If a Company Does a Background Check Are You Hired? It’s Not That Simple

Background check repair icon.Written by Background Check Repair

Background Checks | June 7, 2024

Man standing before a business officer’s desk with his hand on his chin, looking at a background check that was ordered and silently asking, if a company does a background check are you hired and how do I know if I passed my background check for employment?

If a company does a background check, are you hired?

Many people feel excited when they get to the background check phase of the hiring process, and think that as long as everything comes out clean, they’ll be starting their new job.

Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple. There are various factors involved in applying for a job, and just reaching this phase of the process doesn’t automatically mean you’re in.

Although it is good sign when a company goes into the trouble of ordering an employment background check, since these checks are costly, it doesn’t mean that an offer will immediately follow.9

This full guide explains the answer to the question, if a company does a background check are you hired, and outlines what to do to ensure you get the job.

What Happens When a Background Check for Employment Is Ordered?

When an employer orders a background check, typically it means that the applicant is on the short list, pending the results of a criminal record search and other education and previous employment checks.

Know that the process can take days or even weeks to accomplish, depending on the information required and the level of employment offered. For example, someone applying for a c-level position will undergo a more rigorous check than someone who is applying as a service rep.

The first thing that applicants should do before getting to this point is conduct a background check on themselves to make sure that all the data that a potential employer will see is accurate.

A background check for employment cannot be performed without the job candidate’s express written consent, and many companies will only order them when they are about to make an offer.

However, it must be noted that written consent is only required when the company makes use of a background check organization to obtain the information.

Whenever the company does an inquiry on a candidate’s employment record using its own resources, they do not necessarily need consent from the candidate.

What Do Employers Look For in a Background Check?

For individuals wondering, what employers look for in a background screening? Often, a company simply verifies social security numbers, previous work history, and local criminal records.

In other instances, the company requests a full background check which includes checks into the following:

  • Existing or past criminal records15
  • The outcomes of mandatory drug tests
  • Sex offender records
  • DUI records
  • Work history
  • Credit history
  • Medical history
  • Ownership of property records

The types of background screening depend on the job applied for. For instance, if the job involves working with money firsthand, a check into existing criminal records is done.

Also, if the job involves high-security clearance, such as government jobs, a full-spectrum employment background check must be done.

It must also be noted that what appears on a background check differs between states.

How Do You Know if You Failed an Employer Background Check?

For those wondering, how do you know if you failed a background check? The company will inform you that they have chosen not to extend a job offer as a direct result of the information from the background check.

Along with this, the company must provide a ‘pre-adverse action disclosure’ which includes a copy of the report that the company received as well as detailed steps on how to initiate a dispute.1

How To Dispute an Incorrect Background Check

Should a dispute be initiated, the following steps must be followed:

  • File the dispute with the organization that performed the background check.
  • Follow up a telephonic discussion with a written copy of the dispute (in the form of a dispute letter), that includes the highlighted errors.
  • Inform the potential employer that there are errors in the final report.

The organization that performed the background check and made the error/s, has 35 days in total to investigate the dispute and inform the candidate of its findings.2

How Do I Know if I Passed My Background Check?

So, now you are most likely wondering, how do I know if I passed my background screening?

It is mainly the responsibility of the employer to inform the candidate that their background check is clear. Sometimes, the employer simply extends a job offer, which is then a good indication that the background check report came back clear.

Do Employers Reach Out Immediately After Background Checks?

The time it takes an employer to reach out to candidates after a background check depends on the number of candidates that applied for the same job, and whether a particular candidate has already had a job offer extended and their report came back clear.16

Types of Background Checks

It might be surprising to learn that among the types of background checks that exist, is a social media behavior check. Or perhaps, given the times, this isn’t as surprising at all.

