How Can You Prepare for a Background Check (To Pass 100% of the Time)

Background check repair icon.Written by Background Check Repair

Background Checks | May 24, 2024

Man holds a giant magnifying glass up to a large computer screen with an online background check showing, driver’s license in upper right corner, with a signed consent form under it with box checked in green showing items that answer how can you prepare for a background check before submitting the search.

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Many people applying for a job may be wondering “how can you prepare for a background check?” Luckily, most background checks are fairly standardized and it is still possible to prepare for even the most unusual checks.

In fact, there is one thing that anyone can do to pass their background check every time, regardless of any issues… learn how to perform a background check on yourself and search public records.

Many reputable agencies offer 7-day free trial background screening options that allow users to sign up for a membership and then obtain a complete background check report that will show any problems.

Once the problems have been identified, anyone can remove their criminal records (that might cause failure) from a background check using an expungement process.

Plus, the single-use background check will identify any public records that might cause red flags (like background check on social media instances or court records).

Understanding the process, knowing the different options that apply to the specific job being sought, and knowing how to remove arrest records from background screening reports (and other infractions) will make it possible to pass 100% of the time depending on the job.

How Can You Prepare for a Background Check? (How To Prepare for a Background Check)

Most people who ask the question: “How can you prepare for a background check?” do so because they are applying for a job that requires a background check. These days background checks are extremely common and most individuals would have difficulty even finding a job that doesn’t perform some kind of background check on prospective employees.

Although almost all jobs perform background checks, not every background check is the same. Companies perform background checks on their employees to protect the interests of the company in one way or another. This can be to protect the physical safety of other employees, protect the assets of the company like merchandise, protect the company’s image, and do tons of other things. Since every company is different, every company has slightly different things that they want to protect, however, there are a few that can apply to almost every company, resulting in some standard background check practices.

For example, the federal government requires a child caregiver (like a background check on nannies or a daycare) to undergo a criminal history done at the state and federal level (using fingerprints) as well a search through all offender registries, like child abuse background check reports.

However, a financial sector position may inquire into a person’s credit and tax history.

Preparing for most background checks is fairly easy because most background checks are extremely similar. Knowing what the basic checks are and what to expect from each step in the process can allow individuals to have everything ready beforehand, to avoid any unforeseen difficulties arising during the background check process.

Since most companies and industries use a level 1 or level 2 check, these are the ones you should run on yourself.

General Background Check Preparation (Identify the Check a Company Will Use)

Most individuals have already undergone a standard (name-based) background check at least once in their life. This is the kind of check that is given to almost every entry-level position in the country. Dishwashers, cashiers, maintenance jobs, grocery stockers, etc. all usually fall into this category of background checks.

It basically involves a social security number background check to verify work eligibility and local criminal history.

Before the background check or the application process even begins, it is often a good idea to do as much research as possible. There are two main things that should be researched: The local background check laws, and the company that the individual is applying to.

Researching the background check practices of the company is not always possible but a quick google search can give individuals a good idea of what to expect from the background check process. In particular good things to look out for are:

  • Does the company perform drug tests?
  • Does the company check driving records?
  • Does the company hire felons?
  • Does the company have a list of disqualifying offenses?

This will give individuals an idea of what to expect and how to prepare. Something as simple as waiting to submit an application until the individual is confident they can pass a drug test is something that wouldn’t be possible without research. This can also help individuals to not waste their time with companies that won’t hire someone based on their criminal record, especially if the individual can find a list of disqualifying offenses.

Researching the local laws should be fairly easy as well and there are a few things that individuals should look out for:

  • Does the state have ban-the-box laws?
  • Does the state have social media background check laws?
  • How long do crimes stay on your record in the state?
  • What crimes can be used against you in the state?

Background check laws can be complicated, so knowing the local laws can ensure that the hiring manager is not asking questions they are legally not allowed to or doing anything else that is against state law.

