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Can a Background Check Reveal Past Employers?

If you are applying for a new job and worried about them contacting a former employer, you need to read this article. Today, we explain what your new boss is likely to find out through a background check, what steps you can take to keep a job private, and how to find out what your own background check might show.

How to reveal past employers

Let’s face it, we all have that one job on our resume that we wish wasn’t there. There are lots of possible reasons for this. Money was tight and it was the first job you were offered. You just didn’t get on with your boss and were pushed out of the door against your will. Regardless, your departure from the job went badly for one reason or another.

Whatever the reason, when it comes to applying for a new job you are probably cringing at the prospect of your new boss finding out that other role, or worse still, speaking to your old boss directly.

Employment background checks are now pretty much the norm when you apply for a job, so it might feel like there is no place to hide. But that isn’t strictly true. While hiding a job from your new boss completely is not that simple, there are lots of ways you can mask a job or at least play down its significance.

In this article, we will give you some advice on how to do this. We will also explain a little bit more about background checks, how they work, and how you can run one on yourself to get an idea of what your new boss is likely to see.

Does a background check show work history?

This is a question that has to be addressed on a number of different levels.

The short answer is, yes. A background check can reveal past employers. But there are a number of variables that will determine exactly what information they will find and how they will use it. The main source of information a prospective new employer will have about your employment history is your resume. But you have complete control over what does or doesn’t go on that. You, therefore, have the power to exaggerate jobs or leave them off altogether as you see fit.

When a prospective employer runs a background check, the company they use will run a basic background check on you and then seek to verify the information on your resume.

How thoroughly they check will depend on the company they are using. But almost every company will put the majority of their focus on your most recent jobs. If you have been in the same job for several years, this might be the only one they look into. If you have changed jobs a few times, they will probably check the last two or three.

So this means that if your past employer you want to be overlooked is a long way back in your employment history, you don’t have too much to worry about.

What kind of information will show up?

Even if the employer you are worried about is more recent, all is not lost. You need to understand how a background checking company will look to verify the information on your resume. There are a few things they might do:

  • Contact former employers – It is likely that a background checking company might contact a former employer to verify your employment record. But if they do this, they are likely to only contact the HR team and will only submit a form with a few basic facts for them to fill in such as start-date, end-date, salary, and job title. Most employers are too busy to provide much else so, as long as you have been truthful about the basics, it is possible no further details will emerge.
  • References – If you have provided your prospective new employer with the details of a reference, they will likely be contacted to ask about you. But again, references are busy people so unless you did something completely out of the ordinary during your tenure (like single-handedly saving the company, or botching something terribly), the chances are they will just confirm basic details and perhaps give one or two sentences on the type of employee you were.
  • Financial information – A background check is likely to look at some of your financial history. There are regulations about this, but they vary from one state to another. Usually, they will be looking at nothing more than checking your salary from your most recent role.
  • Criminal record check – If you left a previous role over a criminal matter, it is unlikely you will be able to hide this from a new employer unless it was more than seven years ago or you have managed to have the record sealed or expunged.

Beyond that, a background check is unlikely to reveal a great deal more about your employment history or your previous employers. Indeed, in some states, it is only permitted to look back seven years, so if you left the employer you are worried about longer ago than that, you can probably get away with leaving it off your resume altogether.

There is one important caveat to that worth mentioning though; online resumes. If you have posted an old resume onto the internet at any point or have a LinkedIn profile that lists your employment history, a background check is likely to find that. If the information revealed there differs from your current resume, this could lead to some difficult questions being asked. Be sure to remove or edit these resumes before making your application.

Most effective background checking sites to dig into your job history

If you want to know whether an employment background check will reveal information about all your past employers, including the ones you’d prefer them not to know about, there is a simple way to check before you even apply for a job. By running a background check on yourself, using a publicly available site, you can see what information about your employment history is held in the public domain and get a good idea of what your employer might find out too.

There are a lot of background checking sites out there but we have been testing them all and narrowed down your selection. Here are the top three background checking sites for running a check on yourself:

1. BeenVerified

BeenVerified - Editors choice

BeenVerified is our number one background checking site on the market right now. Its research is second to none and it generates comprehensive and detailed results even if you only feed it a minimal amount of information. BeenVerified will search hundreds of thousands of records from sources across the country and compile all the data it finds in a beautifully designed and easy to read report.

