What Do Employers Look For in a Background Check?

Ok, so you made it all the way through the grueling interview process only to discover that there is another hurdle to overcome. They want to run a background check. What do employers look for in a background check? Let me say up front that every employer is different in how they use background checks. To be honest, I have seen some that do not really care what appears on a background check as long as there is no recent criminal activity they are fine. They just take the report and file it away as protocol.

Still, others have specific “red flags” they are looking for. I had one employer who was only really concerned about bankruptcy if they worked in the accounting department. Their reasoning was that they did not want to hire someone in an accounting position who was going through tough financial struggles. For one, they believed it showed a lack of responsibility to be fiscally sound and the other was that they did not want to put anyone going through a tough financial situation in a situation where they were handling lots of cash on a regular basis.

However, it is my prediction that employers will need to adjust their standards in the future days if they are going to survive. For example, a gap on a resume is going to be more prevalent than ever since we have experienced a prol0nged recession. Foreclosures and bankruptcies are not happening to a few, but many working professionals. That being said, let’s answer the question: What do employers look for in a background check?

They look for criminal activity. First and foremost, they run a criminal background check because they do not want to hire someone who was recently incarcerated. Also, they want to see how truthful the candidate has been in the interview process. Most job applications ask if you have ever been arrested or imprisoned. It is much better for you to come out with those details and be honest than to find out on the back end.

They look for drug abuse. Most employers today do drug screens as a part of their employment background check. Twenty years ago it was easy to spot (for the most part) those that used and abused drugs. Today, I have seen well qualified and capable candidates fail a drug case. It is just not as easy to spot as it used to be.

They look for liens. Employers would like to see that their are no liens against the individual. It is their way of gauging in responsibility. Like I mentioned before, the recent financial meltdown in America may change this perception, but that has been what it is in the past.

What do employers look for in a background checkThey look for bankruptcies or foreclosures. Employers will often run credit checks to see what kind of personal financial condition a person is a part of. If they have a bankruptcy, how recent is it? What have they learned as a result of the foreclosure?

They look for chronic late payments of 30, 60 , 90 days. I will admit that most employers are more lenient in this area for the most part. Still, it seems that any accounting or finance related position is held to a higher standard. The employers wants to know that you have the ability to do the job and one of those proofs in their opinion is in how you handle your own personal finances.

They also do employment verification.  If I had to guess, I think employers that do employment verification runs in the 10-40% range. Many employers have even gotten lazy on reference checks as well. Still, they will do employment verification from time to time so be prepared.

As you can see background checks for employment can be pretty extensive. While this is an extensive list, very few if any employers, use all of these as a criteria for hiring. Now that you know what employers look for in a background check, you can be armed with how to handle any questions that may arise.



    Jonathan has been blogging since 2009 and is still in awe that the Creator of the Universe desires to have a relationship with him. His passions include spending time with his kids, reading, March Madness, surprise get-a-way trips with his wife, and watching funny YouTube videos.

    Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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