What Do Companies Look for in a Background Check? (List of Companies)

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Background Checks | June 12, 2024

What do companies look for in a background check a graduate in a red gown and tassel holding a diploma wonders while looking at social media icons, drug test results, driving records and criminal history on a background check document in the center outlining what do most employers look for in a background check when running a public records search.

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What do companies look for in a background check? What do employers look for in background checks?

Many people wonder about it…but the fact is that a lot of what companies and employers look for in a background check depends on the company itself and the type of job being filled.

For example, companies like Uber, Door Dash, and other delivery-based positions will specifically examine both criminal and driving history (MVR Report), while a Home Depot background check for an entry-level position might only examine the identity of any criminal charges and convictions using a level 1 background check (based on name and possibly social security number).

However, the same company may add a credit history search and an extended look into a person’s background if the job is for a corporate or executive-level position.

Fortunately, many major companies are fairly upfront about their background check policies.

This guide outlines what many major US companies look for in background checks, and specifically offers a list of the largest companies’ requirements.

What Do Big Companies Look for in a Background Check?

Knowing what to expect from a background check with a large company is as simple as understanding why big companies run background checks on all of their employees. There are two main goals for an employment background check:

To protect the employer and protect the employer’s interests.

This is the basic principle that guides all background checks and with larger companies, guides the way that they create their rigid and thorough background check policies.

Background Check Policies

The way companies create their background check policies is quite common, anything that could potentially lead to a legal issue, loss of revenue, etc, will be checked.

Of course, companies are limited by laws such as the FCRA,1 however they will most certainly check everything they can. There is one small caveat to this however, background checks cost money, and the more thorough the check is the more money it will cost the company.

This means that companies will run specific checks based on the position they are hiring for.

For example, there is no need to waste money on checking an individual’s driving record if they are only applying to be a cashier.

What do companies look for in a background check? In general, it depends, but these days there are certain checks that are to be expected no matter what and a list of others that are certainly possible depending on the position. 

At a bare minimum, almost every company will at least check the following:

Social Security verification screenshot with arrow pointing to login for SSNVS as one of hte items that answer what do most companies look for in a background check.

Keep in mind that just because a company checks for criminal history, doesn’t necessarily mean that applicants with a criminal history will be disqualified automatically.

Beyond these basic checks, companies that offer more thorough background checks for entry-level jobs likely also perform the following checks:

When it comes to basic entry-level positions, such as cashiers, customer service, food industry positions, sales, etc. the above 5 checks are fairly common.

Beyond these basic checks, there are a few more common checks that will show up based on the position being applied for, such as:

The above checks will depend on the job and the company that the individual applies to. As mentioned, companies tend not to waste money on background checks that are irrelevant to the position, so don’t expect a credit history check for a low-level position or a DOT record check for one that doesn’t involve driving.

Drug tests are a rare example of a check that will be done fairly randomly. Some companies will drug test all their employees, and other companies will not test any employees. There are also certain companies that will drug test for certain positions but not others.

What Do They Look for in a Background Check? (Company List)

Below is a list of what major companies check for in a background check, keep in mind that many of these will depend on the specific job within the company.

CompanyName-based ID and Eligibility verificationCriminal History/Offender RegistriesProfessional License VerificationDriving HistoryCredit and Tax RecordsPrevious Employers
Walmart Background Check
Home Depot
UPS Background Check
Amazon Background Check
Nursing Background Check
Child Care Jobs
Ernst & Young
Bank of America

What Does a Background Check Look For?

Employment background checks seek to ensure that the applicant does not create a liability for the company and helps to ensure that the applicant is being truthful on their application. Both of these are extremely important.

As discussed above, certain felony convictions pose a major risk to companies, as does an individual lying about their qualifications through fake employment history or fake education history.

What Does A Background Screening Look For (By Job Title)
Entry Level Background CheckManagement and Executive Level Background CheckC-Level Background Check
Name and Identity ConfirmationName and Identity ConfirmationName and Identity Confirmation
7 Year Criminal History (local)7-10 Year Criminal History (possibly Nationwide)7-10 Year Criminal History

(Likely Nationwide)

Bankruptcy and Credit Check

What Do Trucking Companies Look for in a Background Check?

When it comes to what do companies look for in a background check? Trucking companies tend to have fairly unique needs and liabilities compared to other jobs.

Trcuks in a row on a parking lot.

Not only do their employees spend all their time driving, but the jobs also involve travel which will often take employees across state lines. Below are the standard checks that can be expected when applying for a job as a truck driver:

  • DOT background check Record
  • Drug screening
  • Sex Offender Registry
  • Criminal History Information
  • License Verification

A DOT record is fairly self-explanatory, trucking companies don’t want to hire an individual with a history of reckless driving or other driving-related offenses. Drug screenings are also fairly common in the trucking industry as a truck driver with a history of substance abuse can cause a major liability if they are intoxicated while operating a truck. Sex offender registry and criminal history information are also standard, especially since the truckers will be largely unattended and will be traveling large distances. Finally, license verification is a must as truck drivers are required to have special licenses in order to drive their vehicles.

What Do Leasing Companies Look for in a Criminal Background Check?

