers must follow certain rules when running a background check on you, including getting your consent.

Employment History

A person’s employment history can help an employer determine whether they will be a good fit for a particular position. This information is typically provided on a resume or job application, and it usually requires verification from a previous employer to ensure accuracy. It also provides an opportunity to look into the reasons a person left each of their prior jobs, which may help the company better understand their strengths and weaknesses.

This process often entails contacting former employers to verify employment dates, job titles, and other related details. It can also include a review of wage histories, including any bonus pay or overtime. While some employers choose to not check a job applicant’s work history, most do so. This is because they want to make sure that the information they receive about a candidate’s experience is accurate and truthful.

The easiest way to obtain an individual’s employment history is to contact their former employers directly. This can be done by contacting their human resources department and asking to speak with someone about their past employment with the company. This is typically one of the fastest ways to get an individual’s employment verification, though it can also be time consuming. Many companies also use third-party services to conduct this type of research, which can be a more cost effective and efficient solution.

Criminal History

Having a criminal record can have far-reaching consequences on people’s lives and is a major barrier to employment. It can impact their ability to get a job, limit housing and education options, and damage relationships with family and friends. It can also affect their mental health and create social stigma. As societal opinion moves toward rehabilitation and capacity for change, more Americans are exploring ways to have their records expunged or sealed.

The criminal history that shows up on an individual background check can vary depending on the jurisdiction and type of check being conducted. The FCRA permits background check providers to report arrests and convictions. However, some states and counties may have statutory limits on what you can see. For example, Wisconsin restricts consideration of an applicant’s record to charges that are substantially related to the job in question.

When searching for an applicant’s criminal history, a search provider typically searches national crime and sex-offender databases, state courts, and county records. Some searches may include aliases and addresses to find all records of the person being searched. The information that appears on an individual’s record will typically include the charges, convictions, or dismissals. The record will also list an abbreviation of the code section (for example, H&S SS 11359 means possession of marijuana). The information that is available on an individual’s record can be difficult to interpret and understand. It is often written in legal language and is not always translated accurately, which can add to the turnaround time.

Credit History

Employers often run credit checks as part of an individual background check. These are modified versions of a consumer credit report that show employers how an applicant has handled money, paid bills and managed debt. This information can be very important for positions that require financial or fiduciary responsibility, or for those that work with vulnerable populations, like children and the elderly.

A credit check can reveal red flags like unpaid debt, collections, liens, foreclosures and judgments. It can also include information about your past employment, though it is generally only shown if you listed your previous employer on a loan or credit application. Having a good credit score can make you more competitive in the job market, and it can demonstrate your level of financial responsibility.

When a company runs a credit check as part of an individual background check, it usually does not affect the candidate’s actual credit or FICO score, and is considered a soft inquiry, compared to a hard inquiry when applying for a loan or credit card. However, employers who want to pull a candidate’s credit must notify them of their intention and obtain consent, or they may be violating Fair Credit Reporting Act regulations.

Companies running an individual background check are looking to ensure that the person they hire will not pose a risk to their business or coworkers. By vetting candidates, businesses can reduce property damage, theft and liability costs by avoiding hiring people who have a history of criminal or threatening behavior.


When a candidate applies for a position, they are often asked to provide a list of references. These are individuals who can speak on a candidate’s work experience, character and skills. It’s important that candidates choose the people they want to serve as professional or personal references wisely. Those that are able to speak about the skills and qualifications for the job will make an employer more likely to offer a position to that candidate.

Reference checks are best conducted by individuals who have known the candidate professionally, ideally for a long period of time and in different settings. These individuals could include peers, direct reports, supervisors or managers, and other individuals within the organization who are able to speak about the individual’s character and work ethic. A former teacher or mentor may also be a good choice for a personal reference.

Ideally, a reference check should be conducted in a private location where the individual is comfortable discussing their character and abilities with a potential new employer or lending institution. Questions posed during a reference check should be job-related and specific to the position for which the individual is applying. This helps to avoid any potential for negative discrimination.