What is looked at in a background check for employment also includes the following:

Type Of Background CheckProcess
Criminal History Background CheckThe purpose of this background check is to determine whether the candidate poses any risk to the company because of a criminal history.
A criminal history background check involves detailed searches of national databases, including:
Criminal databases (national and in some cases international).
Court records that contain criminal case details.
Criminal records (both state and national)
Registers and databases that list the details of convicted sex offenders.
Watch lists that contain the details of individuals and organizations involved in terrorism.
Employment History Background CheckFor jobs that are not top secret, or government-related, a thorough employment history background check usually suffices.
Employment background checks are necessary to determine whether the candidate’s experience level and work history are true, as indicated on their resume.
The information checked includes:
The stated start and end dates for previous jobs.
The job titles as indicated on the resume.
The job descriptions.
The reasons for leaving previous jobs.
The details of remuneration and perks (if applicable).
Education Background Check13Fraudulent degrees and exaggerated education claims are rampant in the working world. For this reason, many employers choose to include an education background check when they order a complete background check on a candidate.
Many types of jobs require formal degrees and qualifications, and this is usually verified by the educational institution when a background check is done.
Reference CheckIt is common to include prior references on a resume before applying for a new job.
These references may or may not be checked and if they are checked, the company does so by email, telephone call, or even an in-person meeting.
A reference check is different from a background check in that it is meant to determine the candidate’s suitability for the job. The reference check is done by speaking to the candidate’s former manager and even their colleagues to get a feel for how well the candidate performed their job at the previous workplace.
Drug ScreeningHigh-concentration level jobs in industries such as transport and aviation often require sporadic and unexpected drug tests to be performed on employees.
Often, drug screens form part of a comprehensive background check, to ensure that candidates are vetted for the use of illegal substances including alcohol, opiates, and marijuana.
Drug screening before any job offer is extended is important in several work sectors to ensure the safety of the candidate’s potential colleagues.
Sexual Offenses Background Check14The background check into sexual offenses is very important as it mitigates the risk of violence being perpetrated against other employees, as well as decreases the risk of the company being sued for a dangerous hire.
Credit Background CheckThis type of background check is often only required when the candidate applies for a position in the financial services sector. The credit background check helps to determine whether the candidate is responsible for their own finances, but many states require that the candidate give permission before any credit checks are performed.
Credit checks are usually done by third-party companies and the information obtained is meant to indicate defaults on personal loans, mortgages, car loans, and student loans.
Negative information older than 7 years or reports on bankruptcy older than 10 years must not be included on the final credit report.
The candidate must be informed of their right to contest any of the information in the report.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission must oversee the credit check process and how the information is handled by the employer.
Social Media Behavior Background CheckA candidate’s social media history may be under scrutiny, should their potential employer order a social media behavior background check.
This check includes the assessment of posts made by the candidate on several social media platforms, which could lead to a potential job offer being rescinded if derogatory content is found.
However, employers must familiarize themselves with the privacy laws regarding private social media accounts, which includes the law in several states that bar a negative reaction by the employer regarding online content posted by the candidate. This is because a decision not to hire a candidate after a thorough social media behavior check may be deemed a discriminatory action.
Driving Record Background Check18A driving record background check may only be necessary when a candidate is applying for a transport-related job, such as a driver.
This check is done to obtain information regarding the candidate’s past driving behavior, as well as information on DUIs, traffic fines, and other convictions related to driving.
Social Security Number CheckIt is sometimes required for a candidate’s social security number to be traced and verified. This is done mainly to establish whether the candidate is eligible to work in the US and whether the information provided by the candidate is true.
Global Sanctions Background CheckOffenses perpetrated by the candidate related to money laundering, fraud, and drug or human trafficking, will come to light during a global sanctions check.
This information is held by law enforcement and other official bodies such as financial regulators but can be shared with potential employers under certain circumstances.
Civil Offenses Background CheckIn cases where potential employees have a history of serious unpaid debt, or several personal injury claims, a civil offenses background check will highlight this information, and will likely make the employer hesitant to extend a job offer.

In addition to the above background checks, some companies may request a bankruptcy check, an international background screening, and even a gamer profile check.

Oftentimes, a company also requires a candidate to undergo several psychometric tests, which include aptitude and behavioral tests.3

How Long Does an Employment Background Screening Take?

A common question regarding employment background checks is, how long does an employment background screening take?

The answer depends on the type of background check.10

Type of Background CheckTurnaround Time
Criminal Background CheckSome reports are instantly produced, while others can take up to 3 days. When criminal activity is checked at state-level, it might take more than three weeks to obtain the relevant information.
Driving Record CheckUp to three business days.
Credit History CheckUp to fourteen business days
Civil Offenses CheckUp to 7 days
Federal Background CheckAnything from weeks to months
Verification Background CheckUp to 3 days
Bankruptcy Background CheckUp to 2 days4

When Do Employers Conduct Background Checks?

