An employment background check consists of different parts, such as an applicant's past employment, criminal history, credit history and driving record. It's relatively easy to obtain certain background reports, such as credit histories and past employment references, for free. Although there are typically charges for other types of reports, such as driver records, it doesn't mean a person can't obtain them for free -- sometimes it's simply a matter of asking.
Contact former employers and ask about their company policy regarding background checks on past employees. Some companies have strict policies that they never respond to background check requests, others only release former employees' job titles and dates of employment, while others refer such requests to an automated dial-in service that verifies past employees' names and periods of job tenure. Also, employers will know if state laws allow them to forward former employees' personnel records to them.
Past Employment References
Many job applications request past employment references, such as names and phone numbers for former managers. Prior to beginning your job search, contact potential references and inform them you'd like to list them as references. If there are no company restrictions for talking to prospective employers, review their perceptions of your past job performance and remind them of your strengths and successes. This alerts you to possible problems and gives them permission to disclose information to an investigator.
Although many sites advertise free criminal background checks, these are not reliable sources. They don't list their sources, and there's no criteria for evaluating data accuracy. Also, there is no nationwide repository of criminal records. Only county courts maintain people's up-to-date criminal records; however, minimal charges apply. However, anyone can look up a name for free in the Dru Sjodin national sex offender website, which searches sex offender registries in all states.
The Federal Trade Commission provides free credit reports through AnnualCreditReport.com. You can order online, by mail or by phone once every 12 months from one or more of the three nationwide credit reporting companies: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. You can track your credit rating and transaction history throughout the duration of the year. These reviews help you ensure your credit history is accurate and up-to-date.
Some sites advertise free driver's history records, but the information is unsubstantiated and could be incorrect and out-of-date. If you request your driver's history from your car insurance carrier, you'll receive old information that doesn't reflect your current driving history. Although state motor vehicle offices charge for driver's histories, explain that you're job hunting and would like to review your driver's history and ask if the fee can be waived.