Employment background checks are not the only kind of background check, although they are likely the most common. Another background check that many individuals will find themselves undergoing is a background check as part of a lease application. In this case, the landlord is looking for liabilities to their property from allowing a tenant to live there. Opposed to an employment background check, a landlord isn’t interested in your education history or professional licensing. Most tenant background checks are centered around financial matters. The following checks can be expected from a tenant background check:

  • Rental History
  • Eviction History
  • Criminal History
  • Sex Offender Registry
  • Credit History
  • Income Verification

All of the above checks seek to protect the landlord from legal issues. By knowing an individual’s rental and eviction history, the landlord can be aware of any time an individual stopped paying rent or violated a lease agreement that caused them to be evicted. This can be a major cause for concern as an eviction can cost the landlord money in numerous different ways.

Criminal history and sex offender registry are also caused for concern as landlords may not want to damage their public image by having tenants with serious felony convictions that may cause tenants to fear for their safety or the safety of their children.

Since the safety of the other tenants is a major cause for concern, this is often slightly more thorough than the criminal history check that is run as part of an employment background check. This check will often include additional information such as:

Finally, credit history and income verification allow the landlord to be certain that the individual has the financial means to pay their rent on time each month.

What Do Employers Look for in a Criminal Background Check?

Many people that have the question: “what do companies look for in a background check?” are really curious about what is looked for in a criminal background check. Although a criminal background check is just one part of a background check, it is often the most important and the biggest cause of stress. Unfortunately what is looked for in a criminal history check will depend mostly on the company that is being applied for.

First, there are two main kinds of criminal history searches: name-based and fingerprint-based.

A name-based search is more common as it is cheaper and quicker to run. Name-based searches are usually limited to the state where the hiring is taking place so they can be less thorough.

Fingerprint-based searches are more common for jobs like education, child care, nursing, etc. where employees will have access to vulnerable groups. Fingerprint-based searches are often performed by the state police and will be a national check, so convictions and arrests from the whole country will be included.
Fingerprint on a white paper for a criminal background check.

In general, the biggest cause for concern is any felony convictions showing up on a check. Although this isn’t always a deal-breaker, this will be the biggest red flag for an employer and one that will get many individuals automatically disqualified for the job.

Common questions include:

Where To Find an Employment Background Check Sample

Employment background check samples are not the easiest form to find. Many of these forms are simply not made public and are kept for internal use only. However, it is sometimes worth the try so a simple google search of “Employer Background check form,” will yield the best results. If a form is available it is often posted as part of the human resources page on the company’s website.

If there is no official form to be found from the company there is also the option to run a background check on yourself. The best way to do this is to go through a reputable background check company that offers a free trial. Another great option is to perform a name-based check through the local court system, which will turn up the same information as a name-based background check that an employer would run, which will provide the answer to what do companies look for in a background check, instantly.

Frequently Asked Questions About What Do Companies Look for in a Background Check

What Do Most Companies Look for in a Background Check?

Most companies will run an identity verification check and a criminal history check at a bare minimum. Other checks will depend on the position being applied for. 

What Do Companies Look for in a Criminal Background Check?

Companies will mostly be looking for criminal convictions on a criminal history check. However, relevant misdemeanor offenses will also be looked at closely. 

What Does a Background Check Look For?

Employment background checks will look for any potential liabilities and individuals posed to the company. This can include criminal history information or dishonesty on the application.

What Does an Employer Look for in a Background Check?

Employers will look for anything that poses a risk to the company’s image or revenue during a background check, this is mainly found during the criminal history check. 

What Does a Company Look for in a Background Check?

Most major companies will have specific background check policies that are unique to their company’s needs. This usually involves criminal history information and any other pertinent license verifications. 

What Usually Shows Up on a Background Check?

Criminal history information is the most common result of a background check. 

What Causes a Red Flag on a Background Check?

Felony convictions are the most common cause for a red flag on a background check.

What Are Most Companies Looking for in Background Checks?

Most companies are looking for anything that will cost them money or harm their image on a background check. 

What Happens With a Failed Background Check After Job Offer?

Failed background checks will usually include a reason for the failure. In some cases, it can be worth it to plead your case, whereas other times it is best to look elsewhere.

What Does HR Look for in a Background Check?

HR looks for anything that could cost the company money or cause fellow employees to feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

Pre-Employment Background Check: What Shows Up?

Pre-employment background checks will show criminal history information and anything on the application that was untrue. 

If a Company Does a Background Check Are You Hired?

Companies tend to only perform background checks on employees they intend to hire, however, the hiring is usually conditional on the passing of the background check. 

Although background checks can be stressful, understanding the basic process can make things go much smoother. Being able to answer what employers look for in a background check can help individuals be prepared for any questions about their past that may be asked. So what do companies look for in a background check? Anything that will cost them money. 


1Fair Credit Reporting Act. (2022). USA.gov. Retrieved May 25, 2022, from <https://www.ftc.gov/legal-library/browse/statutes/fair-credit-reporting-act>

2The Social Security Number Verification Service. (2022). Social Security. Retrieved May 25, 2022, from <https://www.ssa.gov/employer/ssnv.htm>

3Identity History Summary Checks. (2022). FBI.gov. Retrieved May 25, 2022, from <https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/identity-history-summary-checks>

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