What Shows up on a Background Check and How to Use One [2024]


Many companies use background check services when they’re in the process of recruiting new employees. Other people may use this service to check someone’s identity and history. But what shows up on a background check and how accurate is the information?

That’s what you’ll find out in this guide, along with the most common types of background checks, where you can find the most accurate results, details on what can be revealed during a background check, and more.

Keep reading to find out more.

What Is a Background Check?

A background check allows you to pull information about someone available from the public records. Companies use background checks to see if someone is who they claim to be. It’s essentially a way to confirm the validity of someone they mean to hire to ensure that they’re not posing as someone else.

So what do job background checks look for? Well, employers also use it to check whether people have a criminal record. This helps companies reduce the risk of employing dangerous criminals. What’s more, you can also check a person’s education history to see if they really do have the qualifications they say they have.

Background check information can also include important data that helps evaluate whether a candidate is suitable for a job, such as their employment history. These checks are digitized so they’re easy to access.

Most Common Types of Background Checks

There are various types of background checks that provide different results. So what do background checks look for according to the different types you can get?

Employment Background Checks

Employment background checks are for companies that want to recruit new candidates. Many people wonder what shows up on a background check for employment when they apply for new jobs. The employer will check to see what schools you’ve attended and what your qualifications are. It’s also important for employers to check your employment history to ensure you don’t have a history of getting fired.

The employer will also see what shows up on a criminal background check for employment to ensure you’re not a danger to other employees. The employment screening can bring up a wealth of information about a candidate which helps employers evaluate their character.

So what do employers look for on background checks and what is the purpose? Firstly, companies don’t want to employ people that are going to be a liability to the company. So they will do thorough checks to see if you’re trustworthy.

Criminal Background Checks

Employers aren’t the only ones who conduct criminal background checks. You can check a person’s criminal history if you have suspicions about someone. But first, find out what shows up on a criminal background check so you don’t waste your money getting the information you don’t need.

The information that shows up on a criminal background check can be a misdemeanor and felony criminal convictions. Additionally, it will bring up any pending criminal cases. Other information includes:

  • Active warrants
  • History of incarceration
  • Infractions

Misdemeanor background checks are done by employers. Misdemeanors include petty crimes such as public intoxication or disorderly conduct.

When checking criminal history some people ask, do dismissed charges show up on a background check? The answer is yes, and so will arrests that didn’t lead to convictions. So when you check someone’s background reports you’ll have plenty of information to see whether they’re a trustworthy person.

The highest ranking background check sites on the market will help you with your search. These sites are usually straightforward and affordable.

Universal Background Checks

A Universal background check will bring up your reports from every state in the United States. A database search can be done on anyone to see what their employment, education, and criminal records show. Additionally, it also shows government agency and industry-specific sanctioned lists.

So what do companies look for in background checks when selling firearms? Well, in order for you to pass the check to buy a firearm you must have no criminal background. They will do this by running a state background check or a NICS check.

Credit Background Checks

A credit background check is different from the ones mentioned above. Your credit history is checked by lenders to see whether you have a good credit score. It’s important for lenders to check your financial information to determine whether or not they can give you credit.

So what do background checks show when you want to take out a loan or credit card? Well, these checks will show how much debt you have, how many credit cards you have, if you make payments on time, and if you have a good credit score.

It should be noted that criminal records don’t show up on credit background checks. But it can be what shows up on a rental background check when a landlord runs a screening. A landlord checks your credit history to see if you’re likely to pay rent on time.

Personal Background Checks

If you want to know what do background checks look like, you can run a personal background check on yourself on sites like Intelius, Checkr, or Truthfinder. The type of information that shows up is the same data employers see when they run a background check on a candidate.

So if you’ve applied for a job and you’re worried about being rejected based on your screening, run a check on yourself first. You can pick one of the best background checks for employers on the market to give you accurate results.

Professional Licenses Background Checks

So how are background checks done for licenses? For license background checks, a screening company will do verification checks by contacting the license issuer or state of the holder to ensure the license hasn’t lapsed or expired. The license background check is also to verify that there are no violations or restrictions linked to it.

There are many industries that require thorough license background checks such as the following:

  • Accounting
  • Plumbing
  • Real estate
  • Electricians
  • Education
  • Doctors
  • Surgeons
  • Engineers

You must have a valid license when working in high-risk industries such as building or plumbing.

What Can Be Revealed in a Background Check?

