What Is an Individual Background Check?

A background check is a process that investigates a person’s history to verify identity, find criminal records and uncover other insights. These checks are typically conducted by employers to protect their customers, employees and assets.


These insights can range from verification of a candidate’s Social Security number to finding employment history and even credit history. These checks are often done in accordance with local, state and federal laws.

Employment History

An employment background check reveals details about a job applicant’s previous work experience. It can verify information that they include on their resumes like job titles, dates of employment and salary information. It can also confirm the identity of past employers, which is important for companies that work with customers or patients in sensitive fields such as finance and healthcare.

A pre-employment background check can also uncover criminal activity, including felonies and misdemeanors that might impact the employee’s ability to do their job or pose a risk to other employees or clients. It can also reveal any pending legal cases. It’s important to note that the Fair Credit Reporting Act and other federal laws prohibit the disclosure of non-conviction records and convictions that occurred before an applicant was convicted of a crime, or that are more than seven years old.

Some services such as BeenVerified, PeopleLooker and TruthFinder can make it easy for employers to confirm a job candidate’s employment history. The service providers can also investigate the reasons for the resignation of a job and the reason for any gaps in a job history. A common concern for job candidates is that they will get bad references from their previous managers. To avoid this, it is a good idea to provide a reference from someone the candidate worked well with in their previous roles, such as their supervisor or manager.

Criminal History

Criminal history includes a person’s federal, state or local arrest and conviction records. This information may limit a person’s opportunities for employment, housing, education and more. A criminal record can also affect a person’s mental health, leading to anxiety and depression. This can impact relationships with family and friends.

The majority of criminal history information is public record and easily accessible to anyone who wants it. Individuals can often find out about their own arrest and conviction records by searching online or calling a government agency directly. However, this process can be time-consuming and labor intensive. A professional background check company can save companies and individuals a lot of time by putting all of this information into one report for them.

Many employers and landlords ask job applicants whether they’ve ever been arrested. Having a criminal record is a significant barrier to employment and can lead to financial insecurity. However, this question doesn’t take into account the amount of time that passes without a new charge or any steps taken by a person to rehabilitate themselves.

A criminal record (also known as a rap sheet) details each arrest and the resulting charges, convictions and sentences. A person’s summary criminal history will include the date and location of the crime, whether it was a misdemeanor or felony, the name of the charge, the charge status (whether it is open or expunged), the disposition of the case (such as not guilty, dismissed, withdrawn) and the charge classification (e.g., sex crime, non-drug class A felony or murder).

Credit History

Typically conducted by credit reporting agencies, a credit check gives employers insight into the financial history of an individual. It can reveal tax liens, bankruptcy filings, foreclosures and court judgments. Credit checks can also reveal a candidate’s previous debt and credit inquiries, including those made by retailers and banks. These inquiries can be voluntary or involuntary, depending on whether the applicant initiated the inquiry (such as applying for a credit card) or it was instigated by someone else (like a pre-approved lender).

Criminal records include county, state and federal arrests, felony and misdemeanor convictions, incarceration, pending and dismissed charges, as well as any expunged records. Some background check companies, like GoodHire, offer a user-friendly digital and mobile-optimized process that includes ongoing updates and easy access to results for both candidates and employers.

Employment verification searches confirm past employment information provided by job applicants. They can also verify academic records such as graduation dates, degrees, majors and more. Additionally, healthcare sanctions background checks and OIG searches ensure healthcare practitioners have the professional credentials they claim on their resumes and comply with regulatory guidelines. This is especially important for roles with direct contact with patients. Lastly, a driving record search can provide insights into an individual’s current and historical driving history, such as traffic violations, accidents, DUIs and other infractions.


The credentials component of an individual background check confirms an applicant’s education, professional and other certifications and licenses. It also reveals any disciplinary actions that may have occurred during their academic tenure. This type of search is often required for employees that handle children, vulnerable adults or work in regulated industries.

The types of searches in an individual background check vary, depending on the role and the organization. Some background checks will include a medical record search; others are more focused on criminal records and verification of the applicant’s identity. Other searches will verify employment, motor vehicle records and educational qualifications.

In some cases, previous convictions can be disregarded for employment if the crime is not related to the position and the candidate has proven an ability to rehabilitate themselves since the incident. The head of the hiring department or agency generally makes this decision on a case-by-case basis.

It’s important that you get the consent of an applicant or employee to conduct a background check on them. Without it, you could run into legal issues if you use the information to discriminate against them or violate equal opportunity laws. In addition, the subject of the report should have an opportunity to dispute any information that appears in error on their record. To ensure you are in compliance with federal law, all screenings must be completed through a legally-compliant disclosure, consent and authorization form.