So, exactly when do employers conduct background checks?

Some companies prefer to issue job offer letters only when a background check has come back and is satisfactory. Others prefer to hire the candidate on a probation period basis, during which the background check is performed.

If during the probation period, the background check reveals unsatisfactory information, it is within the employer’s legal right to rescind the job offer.

What Employers Look For in Background Checks?

What employers look for in background checks most is the following:11

  • Complete work history and references
  • Credit history
  • Criminal history and records
  • Driving records and convictions
  • Education verification

Why Do Employers Use Background Checks?

The main reason employers use background checks is to establish whether a candidate’s credentials are valid.

However, even during comprehensive employment background checks, there are several records that are off-limits to employers. These include:

  • Military and related records.
  • School records
  • Medical and related records
  • Criminal history records.5

If a Company Does a Background Check Are You Hired

By now it is clear that the answer to the question if a company does a background check are you hired, is not necessarily.

It depends on what the background check/s reveals and whether the employer is willing to hire candidates with a negative background report.

If there is a background screening before an offer, the employer might extend a job offer if the background check comes back clear, but just because the background check was done, doesn’t automatically guarantee employment.

How Far Back Does a Background Check Go for Employment?

Another question often asked about employment background checks is, how far back does a background check go for employment?

Generally, an employment background check can go as far back as seven years, but the time period may be extended depending on the law of the relevant state and the type of information that is required.12

Type Of Background CheckLength Of Time That Can Be Searched
Employment Background CheckGenerally up to 7 years, but can be extended depending on relevant laws and the type of information required.
Bankruptcy Background CheckUp to 10 years.
Credit History CheckUp to 7 years, but can be extended depending on the type of credit data required.
Criminal History CheckUp to 7 years, or indefinitely depending on the law of the relevant state.
Criminal Misdemeanors CheckUp to 7 years, or indefinitely depending on the law of the relevant state.
Driving Record CheckUp to 10 years.
Education Record CheckUp to 7 years, or lifetime, depending on the background check provider.
Employment History CheckUp to 7 years, or lifetime, depending on the background check provider.
License CheckUp to 7 years, or lifetime, depending on the background check provider.6

What Shows Up on a Background Check for Employment?

Exactly what appears on a background check for employment?

Typically, a background check for employment would reveal information on the following:

  • Criminal history data
  • Education history data
  • Credit history data17
  • Employment history data
  • Identify verification
  • Driver’s history data7

If a Company Does a Background Check Are You Hired?

So, now that it’s evident that the answer to the question if a company does a background check are you hired, is complicated, the following aspects of background checks should also be considered:

What Happens After a Background Check for a Job?

After a background check is completed, the next step is either the employer informing the candidate that there was concerning information detected and that the employer will not be extending a job offer or the employer informing the candidate that their background check is clear and that a job offer will be extended.

How To Prepare for a Background Check

The best way to prepare for a background check includes the following steps:

  • Doing a basic search yourself to prepare for what may be revealed during the official background check.
  • Calling relevant organizations to rectify any incorrect information found.19
  • Reviewing historic social media posts to remove potentially offensive and negative content.
  • Reviewing all resume information for accuracy.
  • Collecting valuable references.8

Being prepared for background checks and the information that might be revealed is one of the best ways to prepare for an interview and follow-up interviews.

It should always be remembered that even though the answer to the question, if a company does a background check are you hired, is often no, it doesn’t mean that a job offer won’t be extended anyway.

Frequently Asked Questions About If a Company Does a Background Check Are You Hired

If a Company Does a Background Check Are You Hired?

Not necessarily. Sometimes negative and concerning information is revealed during the background check that would lead to the withdrawal of a potential job offer.

Does a Background Check Mean I Have the Job?

A background check doesn’t guarantee that the job application was successful. Some candidates are hired on a probation period, during which the background check is done. If it comes back with concerning info, the employer may withdraw the job offer.

Does the Employer Have To Disclose if I Fail the Background Check?

Employers are required to disclose the results of a background check, after which an employee has the right to dispute the findings of the background check report.

How Long Does It Take To Process a Background Check?

It can take anything from 1 day to several months to process a background check report depending on the type of information required.