Many people wonder what can be revealed when you run a background check. You’d be surprised at the amount of information you can gather on someone using background checking services. Take a look at the section below to get an idea:


For banks, employment verification is important to see if you have a consistent cash flow for repayments on loans. Companies may also use this information to check the backgrounds of potential employees.

Academic and/or Professional Qualifications

For some industries your professional qualification is important. For example, if you’re a doctor, hospitals will need proof that you can perform the surgery or tasks needed in a hospital setting. The background check information may include where you went to school and what qualifications you accumulated after your studies.

Criminal Records

When someone runs a screening on you any criminal history linked with you will show up. Maybe you’re wondering, can you pass a background check with a warrant? The warrant will show up on your record but you may still be able to pass it since employers are not permitted to turn down candidates with a criminal history older than seven years. Dismissed cases may also show up on your criminal record.

Financial Standing

Your financial standing may be what shows up on a background check for an apartment or if you’re taking out a loan. This is done to ensure that you won’t be a liability when it comes to making payments.

Media Search

If you have any social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram these sites may show up on a background check. Although if your profile is private people may not be able to access it. For this type of background check, you can use the best people search sites to find someone on the internet. This can help in the case of adopted children or someone looking for a long-lost family member.

Personal Information

All your personal information will show up such as your home address, email address, and phone number.

What Cannot Be Included in a Background Check Report?

Now that we’ve gone through what can show up on a background check, let’s talk about some of the information you can’t find on these reports.

Any bankruptcies after 10 years won’t show on your records so you may pass a credit check.

Any civil lawsuits, records of arrest, or civil judgment won’t be valid on screening after seven years. Other negative information such as accounts placed for collection or paid tax liens connected to your civil records won’t be valid after seven years.

What Can Background Check Sites Be Used For?

Background check sites are commonly used to confirm the validity of someone you come in contact with. Some people run background checks on themselves. These screenings give you information on what shows up on a criminal background check for employment which helps if you’re looking for work. This can also be used if you want to make sure that your new neighbors are law-abiding citizens.

If someone does have a criminal history they can look up their rights so that they can have a better chance of getting employed.

Some people also use background checks to find people on the internet. But you may find that there are differences between people’s search and background check sites. With people search sites you won’t get as much information. You’ll probably only see what social media profiles they have and what their cellphone number is.

To get an accurate screening on someone, especially if you’re an employer, you should opt for background check sites conforming to FCRA. These sites will retrieve credential verification, employment information, and whether a person has a criminal record.

How Accurate Are Background Check Services?

So how thorough are background checks? Well, for starters it will depend on the background check services you opt for. Some information won’t be available to you if you don’t pay for a premium package offered by some of the sites.

Most corporations look for information such as a criminal record, personal information, and past employment to ensure candidates aren’t going to be a liability to the company. Services used for this type of information are always thorough but they can also be costly.

Wrap Up 

If you’re looking for top-notch background check services, make sure you find a company that offers affordable packages. You should be able to see what type of information the company can retrieve based on the information you can provide.

There are cheaper services depending on the information you’re looking for. If you simply want a criminal history check you may pay less for services. If you want a full package of what shows up on a background check, such as credential verification and employment history, you may pay more.

Background check services are extremely thorough but you may not find any negative information older than 7 years back.


How to run a background check?

There are many ways you can run a background check on someone using various databases. Search online public records or social media sites but bear in mind that these sites may not give you all the information you’re looking for. For the best results pick a background check company that will allow you to retrieve varied information easily.

How to do a background check on someone?

Background checks on yourself may be easy because you already know all your information. Running one on someone else may be tricky. However, if you have a person’s full name, date of birth, and address you could run a background check on them using an online platform. You don’t need a Social Security number to do a criminal background check.

How long does a background check take?

It will depend on the information you’re looking for. General background checks may take up to three days to complete. But if you want more extensive information it may take up to 30 days to get your results.

Do arrests show up on background checks?

Yes, arrests do show up on background checks but any court cases, misdemeanors, or lawsuits after seven years won’t show up on a criminal history check. Refer back to our criminal background check section in this article to find out what shows up on a background check.


Proudly South African, I have a history in psychology, as well as administration, but writing is my first love. I've been a full time copywriter for four years and create SEO friendly blogs, case studies, web content, landing pages, reviews, whitepapers and more. I cover many topics but especially enjoy writing about digital marketing, healthy living (body and mind) as well as some technical niches.

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