What Shows Up on a Job Background Check?

Pre-employment background checks are critical for businesses because they reduce the possibility of potential workplace problems and lawsuits. Sometimes a job applicant is nervous about what might show up on a background check -- for example, a criminal conviction, a driving incident or a disciplinary action. The best approach for a job candidate is to be forthright, not evasive, when filling out the application. If an employer asks about a past incident, discuss it briefly, honestly and professionally.

Criminal History

Most employers view the criminal history as the most important part of a pre-employment background check. This screening process helps narrow the threat of identity, information and property theft, as well as the possibility of violent or abusive behavior in the workplace. County court criminal records -- in any counties where the applicant has lived, worked, or attended school -- are primarily checked. The background report includes filing dates, charges, dispositions, and sentencing dates.

Education and Licenses

Especially for managerial and professional positions, a background check includes verification of post-secondary degrees. Sometimes the high school degree is also confirmed. The background report shows the applicant's dates of attendance, commencement dates, academic programs and degrees earned, and in some instances, the grade point averages (GPAs). Also, any certifications and professional licenses also are verified, with the report listing the issuance date, renewal and expiration dates, status, and any disciplinary measures.

Sex Offender Registries

Criminal history searches reveal sex crimes only if the investigator knows the county where the offense occurred and searches those records. Otherwise, a search is conducted in a registered sex offender registry, such as the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Website provided by the U.S. Department of Justice. Unfortunately, this list is limited to only those sex offenders who have registered. The information includes the person's name, jurisdiction, town, county and ZIP code.

Driver's History

A driving history is especially important if the applicant will be driving a vehicle, even for short errands, as part of the job requirements. It also sometimes reveals more about a person's character than any other background check, for example driving under the influence (DUI) charges, drug possession, current warrants, and failures to appear in court. Other information from the driver's history is confirmation of the applicant's date of birth, and a list of any tickets and accidents.