What Does Eligible Mean on a Background Check? (The Good News)

Background check repair icon.Written by Background Check Repair

Background Checks | September 14, 2022

Man wearing yellow shirt and blue pants standing on the right looks left with a blue question mark over his head at a large computer screen that shows his background check with the word “eligible” in green box written on it as he asks what does eligible mean on a background check.

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Many individuals who are undergoing a background check with a major company may be wondering, what does eligible mean on a background check?

The good news is that seeing the word “eligible,” on a background check is a good thing. Usually this means that there is nothing in the background check that would prevent the applicant from being hired.

However, eligible isn’t the only background check status code. And, each one means somethings specific, depending on the type of check that’s being performed.

For example, decisional, dismissed, cancelled, and R1 and R2 are just a few of codes used by agencies to track the progress of a background check.

What each term means and how it’s used will depend on the company that is performing the background check. If you want to be 100% certain about “What does eligible mean on a background check”, a good idea is to research the company performing the check and see if they have a key that explains the different terms they use, and then run a background check on yourself to verify that your history is clear.

This guide explains why someone might get an “eligible” status on a background check, and what the other status codes meas as well, so that users there are still other terms that individuals should be aware of when undergoing a background check.

What Does Score Eligible Mean On A Background Check?

These days, the vast majority of pre-employment background checks are performed by large background check companies. These companies are hired by businesses such as Walmart or Home Depot, to perform background checks on the behalf of the company.

The reason even major companies choose to outsource their background check process is that not only is the process tedious and often expensive, but there are also numerous laws and regulations1 that these companies can navigate more effectively. By outsourcing this process, businesses can focus their time elsewhere and leave background checks to companies that specialize in that.

Screenshot of Identity History Summary Check service offered by the FBI for running a fingerprint background check on yourself.

With various fair hiring laws and other anti-discrimination laws to look out for, companies are liable to make mistakes that can cost the company thousands in legal fees. This is an especially major issue for things like social media background check laws which can often lead companies into legal gray areas regarding anti-discrimination and privacy laws.2

Although most background checks are fairly similar, each background check company will have its own system for performing these checks, as well as the way that the results are returned to the company and to the applicant.

These days, background checks are performed electronically, which allows for the applicant to be extremely up-to-date on the process. This is where terms like “eligible”, “pending”, and “decisional” come into play. These terms are all used by various companies to display to the applicant the current state of their background check.

Terms like “eligible,” generally mean that the background check came back clean, and the applicant is eligible for hire, per the company’s background check policies.

Pending usually means the background check process is still ongoing, and decisional will often indicate there is something on the background check that the hiring manager will need to make a decision about, such as a misdemeanor or other offenses that aren’t as serious as a felony. Some companies may even use a score to determine the eligibility of an employee, based on what is found.

It’s also important to keep in mind that it is against the law for a company to deny employment due to a background check without providing specific reasons. So, should a background check be failed, the company will reach out to the individual with the specific information that disqualified the individual from moving forward in the hiring process.

This is also an opportunity to appeal if the information is incorrect, or if there is some other issue. Keep in mind that employers are not required to allow individuals to plead their case, should the background check be failed. Companies that allow applicants to give an explanation do so as a courtesy, not because of any legal requirements.

Report Codes For Background Checks: Eligible, Open, R1, R2, And More

One of the most common questions people have about their background checks is what does eligible mean on a background check? In most circumstances, eligibility is the best report code for a background check. This means there is nothing on the background check that is of any concern and the hiring process will proceed from there. However, it is not always as simple as a passed or failed grade.

In recent years, many companies have begun to pride themselves on offering opportunities to individuals with a criminal history. In this case, if the background check company finds charges or convictions on the background check, the applicant may see something like “review” “R1” or “R2”. What each of these means will vary slightly based on the background check company and the company that the applicant applied for, however, it generally means that an additional review is required to become eligible. This usually involves explaining the charges and convictions to the hiring manager or background check service, as well as an explanation of how the individual has worked to improve themselves and make amends for their past criminal activity.

Whether or not the company will go through with the hire will depend on many factors such as the company’s hiring practices, the nature of the charges, as well as the individual’s response to the review questions. With that being said, if there is something concerning an individual’s criminal history, seeing a term like “review” or “decisional” is a pretty good indication that there will at the very least be an opportunity to explain any charges or convictions.

