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How Does a Background Check Verify Employment?

If you’re worried that an employment background check might reveal something that will stop you getting a job, read on. Today, we explain how most background checking sites verify employment records, plus recommend the best sites to check what information there is on you. We’ll also share tips to hide something you don’t want your new boss to know about.

Verifying past employment

If you have recently applied for a new job, the chances are that you are going to be subjected to a background check. Most employers run them on prospective employees at some stage during an application process to verify the details on their resume and check that there isn’t anything in their background that should preclude them from the job.

For some applicants, it can be a nervous time. If they have left a previous job under a cloud, they might be worried about what their potential new boss could discover about them. If they have over-exaggerated their responsibilities on their resume, they might be worried that the truth will out.

In truth, the way most employers will go about verifying your employment details means that there isn’t too much to worry about as long as you haven’t told your new boss any outright lies. In this guide, we will explain how a background will usually verify your employment details. We will also explain how you can check in advance what they might discover so you can be prepared for any eventuality.

How does a background check verify employment information?

Your resume is the main document that a prospective employer will use to verify your employment history. This could be good news or bad news for you depending on how truthful you have been about your employment record. So, how do they check up on your employment background:

  • Contact former employers – The most obvious way that former employers and background checking companies will verify your employment record is by contacting the HR division of your stated former employers. Don’t let this overly concern you. This is often just to verify your start-date, end-date, salary, and a few other basic details. Often such contact will not involve a detailed discussion about your employment record (unless you did something there that made you really stand out!)
  • Referees – If you have provided an employer with a referee from a former employer, a background checking company is likely to make contact. Again, this is often only to confirm the basic details. Many sites will ask the referee to complete a form and unless they choose to add specific details about you, these references will often not reveal anything more than the same basic details.
  • Financial information – a background check is also likely to involve looking at certain aspects of your financial history. Regulations over what they can and cannot consider vary from state to state but this does mean that if you have exaggerated the salary you earned in a previous role, it is possible this could become apparent.
  • Online resumes – A background check is likely to search online to pick up any social media accounts or other online presence you may have. A LinkedIn account is the most obvious example but there are other online resumes they might come across. It is quite likely they will compare this with your current resume, so if you have spiced up some former roles, this may be noticed at this stage.
  • Criminal record check – If you left a former role because you committed a criminal offense while working there, it is likely that this will become apparent when they check your criminal record. Any offenses on your file which haven’t been declared will be spotted at this stage and if the offense related to your work, took place at work, or resulted in you being fired from work, it is likely they will see that in the course of these checks.
  • Older jobs – A typical employment check will only look back seven years. In some states, this is a legal requirement but it is a common practice among many specialist employment background checking companies. You shouldn’t use this as an opportunity to lie about your employment record beyond the previous seven years because there are other ways this can be spotted. But it probably does mean you will get away with exaggerating about these roles a little more.

What constitutes a background check?

It is worth clarifying from the outset what we mean when we are talking about a background check as there are different types.

A background check is a search of all available public records to gather as much information as possible about a person. A surprisingly large amount of data is publicly available on every American citizen and digitization has simplified the process of accessing it.

A background checking site can pull together a pretty comprehensive report about almost anyone is just a few minutes making it is easy to find out a great deal about most people. The sort of information they can access includes:

When an employer is running a background check, the chances are that he is using a consumer background checking company. There are professional organizations that run background checks in compliance with the various laws and regulations that all companies are required to follow.

But there are also public background checking sites which can be used by anyone and which have a remit to gather as much information as possible about the subject of a search. People use these types of background checks for all sorts of different reasons including:

  • Employment checksEmployers large and small will regularly run background checks on job applicants to make sure there is nothing in their past that should prevent them from taking a job and nothing they have not told the truth about in their application.
  • Criminal checks – If you suspect that someone you know is hiding a secret criminal past, a background check is a simple way to find out the truth. It will search through all publicly held criminal records so you can find out if that person is potentially a threat to you or your loved ones.
  • Tracking down a lost family member or friend – Everyone has a person from their past they wish they were still in touch with. It might be an old girlfriend, a long-lost cousin, or a best mate from elementary school. Whoever it is, a background check offers a quick and easy way to track down anyone, learn about their life now, and re-establish contact.
  • Looking into someone’s past – If there is someone in your life you have a bad feeling about, or who makes you suspicious, it is not unreasonable to want to know a bit more about them. A background check is a perfect way to look into anyone’s history even if you only have a minimal amount of information. It is a great way to put your mind at ease.
  • Checking your own records – A popular use of background checks is to find out what information about yourself is in the public domain. It is a great way to see what other people can find out about you, to correct any false or misleading information that might be out there and be prepared for that tricky job interview.

Best background checking site

If you are worried about what an employment background check on you might turn up, there is a simple way to find out. Stay one step ahead of your prospective new boss by running an instant background check on yourself. By doing your own check you can get an idea of what your new boss might see. If you have exaggerated on your resume, you can get an idea of whether your boss might realize this. You can also get a sense of whether any sackings or other information might show up too.

