Background Checks

background check
Source: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

First of all, before diving into the information this type of document includes, we need to define what a background check is.

Essentially, it is a tool used by government agencies, schools or employers to learn about someone’s personal, financial, professional and criminal records. It can be used for personal, employment or licensing purposes.

What information do Background Checks contain?

Background checks may provide a wide range of information about someone’s background, such as the number of marriages and divorces, debts, bankruptcies, loans and criminal records.

Being asked to go through this procedure isn’t necessarily a bad thing; in fact, if you have been truthful, background checks will only reinforce how trustworthy you can be for the person that requests it. Plus, when it comes to employment screenings, background checks are an important tool to avoid taking unnecessary risks that could harm the business or other employees.

Besides the automated criminal record background check that you can get online (which does not offer much information), you may find that there are many different options to focus the scope of the search. The information provided by a background check will depend on two factors: who runs it and the reason for such check, as there is no predetermined setting for it.

It is very important to know the purpose behind it, as some types of checks must abide by the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which has set some rules to protect personal information. Creditors, employers and insurers can access your public background information (i.e. criminal and driving records), but not to your private background information (i.e. medical, divorces, loans)—unless you provide written consent.

Types Of Background Checks And Information Included

As we have previously mentioned, you will find various types of background checks, all tailored for specific situations; however, the results of some of them may overlap. For example, you may find criminal-specific background checks, but an employment check will also reveal any criminal history. So, clearly, the information requested for each one of them will vary according to its purpose. Below you will find the three most common checks that can be run in the US:

Employment Background Check

The employment background check is also known as an employment screening. Here, the prospective employer may want to run a background check on all candidates to double-check the information provided as well as to ensure that they are law-abiding citizens and eligibility or current working status.

It is completely up to the hiring staff to determine which information is useful according to the job position and company. For example, they may include some or all the following:

  • Legal working status
  • Personal information
  • Employment history
  • Education
  • Motor vehicle and driving record
  • Loans, bankruptcies, mortgages
  • Military records
  • Online footprint (social media accounts)
  • Personal and professional references
  • Criminal record (a general overview, not as thorough as the criminal-specific background check)

Licensing Background Check

License background checks can be done at federal or state level, and they are intended for verifying the truthfulness and state of someone’s provided qualifications. For example, for attorneys, it will show the states in which they have passed the bar; for doctors, it will show what kind of license they have as well as their status; for guns, it will show what guns the person can hold and for what purposes such devices are allowed; and for private investigators, it will feature their credentials, license status, and if there are complaints about them.

Apart from showing the license itself, this type of background check will often include:

  • Basic personal information
  • Status of the license
  • Education (institution, when, degree, etc.)
  • Investigations
  • Complaints against them
  • Disciplinary actions
  • States in which the person can practice

Driving Record Or Motor Vehicle Report

The Motor Vehicle Report (MVR) may give you, your employer or another party, an insight on how responsible or careless a person is, as it will provide the latest information about your driving history.

This type of check is important for those who intend to work as company drivers, machine operators, couriers and chauffeurs, or occupy any position that requires driving any kind of vehicle.

This driving background check can be requested at the person’s local state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), at the Motor Vehicle Division, the Department of Revenue or the Secretary of State. Your state DMV may provide different information about your driving records, it may be a complete history of your driving or just cover a few years back. The list includes, but might not be limited to:

  • Basic personal information
  • The motor vehicle report
  • Status of driver’s license
  • Traffic law violations, convictions and fines
  • Road accidents and tickets
  • Validity, suspension or cancellation of driver’s license
  • DUI public records.

These records are actually protected by the Fair Credit Reporting Act, so you would be requested to give written consent before someone can take a look at them.