What Shows Up on a Background Check?
Background checks can be conducted for a variety of reasons, but they are most commonly conducted prior to starting a new job or prior to signing a lease on a rental property. Sometimes also called background screenings or pre-employment screenings, they’re usually used to determine whether the individual in question is who they say they are.
Whether you have a past history or not, the idea of having a background check performed on you can be a little intimidating. That’s why, as a prospective employee or renter, it’s important to understand how background checks work, what shows up on them, and how they may factor into your ability to get a new job or rent a new home.
How are Background Checks Performed?
Most background checks require the applicant to fill out either a paper form or submit an online questionnaire. The information is then typically processed by a third-party company that returns the results to the employer or landlord who requested the background check.
As an applicant, it’s important that you ask your potential employer or landlord who they use to do their background checks so that you can verify the company is reputable and will treat your sensitive information with care.
What’s on a Background Check?
Depending on who is conducting the background check and why they are conducting it, there are a wide variety of things that background checks might include. In most cases, they are conducted simply to verify the information that someone puts on a job application or lease agreement. In general, you could expect any of the following information to be part of a background check:
- Social security number verification
- Driving records
- Criminal records
- Past arrests and convictions
- Past employment history
Some background checks might also include information about your medical, educational, and financial history, but these usually require the applicant to explicitly give their written permission before their records can be pulled.
Background Check FAQs
The thought of having your entire past show up on a piece of paper is scary for most people. At Mulligan Attorneys, we often get questions from clients about what exactly is likely to show up on their background checks, specifically details concerning criminal history. Below are a few quick answers to some of the most common questions we get asked about the information that shows up on a background check.
How far in the past does criminal history show up?
This can vary from state to state, but the norm is for criminal background checks to include the last seven years of a person’s criminal history. Criminal history checks in North Carolina go back seven years. Prospective employers are forbidden from looking at records older than that.
Will my dismissed case be on my background check?
Whether a dismissed case shows up on a criminal check depends on who is conducting the verification. In general, dismissed cases do show up on criminal background checks, but are clearly marked as having been dismissed, so that potential employers and landlords can plainly see the case did not result in a conviction.
I have pending charges against me. Will those be on my background check?
This is another situation where the results of the background check depend on who is performing it. Since North Carolina does not prohibit pending charges from being shown, they may show up on some background checks but not others.
I’ve been arrested before. Will my arrest show up?
Most of the time, arrests do show up on background checks, even if they did not lead to a conviction. It simply depends on who is conducting the screening.
My records have been sealed/expunged. Does that mean they won’t be on a criminal background check?
That’s correct. If you have successfully had your criminal records expunged or sealed, they will not show up on a background verification. If your records are sealed/expunged, and you are asked whether you’ve ever been convicted of a crime on a job application or lease, you have the right to answer, “No.”
Do felonies and/or misdemeanors show up in background screenings?
Yes. Unless an attorney has helped you get your criminal records sealed or expunged, felonies and misdemeanors that occurred within the past seven years will show up on a background check conducted in North Carolina.
I have an open warrant for my arrest. Will that be on a background check?
Usually, warrants do not show up on background checks until law enforcement executes on them and files the necessary paperwork, at which point they become a part of your criminal record.
I have a restraining order against me. Should I be worried that it will stop me from getting a job?
It’s hard to say. Some restraining orders, especially those which have been issued during a criminal trial, will show up on a background check. Others may not. It depends on where the company conducting the background check obtains their information from.
The job I want requires a driving history check. How much of my driving record will show up?
If all you’ve gotten is a ticket for speeding or running a red light, you probably have nothing to worry about. However, if you’ve committed a driving offense that results in a felony or misdemeanor conviction, you can expect that to show up on your driving history check and as well as on a criminal background check. For example, a DUI or DWI will show up on both a criminal background screening as well as a motor vehicle history check.
Assistance with Illegal or False Background Checks
It is very difficult to prove whether you’ve been denied a lease or a new job because of the information that showed up on your background check. That said, you may be able to take legal action if a background check was performed on you without your knowledge or consent. The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a good resource for finding detailed information on when and how background checks can be used.
You may also be able to dispute the information that has shown up on a background check if you believe it has been falsely reported or is wrong in some way, especially if it involves your financial history. The Federal Trade Commission has plenty of information on identifying errors on your credit report or reporting identity theft/fraud.
At the end of the day, it’s never a bad idea to consult with a lawyer regarding your rights when it comes to background checks and pre-employment screenings. The team at Mulligan Attorneys may also be able to help you petition to have your criminal records or driving history sealed or expunged, depending on your case. Give us a call at 910-763-1100 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.