To run a background check on yourself you will need to use a public background checking site. There are lots of these around but the quality of their service can vary wildly. That’s why we have put all the top background checking sites through their paces to see which are best. Here is a rundown of the top three:

1. BeenVerified

BeenVerified - Editors choice

BeenVerified is the top background checking site around right now. It gives comprehensive and detailed reports on any search and can deliver accurate results with a minimal amount of information. It searches through hundreds of thousands of records and pieces together the details in a report which is well-designed and easy to understand.

Subscribers can manage all their searches with ease using either the nifty BeenVerified desktop dashboard which works with all desktop operating systems. You can also download the professional mobile app onto any iOS or Android device and manage your searches on the go. If you have any problems or questions, there is a helpful and responsive customer support team on standby to assist.

A BeenVerified subscription will set you back $22.86 per month. If you want to save more you pay just $14.86 per month for a three-month subscription. This represents superb value for money for what our tests found to be the best background checking site available right now.

BEST BACKGROUND CHECKS: BeenVerified provides a comprehensive look into your public record at an outstanding price. Get it for less with our exclusive reader discount.

2. Instant CheckMate

Instant Checkmate - Editors choice

Instant CheckMate is a background checking site that offers super-fast and highly accurate results. In our tests, it was regularly the fastest to deal with an inquiry and it invariably returned with detailed and accurate results. We were big fans of the Instant CheckMate reports which are beautifully designed and very easy to read.

This is also true of their desktop dashboard which is very straightforward to navigate around. Users can also opt to use apps for Android and iOS devices if they prefer. While we found Instant Checkmate very simple to use, there is a helpful support team ready to assist with any queries or issues you may have.

Instant CheckMate will cost you $34.78 per month or you can pay $27.82 for a three-month subscription. This is not the cheapest site around but if you need results quickly, you can be confident of turning around a search fast with Instant CheckMate.

3. TruthFinder

TruthFinder - Editors choice

TruthFinder is a terrific choice if you want to get accurate results. As the name suggests, this tool has been built with accuracy in mind and in our tests it performed extremely well. Even if we entered information about a search target that was deliberately misleading or inaccurate, TruthFinder had a knack of cutting through this to deliver the right results.

The TruthFinder desktop dashboard is a real asset as it allows you to follow all your searches as they progress. Their apps are also an impressive feature while the final reports generated by TruthFinder are easy to follow and very detailed.

If you encounter any problems or have any questions, there is a fantastic support team on standby to help you. They can be contacted around the clock on a toll-free number, so you don’t have to pay a cent more to get the answers you need. With competitive pricing at $27.78 monthly, or $23.02 per month if you sign up for 2 months at a time, TruthFinder is a great background checking site for people who want accurate and detailed results.

EXCLUSIVE DEAL: Looking for deep insight into your own public record? Try TruthFinder, one of the industry titans. Get the service with our generous reader discount.

What about my resume?

It would be irresponsible for us to advocate putting false or misleading information on your resume and it is certainly the case that blatant falsehoods are likely to be spotted. But everyone exaggerates a little on their resume and as long as you are sensible and clever about this, the chances are that a background check will not spot this.

It is sensible to be honest about your most recent role as this is where a prospective employer is likely to look most closely. But a background check on previous roles is likely to only look at the basic information, so any detailed information is likely to remain unverified.

Be careful though. We put all sorts of information about ourselves online these days and background checks can pick up on all of this. If you are caught lying or misleading a potential employer, the chances are you won’t get offered the job.

Can I change the results of a background check?

If you are worried about what an employment background check might uncover about you, it is well worth running a check on yourself to get an idea of what information is out there about you. We have recommended three background checking sites that will be able to help you do just that.

If you do find something in the results that you are concerned about, there are a few options open to you. Some criminal records can be expunged or sealed which means they shouldn’t show up on a background check. This is an official process and does take time so it is worth looking into this sooner rather than later.

Anything that comes from social media can usually be removed if it was posted by yourself or a friend. News content is harder to hide but there are ways if you can generate enough content to push it down the rankings. Some companies can help you do this but they tend to be expensive.

Alternatively, by knowing what a background check is likely to find you can be prepared with an explanation of anything you might be asked about. This ensures you are never caught on the spot about something you had forgotten all about.


Background checking sites will look at various different sources to check on how accurate your resume and stated employment record is. But in most cases, they will only verify the basic information and many referees are far too busy to go into too much detail about what sort of employer you were.

In this article, we have explained how most background checking sites verify your employment records and what sort of information they are likely to uncover. We have also explained how running a background check on yourself can be a good way to find out what your employer might see in advance.

Have you ever fallen foul of an employment background check? Did you end up being put in a difficult position by a piece of information a background check uncovered? How did you deal with this situation? Our readers always enjoy learning from the experiences of their peers, so do share yours with us using the comment box below.

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