Standard Background Check (Name-Based Check)

Even without research, there are a few checks that are almost certainly performed on a standard pre-employment background check. This kind of check will usually have 3 main components: Verifying the identity of the applicant, verifying the information on the application, and a local criminal background check.

Identity Verification

Verifying the applicant’s identity shouldn’t require any preparation. The applicant will provide a social security number and usually a photo ID as part of the hiring process, both of which will be used to verify the individual’s identity. So long as the individual is not using a fake name, no issues should arise here.

Verifying Application Information

Verifying the information on the application is where potential issues will begin to arise, however since the applicant was the one that filled in the information, it is very easy to be prepared for this step. Most, if not all, of the information on the application such as previous work experience, certifications, education, and references are all checked by the hiring manager in most cases. This may include calling the school the applicant claims to have attended, contacting past employers, and contacting any references.

Being prepared for this step is simple, any potential issues need to be identified beforehand and a response should be ready. For example, if the applicant was terminated from a job that they included on their application, they should be ready to explain the circumstances of the termination and be ready to explain steps they have taken to improve their work performance since then.

Getting through this stage of the background check process is as simple as using common sense. Applicants shouldn’t include references that would say something that could reflect poorly on them and most of all they shouldn’t lie about previous job duties, education or anything else as this will likely cause the individual to be taken out of consideration for the job.

Criminal Background Check

Finally, there is the criminal background check. The criminal background check is the most common cause of stress on a background check, especially for individuals with a criminal history. Luckily, even with a criminal history, not all hope is lost.

There are a few things individuals can and should do to prepare for a criminal background check. The first is how to perform a criminal background check on yourself. There are numerous ways to do this, such as contacting the local county court clerk for the court documents or using an online background check service. Whatever the method is chosen, being aware of exactly what a hiring manager is likely to see is a huge advantage.

Once the individual knows exactly what is included in a criminal background check there are two more things to do. The first is to prepare an explanation of any charges or convictions on the record. Whether it’s a felony charge or a misdemeanor, being able to explain the conviction and most importantly, explain how you have worked to improve yourself and move forward is huge. There are more companies hiring felons than ever and doing something as simple as having a prepared response will go a long way in the hiring decision for managers who are on the fence due to a criminal record.

Besides having a response prepared, another possible avenue is to examine the possibility of having certain criminal records sealed or expunged. The possibility of having a record sealed will depend on the local laws, the crime itself, and the amount of time that has elapsed. Still, it is usually worth looking into as getting the record sealed will ensure that hiring managers don’t even know about it in the first place.

Industry-Specific Background Checks

Being prepared for the more intensive industry-specific background checks is a little more difficult in many ways. However, most industries that have specific background check policies will usually make these policies clear, so applicants can know exactly what to expect.

So, how can you prepare for a background check for something like a nursing or law-enforcement job? The same general rules apply here as they do to a standard background check: be ready before it happens.

Most industries with rigid background check policies will have a very detailed list of disqualifying offenses. Being able to identify early can save applicants the wasted time of applying for a job they are legally not able to be hired for.

Some background checks will also look into an individual’s credit history and driving record as well. As with criminal background checks, it can be a good idea to perform these checks on yourself, as to know what to expect when the final background check rolls around. This can allow individuals to clear any issues with their creditors or the DMV ahead of time, instead of failing the background check and needing to start the process over.

Although most background checks only search an individual’s local criminal history, some jobs like daycare workers,1 will rely on a fingerprint-based background check through the FBI,2 so be sure to check exactly what kind of criminal background check is being performed.

IndustryIdentity VerificationName-Based Criminal Background CheckFingerprint-based Criminal Background CheckCredit CheckDriving RecordSex Offender Registry
Law- EnforcementAlwaysN/AAlwaysSometimesAlwaysAlways
Shipping/ DeliveryAlwaysUsuallyN/ARarelyAlwaysUsually

How To Pass a Background Check? (Is It Easy To Pass a Background Check?)

