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How Arrest Records Affect Background Checks, Do They Show?

It’s increasingly common for employers to run background checks during the hiring process. Sometimes this is to verify claims made on a resume, others it’s to see if the applicant has any previous arrests or a criminal history. Either way, companies can get a hold of this information with relative ease, forcing many people to wonder just how arrest records affect background checks. Does even a single arrest mean you won’t get the job?

The good news is that even in the digital information age, having access to background check services doesn’t necessarily mean former criminal activities can stop you from bettering your life. If you’re wondering how arrest records affect background checks, you can actually do some research yourself to see what shows up when an employer runs your information. It’s a great way to dispel myths about background checks, and to prepare yourself for potentially awkward or challenging questions during the job interview.

We’ve got the full rundown of just how arrest records affect background checks below, complete with our recommended best background checking service you can use for a heads-up on your job hunt.

Types of arrest records on background checks

Employers have the luxury of fully vetting candidates by running complete background and criminal checks on as many as they like. If you’ve ever been arrested, this could show up on that background check. What exactly shows up when the employer screens you, and what does this mean for your prospective job?

An arrest is an arrest

If you are ever arrested, even if you were not guilty, and often even if the arrest was a mistake, the event goes on your permanent record. The severity of the charged crime carries a lot of weight on your background check, as does the location in which you were arrested. While the event itself will be marked on your record, it’s up to the employer themselves as well as the details of the arrest to determine how that affects your chances at landing the job.

Fortunately, there are reporting and anti-discrimination laws in place in multiple countries around the world that prevent employers from unfairly denying jobs to those with an arrest record. If you were picked up as part of a passive protest or arrested by accident, for example, the hiring manager shouldn’t be able to dismiss your application purely on those grounds. There are some exceptions to this, of course, which we’ll discuss below.

Arrests relating to pending cases

This is arguably the most severe mark on a background check. If someone’s arrest record shows an incident relating to a pending case, it will show on the background check, and it will likely cause the employer to pause. After all, who would want to spend time and effort hiring someone when they could get convicted once the case goes to trial?

Arrests leading to a conviction

The most serious arrests that show up on your background check are those that lead to a conviction. Not only are they the most detrimental to your employability, but they can also affect other areas of your life. Convictions always show up on your background checks, and they’re exempt from most laws that attempt to prevent discrimination on the grounds of previous arrests.

Not-guilty arrests

In many cases, background checks show someone was arrested but was not convicted of the crime in question. It doesn’t matter if the charges were serious or rather benign, seeing this on an arrest record is something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it shows the candidate was released of all charges by the legal system. On the other, it means there was suspicion of guilt in the first place.

Charges were dismissed

The least-concerning arrest record that can show up on a background check is when the charges were dismissed. This means that an arrest occurred, the candidate was processed, but through accident or research or negotiation, all charges were dismissed and the candidate was set free. It most likely means the person in question was innocent, or it could be a case of mistaken identity.

Running your own background check

There are a number of background check companies that specialize in searching public records and arrest records and delivering this content in an easy to read form. You can use these services to check up on your own history, giving you the chance to see what someone else might see if they run a background check on you.

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Finding the best online background check services

What should you look for in a reliable background check service? There’s a lot to consider, and it’s a confusing world if you’re just getting started. Some factors are more important than others, too, which is why we assembled the list below. It features the biggest factors you should consider when looking into a background checking service. We used these criteria to choose the most reliable company on the internet, featured in the recommendations section below.

  • Accuracy – If a service doesn’t include updated information, your search will be pointless.
  • Design – Does your background check deliver information in an easy to understand format, or is it a jumbled mess of data? Usability can be a huge issue when it comes to background checking services.
  • Speed – Background checks can take time, even online ones that comb through public records. You need a service that delivers information instantly.
  • Price – Subscriptions can get expensive for background checking services. Some companies feature excellent deals you can leverage for incredible savings, however.

How to minimize the impact of your arrest record

Arrests of all types show up on just about any background check run on your identity. This includes cases where the charges were dropped or the person was declared not guilty. Seeing an arrest record at all causes some people to pause, however. In situations where your job could be on the line, you’ll want to do everything you can to minimize this impact.

Be honest about the arrests

Honesty really is the best policy in the case of arrest records on your background check. Whether you’re speaking to a citizen, an officer, or a recruiting manager, be up front and truthful about your arrest record. Explain the situation without emotion, just inform them of what happened and what the outcome of the arrest was. Let the facts be facts, don’t try to convince anyone of anything.

Don’t lie on your resume

In some cases you can avoid background checks altogether. Not all employers require them, after all. Not unless something suspicious appears on your resume. You can minimize the chances of this happening by being completely honest on your application. Don’t make up companies, former positions, or educational credits. Stick to the facts and don’t embellish, that way employers will have little cause to scrutinize your past.

Don’t panic

Arrest records appear on background checks just as reliably as your employment history, education, and former physical addresses. Depending on who is running the check on you, it may not matter that you’ve been arrested. The key is to stay calm and don’t stumble over yourself trying to explain what happened. An arrest is just an event in your life, the same as buying a car or picking up groceries. Treat it as such and you’ll find it won’t affect as many opportunities as you might have thought.


Arrest records affect background checks by introducing a small window into a person’s potential criminal activity. They represent any form of arrest, even those where the charges were dropped or the person was immediately cleared. Having this mark on a background check often causes employers to pause, but it doesn’t mean your chances of landing a new job are ruined. By staying informed, running a check on your own background, and knowing what to do when the topic comes up, you won’t have to worry about anything.

Have an experience seeing an arrest record on a background check? Let everyone know your thoughts in the comments below!

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