Individual Background Check – How to Conduct a Background Check on an Individual

A background check on an individual can provide insights into a person’s criminal history, including past misdemeanor and felony convictions as well as pending charges. It can also include a credit history search and specialized list searches like global watch lists and sex offenders.


A background check can also verify past employment to ensure job applicants worked for the companies they claim and academic records to confirm education credentials.

Criminal History

A criminal history is a record of an arrest or conviction of a crime. It includes the charge, conviction date, conviction type, sentence, parole violation dates, and any other relevant details. It may also include the status of the case (e.g., dismissed, not guilty, entered diversion program).

Computerized criminal history (CCH) systems are a critical tool for law enforcement. They contain data from sheriff’s offices, police departments and other criminal justice organizations. Most states require that agencies report any conviction information to the CCH system.

Individuals with a criminal record often face significant challenges. It can affect their chances of finding employment or housing, lead to social stigma and isolation, impact mental health, and cause strains with family members.

However, many thoughtful employers are recognizing that people with criminal records can make valuable contributions to their companies and communities. Some are even eliminating questions about an applicant’s criminal history from job applications. This “ban the box” trend is making a difference in fostering more opportunities for individuals with criminal records to find work.

Employment History

Employers often use background checks to confirm the information on job applications and resumes. Employment history helps paint a picture of how long an applicant has been in the workforce and what types of jobs they have held.

While many people forget where they worked or have changed the dates of their previous jobs, these inconsistencies can raise red flags. During an employment verification background check, companies contact an individual’s previous employers to verify the names on the application, their position title and dates of employment, and the reason for their departure from the company.

Background check providers are permitted to report arrests that didn’t result in a conviction, but this information is only available for seven years after the date of release. Many states, counties and cities also have laws limiting how far back a background check provider can search a person’s records. For this reason, it is important to have clear written consent from the applicant before running a background check. This can be included in the job application or a separate document that is provided to applicants when they are informed about the background check.

Education History

This portion of a background check confirms an applicant’s education history by verifying educational institutions, attendance dates, and degrees awarded. It’s important to hire a candidate with the qualifications to do the job, and this information allows employers to verify that a potential employee did indeed receive the credentials they claim on their application or resume.

False statements on applications and resumes are surprisingly common, and an education verification can help to detect dishonesty and improve hiring decisions. A verification can also reveal discrepancies between an applicant’s claims and actual educational accomplishments, such as a higher GPA than claimed or a degree that isn’t listed on their resume.

Depending on the type of position, an employer may also want to conduct a credit review, which shows how a potential employee handles finances and can be used to assess their reliability. This is particularly relevant for positions that deal with financial information, such as a banking or managerial role. In addition, a credit review is sometimes required for security clearance roles to ensure the applicant does not pose a threat to national security.

Credit History

Credit checks provide insight into how someone has managed financial responsibility. They’re most commonly conducted for positions that involve access to money or valuables, like cashiers and bank tellers. An individual’s credit history can reveal if they’ve been behind on payments or have had a bankruptcy, which may give employers pause about hiring them for financially sensitive roles.

An employer’s credit check is a modified version of the same information lenders see, including open lines of credit, balances owed (including mortgages and auto loans), collections, past due accounts, revolving lines of credit, and bankruptcies. In addition, the report will withhold the applicant’s birth year to prevent age discrimination.

A background check that includes a credit report must be conducted with an authorization form that complies with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The authorization must clearly notify the candidate that a check will be run and what information will be retrieved. If the check prompts a company to decide not to hire an applicant, they must issue a notice of adverse action that cites why the decision was made.


Credentials are things like degrees, certificates and licenses that prove a person has the qualifications needed to do a job well. They act as a sign of trustworthiness and help to differentiate a candidate from the competition.

A background check can verify information on a person’s resume and application to make sure it is accurate. It also helps to uncover discrepancies that may not be obvious, such as an applicant lying about the college they attended or the kind of degree they received. It can also verify employment and education records and determine whether a person’s claims about their work experience are true.

Finally, a background check can reveal financial records, including bankruptcies and liens. This is important for jobs that involve handling money or sensitive financial data. It can also include a global sanctions check, which checks with international regulators and sanction bodies to discover any violations connected to financial irregularities, securities fraud, money laundering, terrorism or other crimes. A background check should be conducted carefully and consistently, with clear policies in place that protect the rights of the candidates who are subjected to them.