In order to pass a background check, individuals should first know the answer to “how can you prepare for a background check?” The best way to prepare for a background check is to do as much research as possible. Research should focus on three main areas: Local laws, The company, and the individual.

Knowing local background check laws will give a good idea of what to expect as far as what is allowed and what isn’t allowed. It will also allow the individual to be aware of any laws that are being violated by the hiring manager, such as asking about criminal history during the application process in a ban-the-box state.3

Next, research the company. Knowing what kind of background checks they perform as well as any disqualifying offenses can allow for individuals to be prepared before the background check even starts and possibly prevent them from wasting their time applying in the first place.

Finally, researching yourself is another great step to take. Performing a background check on yourself is extremely easy and will allow applicants a view of exactly the kind of information that hiring managers will have access to. This is a great way to discover mistakes in an individual’s criminal history and correct the issue beforehand as well as a chance to prepare a response to any questions the hiring manager may have about the individual.

What Do Companies Look for in a Background Check?

What exactly a company will look for in a background check will depend on the company. However, there are a few common red flags that many companies will be on the lookout for. In short, every company will be looking at information that may cause them to believe the individual in question may pose a risk to the company in some way.


For many companies, a history of theft will be a major red flag. This is especially true of retail companies like Home Depot or Walmart, as many of the employees will have access to valuable merchandise or too large amounts of cash.

Violent Crime

Violent felonies are probably the biggest red flag and most common disqualifier besides crimes against children. Having a violent felon poses a risk to employees and customers alike and in many cases, they simply will not hire an individual with a violent felony conviction on their records.

Driving History

Any job that requires the use of heavy machinery will likely conduct a driving record check. A history of DUI or DWI will likely be a disqualifier in this case. This won’t apply to all companies but is to be expected from companies like Uber, UPS delivery drivers, and Amazon delivery drivers, where the driving record check is a key component as driving is a major part of the job.

Sex Offender Registry

Many major companies will also check sex offender registries as part of a background check. Just as with violent felonies, showing up on a sex offender registry is almost always cause for disqualification from the job.

Background Check State Laws

Knowing state background check laws can be a huge help when it comes to How can you prepare for a background check? Not only does it allow individuals to know what kind of questions to expect, it also alerts them to any potentially illegal questions and practices from the hiring manager.

Background check laws change from state to state and often from city to city so be sure to check your local laws and not just federal laws.

State Background CheckLaws and Guidelines
AlabamaAlabama Background Check Laws
AlaskaAlaska Background Check Laws
ArizonaArizona Background Check Laws
CaliforniaCalifornia Background Check Laws
ColoradoColorado Background Check Laws
ConnecticutConnecticut Background Check Laws
DelawareDelaware Background Check Laws
FloridaFlorida Background Check Laws
GeorgiaGeorgia  Background Check Laws
HawaiiHawaii Background Check Laws
IdahoIdaho Background Check Laws
IllinoisIllinois Background Check Laws
IndianaIndiana Background Check Laws
IowaIowa Background Check Laws
KansasKansas Background Check Laws
KentuckyKentucky Background Check Laws
LouisianaLouisiana Background Check Laws
MaineMaine Background Check Laws
MarylandMaryland Background Check Laws
MassachusettsMassachusetts Background Check Laws 
MichiganMichigan Background Check Laws
MinnesotaMinnesota Background Check Laws
MissouriMissouri Background Check Laws
MississippiMississippi Background Check Laws
MontanaMontana Background Check Laws
NebraskaNebraska Background Check Laws
NevadaNevada Background Check Laws
New HampshireNew Hampshire Background Check Laws
New JerseyNew Jersey Background Check Laws
New MexicoNew Mexico Background Check Laws
New YorkNew York Background Check Laws
North CarolinaNorth Carolina Background Check Laws
North DakotaNorth Dakota Background Check Laws
OhioOhio Background Check Laws
OklahomaOklahoma Background Check Laws
OregonOregon Background Check Laws
PennsylvaniaPennsylvania Background Check Laws
Rhode IslandRhode Island Background Check Laws 
South CarolinaSouth Carolina Background Check Laws
South DakotaSouth Dakota Background Check Laws
TennesseeTennessee Background Check Laws
TexasTexas Background Check Laws
UtahUtah Background Check Laws
VermontVermont Background Check Laws
VirginiaVirginia Background Check Laws
WashingtonWashington Background Check Laws
West VirginiaWest Virginia Background Check Laws
WisconsinWisconsin Background Check Laws
WyomingWyoming Background Check Laws