What Do Companies Look For in a Background Check?

Companies generally look for criminal history information, education information, work history information, driving history information, and credit history information.

Should I Call To Check on My Background Check?

For those wondering, should I call to check on my background check? Generally, it is not necessary to call and check on a pending background check, as employers usually inform candidates of the outcome in due time.


1Doyle, A. (2022, July 8). What Is Included in an Employment Background Check? The Balance. Retrieved December 23, 2022, from <https://www.thebalancemoney.com/what-is-included-in-an-employee-background-check-2059599>

2PrivacyRights.org. (2019, July 10). Dealing with Errors on Your Background Check. PrivacyRights.org. Retrieved December 23, 2022, from <https://privacyrights.org/resources/dealing-errors-your-background-check>

3Veremark. (2021, December 7). A comprehensive guide to all types of background checks. Veremark. Retrieved December 23, 2022, from <https://www.veremark.com/blog/a-comprehensive-guide-to-all-types-of-background-checks>

4Backgroundchecks.com. (2022). How Long Does a Pre-Employment Background Check Take? Backgroundchecks.com. Retrieved December 23, 2022, from <https://www.backgroundchecks.com/learning-center/how-long-do-background-checks-take>

5Klazema, M. (2021, March 1). Here’s What Employers Look for When They Run a Background Check. Backgroundchecks.com. Retrieved December 23, 2022, from <https://www.backgroundchecks.com/blog/heres-what-employers-look-for-when-they-run-a-background-check>

6Korolevich, S. (2022, October 5). How Far Back Do Background Checks Go? GoodHire. Retrieved December 23, 2022, from <https://www.goodhire.com/resources/articles/how-far-back-do-background-checks-go/>

7ShareAble For Hires. (2022, August 18). What does a background check show for pre-employment screening? ShareAble For Hires. Retrieved December 23, 2022, from <https://hires.shareable.com/blog/what-does-a-background-check-show>

8Simpson, M., & Klazema, M. (2022). 7 Ways to Prepare Yourself for a Background Check Before Your Interview. The Interview Guys. Retrieved December 23, 2022, from <https://theinterviewguys.com/7-ways-to-prepare-yourself-for-a-background-check-before-your-interview/>

9Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2022). National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Operations 2013. The Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved December 26, 2022, from <https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/reports/2013-operations-report>

10The University of Iowa. (2022). Criminal Background Checks For New Hires. Iowa University Human Resources. Retrieved December 26, 2022, from <https://hr.uiowa.edu/policies/background-checks>

11University of Michigan. (2019, January). Background Screening. U-M Standard Pratice Guide. Retrieved December 26, 2022, from <https://spg.umich.edu/policy/201.95>

12The University of Texas. (2022). How to Request a Background Check. The University of Texas at Austin HUman Resources. Retrieved December 26, 2022, from <https://hr.utexas.edu/manager/hiring/request-background-check>

13US Department of Education. (2021, May 10). Policies and Procedures for Hiring Practices. REMS TA Center. Retrieved December 26, 2022, from <https://rems.ed.gov/ASM_Chapter2_Hiring.aspx>

14US Department of Justice. (2007, May). The National Guidelines for Sex Offender Registration and Notification. US Department of Justice. Retrieved December 26, 2022, from <https://www.justice.gov/archive/tribal/docs/fv_tjs/session_3/session3_presentations/Sex_Offender_Guidelines.pdf>

15US Department of State. (2022, November 22). Criminal Record Checks. Travel.State.Gov. Retrieved December 26, 2022, from <https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/while-abroad/criminal-record-checks.html>

16US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (2022). Background Checks. US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Retrieved December 26, 2022, from <https://www.eeoc.gov/background-checks>

17US Government. (2021, November). Employer Background Checks and Your Rights. Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved December 26, 2022, from <https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/employer-background-checks-your-rights>

18Washington State Patrol. (2022). Criminal History. Washington State Patrol. Retrieved December 26, 2022, from <https://www.wsp.wa.gov/crime/criminal-history/>

19Yale Law School. (2022). Before You Apply: Understanding Government Background Checks. Yale Law School. Retrieved December 26, 2022, from <https://law.yale.edu/student-life/career-development/students/career-pathways/public-interest/you-apply-understanding-government-background-checks>

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