Background Check Status CodeBackground Check Status Code Meaning
EligibleThe background check has been passed and the individual is eligible to be hired.
OpenThe background check is still in progress
R1Something was found on the background check that needs further discussion, usually with the hiring manager
R2Something was found on the background check that needs further discussion, usually with a corporate HR rep or similar position.
IneligibleThe background check was failed, usually due to the existence of a disqualifier being found.
DecisionalSomething was found on the background check that needs further discussion, the decision will be made by the hiring manager.

What Does Pass And Eligible Mean On A Background Check?

Pass and eligible are often used interchangeably when it comes to background checks. Both of these terms are the best possible outcome and will mean that nothing was found on the background check that would indicate that they are unfit to work for the company. Keep in mind that this does not necessarily mean that the background check came back completely clean, just that nothing on the check interferes with the company’s hiring practices.

What Does Eligible For Hire Mean On A Background Check?

Eligible for hire is essentially the same as passing a background check. This means that there was nothing on the criminal history check that interferes with the specific hiring practices of the company and that nothing unusual was found during the checking of references, education, and licenses that would indicate the applicant was untruthful on their application.

FAQ screnshot of IDHSC page, with yellow arrow pointing to FAQ heading and text showing frequently asked questions about getting a fingerprint background check.

This also means that it is unlikely that the applicant will have to answer any further questions regarding their background check. For example, if an individual has a misdemeanor on their record and their background check status says something along the lines of “Eligible” this will usually indicate that the misdemeanor isn’t even worth discussing in the eyes of the hiring manager.

What Does ‘Review Eligible R1’ Mean on a Background Check?

Besides “What does eligible mean on a background check,” another common question is “What does review mean on a background check?” Review eligible R1 is something that may turn up on a Walmart background check. The “R1” refers to a specific type of review that Walmart is requesting, usually in response to finding something on the background check that requires further questioning. Generally “review eligible R1” will result in a questionnaire that will need to be filled out and returned to the hiring manager.

These questions are used to gauge how the individual has worked to improve themselves and move forward after past crimes so the responses are very important when it comes to Walmart determining if they still want to hire individuals with a criminal history.

What Does ‘Eligible R2’ Mean on a Background Check?

Eligible R2 is very similar to R1. Both are used by Walmart to determine the state of the applicant’s background check, and both indicate that further review is required before the individual can pass the background check and become eligible for hire. Unlike R1, eligible R2 requires the individual to call a specific number, provided by the background check service, and to leave a voice recording that will determine their eligibility.

More specific steps will be given by the company, but that call is simply a chance to explain charges and explain how the individual is working to improve themselves.

What Does Ineligible Mean On A Background Check?

Ineligible is essentially a fail grade when it comes to a background check. This means that there is something on the individual’s background check that simply can not be overlooked, possibly because it violates company hiring practices. An “ineligible,” background check usually means there is no possibility of review and the hiring process is essentially over.

This is most often due to items found on the criminal history check such as violent felony convictions or other serious crimes. In many cases, companies will hire felons, but will still have a list of felonies and crimes that will automatically disqualify applicants from gaining employment.

Related Reading: How do I get a criminal record off my background check?

What Does ‘Eligible For Hire’ Mean On A Background Check?

Eligible for hire is the same as passing a background check. This means there is nothing of concern about the background check and the hiring process can proceed as normal. Keep in mind that this does not necessarily guarantee employment, only that the background check will not affect the possibility of getting hired.

What Does Open Mean On A NICS Background Check?

Open usually refers to additional information being checked as part of a NICS background check. This doesn’t determine a pass or fail, only that there may be certain information found during the background check that warrants further research before a determination is made.

Related Reading: What status codes are listed on a background check for concealed carry permit?

How Do I Know If I Passed My Background Check?

Either the hiring manager or the background check company will reach out to the individual directly to let them know if they passed the background check once the results of the background check are finalized. In most cases, a pass will result in the hiring manager contacting the individual with the next step in the hiring process. When it comes to a failed background check, the background check service will often reach out with the specific reasons for the failure of the check as well as for instructions on how to appeal.

What Do Employers Look For In A Background Check?