Can Anyone Do a Background Check?

Anyone can perform a background check using an online background check service. However, without the written permission of the individual, the background check can only turn up public information and can only be used for non-official reasons. This is useful for searching up someone that you met online (like the best background check for dating), but performing a background check using someone’s SSN without their permission is actually illegal per the FCRA.4

What To Do While Waiting for Background Check

There is not a ton that can be done while waiting for a background check. The best thing to do for individuals with a criminal history is to prepare a response for the hiring manager, should they ask for more information on the charges.

Besides this, there is always the option of expunging certain records, if local laws make this possible. In fact, more and more states have expanded expungement opportunities, especially for first time offenders. Many allow felonies to be expunged if they meet certain and specific requirements.

The same is true for misdemeanors and many disqualifying driving offenses that are part of the criminal record. Find out what the expungement laws are in any state by visiting the state’s judicial department website.

Background checks can be a stressful situation, especially for individuals who have a criminal record. Luckily, with the standardization of the background check process, it is easier than ever to ensure nothing unexpected happens. How can you prepare for a background check…see what will appear on your background check, research as much as possible about the job’s requirements and disqualifications, and be ready to explain anything the hiring manager may have questions about.

Frequently Asked Questions About How Can You Prepare for a Background Check

Is There a Way To Beat a Background Check?

The best way to beat a background check is to be prepared. Most managers will be willing to overlook certain things for a candidate that is working to improve themselves.

What Kind of Things Can Cause Background Check Problems?

Lying on any part of the background check will be a major red flag. When it comes to a criminal background check, violent crime and theft charges are the most common disqualifiers for most individuals.

What Do Companies Look for in a Background Check for Employment?

Companies look for anything that will pose a risk to their assets. This can be theft charges or any dishonesty on the application.

What Causes Backgorund Check Failures?

Violent crimes are a common cause for failing a background check but not a certainty. The best thing to do is to research the employers’ specific disqualifiers.

Is There Anything That Causes a Red Flag on a Background Check?

Anything that shows up on a criminal background check is likely to be a red flag. Another major red flag is the individual lying about certain aspects of their application such as education.

Are There Specific Background Check for Employment Forms That Must Be Used?

Usually, there is no employment-specific background checks form. Most companies simply give your information to a background check service that performs the check.

How Can You Prepare for a Background Check That Requires You Maintain Good Credit?

Being aware of anything that will show up on a background check is the best way to prepare. This can include performing a criminal background check on yourself or something similar.

What Kind of Information Is Revealed in a Background Check?

What is revealed will depend on local laws. In general, any public information and criminal history information from the last 7-10 years will show up on a background check.

What’s an Employment Background Check Sample Look Like?

A typical employment background check will include identity verification and a criminal background check.

How Many States Allow Pre Employment Background Checks Before Hiring?

All states allow pre-employment background checks. Some states have laws about what information can be uncovered and how certain information can be used.


1Background Checks: What You Need To Know. (n.d.). Retrieved June 24, 2022, from <>

2Identity History Summary Checks — FBI. (n.d.). Retrieved June 24, 2022, from <>

3Becker, D., & Nunn, D. (2019, March 26). THE BENEFITS OF BAN THE BOX. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from <>

4Fair Credit Reporting Act. (n.d.). Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from <>

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