Every employer looks for different things in a background check. At a bare minimum, employers will be looking to ensure that the applicant did not lie on their application and that there is nothing on their criminal record that would cause them to be a risk to the company and its assets. This of course does not have specific guidelines and each company will define this differently, however, the following are common disqualifiers in most industries:

Screenshot of California Legislative Information website concerning social media and employment laws from 2013-2014.

  • Lying about past employment
  • Lying about certifications, education, licenses, etc.
  • Violent felony convictions
  • Appearing on a sex offender registry
  • Theft Charges
  • DUI charges (for jobs requiring operating heavy machinery)

How Does A Background Check Verify Employment?

Since there is no universal employment database, most companies will have to verify employment manually. This usually involves contacting the employer directly and inquiring about the employee in question. Companies tend to want to verify that the applicant not only worked at the company during the time period indicated on their application but that they also performed the job duties and held the titles that they claimed to.

Federal Employment Background Check Disqualifiers?

Although the exact disqualifiers will vary slightly based on the job, specifically the security clearance of the job, there are numerous disqualifiers that apply to all jobs in the federal government. Federal government jobs also undergo some of the more intensive background check practices, since an FBI Identity History Summary Check3 is often required. Not only is this a check that involves both state and national criminal history, but it is also a fingerprint-based background check, so it will likely take longer than most background checks.

LevelCitizenshipSubstance AbuseCriminal HistoryBankruptcyConflict of Interest
Entry-LevelCitizenship requiredUsually eligible for reviewUsually eligible for reviewRarely a disqualifierRarely a disqualifier
Mid-Level (Low-Security Clearance)Citizenship requiredUsually a disqualifierUsually a disqualifierDisqualifier if job deals with finances.Sometimes a disqualifier.
High-Level (High-Security Clearance)Citizenship requiredDisqualifierDisqualifierUsually a disqualifier.
Disqualifier if job deals with finances.
Often a disqualifier.

There are plenty of other factors that will be checked as part of the background check for a federal job, however, what is a disqualifier depends largely on the job. In short, the high the security clearance and the more sensitive the nature of the job is, the greater the list of disqualifiers for the job.

Background checks are a notoriously nerve-wracking and confusing process. Although they have completed faster than ever thanks to the help of online databases, this also means that individuals can be blindsided by the information they may have forgotten about. Understanding the terminology commonly used and being able to answer questions like “What does eligible mean on a background check,” can make the process much smoother.

Frequently Asked Questions About What Does Eligible Mean On A Background Check

What Does Not Eligible Mean On A Background Check?

Not eligible means the background check failed and the individual is not eligible for hire.

What Does Eligible Mean On First Advantage Checks?

Eligible usually means the background check was passed and the individual is eligible to be hired. Review eligible R1 usually means that something on the background check warrants an additional review. This is usually in the form of a questionnaire where the individual can explain the charges and what they are doing to improve themselves.

What Does Decisional Mean In A Background Check?

Decisional usually means that something was found on the check that will require the individual to plead their case to the hiring manager, who will then make a decision as to overlook the information found on the background check.

Is Eligible On Background Check Good?

Eligibility is the best possible outcome. This usually warrants no further discussion and allows for the hiring process to proceed to the next step.

What Does It Mean on First Advantage's Check When It Says "Pass" ?

Receiving a passing score is the best possible outcome and means the background check turned up nothing of concern. The hiring process will then proceed to the next step.

What’s This Background Check Message Mean: Based On Your Criteria, The Overall Case Score Is Eligible?

This means that based on the criteria set forth by the company (what can be overlooked) that the individual passed the background check. The background check may not be completely clean but there is nothing that would prevent the company from hiring the individual based on the information uncovered in the background check.

What Does a 'Decisional’ Background Check Mean?

A decisional background check usually means the individual will need to talk to the hiring manager about something that was found on the background check. This can be a misdemeanor or non-violent felony or something similar that required further explanation before the company can feel comfortable moving to the next step of the hiring process.


References

1Federal Trade Commission Protecting America’s Consumers. (2022). Fair Credit Reporting Act. USA.Gov. Retrieved June 06, 2022, from   <https://www.ftc.gov/legal-library/browse/statutes/fair-credit-reporting-act>

2Bill Search. (n.d.). California Legislative Information. <https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140AB25>

3FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2022). Identity History Summary Checks. Services. Retrieved June 21, 2022, from <https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/identity-history-summary-checks>

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