With BeenVerified you can manage all your searches on a crisp and well-designed desktop dashboard or on their excellent apps that are available for Android and iOS devices. If you encounter any issues, there is a responsive and helpful support team on hand to help with anything at all.

A BeenVerified subscription costs $22.86 per month. If you prefer, you can save even more by paying just $14.86 per month for a three-month subscription. It’s a terrific price for the best background checking site on the market 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. TruthFinder

TruthFinder - Editors choice

TruthFinder is the perfect background checking site if you want to get accurate results at all costs. As its name suggests, Truthfinder has built a fine reputation for generating accurate information with even the most minimal of information. In our tests, we even input inaccurate information and found Truthfinder had an uncanny knack of still finding the right information.

TruthFinder’s desktop dashboard is a real asset. It is well designed and lets you monitor the progress of all your searches with ease. Its mobile apps are also impressive and Truthfinder’s reports are always easy to read and very detailed.

If you have any problems or questions, there is a fantastic support team on standby to help you. They can be contacted 24/7 on a toll-free number, which means you don’t have to pay more to get the most out of your background checks. Truthfinder’s prices are also competitive and for the quality of output, represent terrific value for money.

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.

3. Instant CheckMate

Instant Checkmate - Editors choice

Instant CheckMate is a fantastic all-round background checking site but its real USP is the speed with which it turns around its searches. In our tests, it was able to generate accurate and detailed results in minutes. These speeds didn’t waver even if we input misleading data.

We were extremely impressed with the Instant CheckMate reports. These look amazing and are really easy to read presenting all the information they have gathered clearly and concisely. We can say the same about their desktop dashboard too which is extremely user-friendly. Their mobile apps for iOS and Android devices are equally impressive.

Instant CheckMate will set you back you $34.78 per month or you can pay $27.82 for a three-month subscription. This means it isn’t the cheapest site around but if you need results quickly, you can be confident of getting fast results with Instant CheckMate.

How truthful should you be about your employment record on your resume?

This is a question we get answered all the time and, of course, it would be irresponsible for us to advocate lying or putting misleading information on a resume.

Having said that, everyone exaggerates a bit and quite a few people have a job or former employer they rather not mention on their resume. As long as you are sensible about how you hide this information, you can get away with it.

If the job was a long time ago, you can probably leave it off with no questions asked. If it is your most recent position, that is impossible. This is the job an employment background check will look at the closest, so be extra careful with what you say about that one. If there were issues, it is best to be upfront about the fact and explain your side of the story before your new boss hears what your old one has to say.

What exactly is a background check?

A background check is a search of all publicly available data about a person. There is a lot more information held about you in the public domain than you might think and all of this data can be accessed by anyone.

A background checking service automates this service by searching through digital records and pulling together a comprehensive report in just a few minutes. The sort of information they can access includes:

  • Employment records
  • Work authorizations
  • Criminal records (state, county, and city)
  • Education history (high school and college)
  • Financial records
  • Credit history
  • Driving record
  • License details
  • Social media profiles

There is a difference between the employment background checks your new boss will run and the ones anybody can do online. Employment background checks are governed by all sorts of regulations and laws which limit the information they can see and how far back they can look.

How are consumer checks used?

Public background checks are not subject to such restrictions. They do not have access to all of the same sources that an employer’s background check does, but they can still gather more or less the same information, and sometimes far more.

People use background checks for all sorts of different reasons including:

  • Employment checksEmployers large and small will regularly run background checks on job applicants. This is usually a formality to check that their resume is accurate and they aren’t hiding anything that might preclude them from taking the job.
  • Criminal checks – If someone in your neighborhood or office is a bit suspect and you are concerned they might be hiding a secret criminal past, a background check is the easiest and quickest way to find out if your suspicions have merit. It can search through all publicly held criminal records so you can find out for sure about anything that may be lurking in a person’s past.
  • Tracking down a lost family member or friend – We all have someone from our past we would like to reconnect with, whether it is an ex-girlfriend, an old mate from primary school, or a long-lost relative. A background check is a quick and easy way to track down anyone, even if you only have their name and a couple of outdated facts to go on.
  • Checking your own records – Perhaps the most underrated use of a background check is as a tool to find out what information about yourself is in the public domain. This can give you a head start when applying for a job, trying to rent a flat, or ensuring that no-one else can run a check on you and find something you’d prefer they didn’t know.


A background check can reveal details of your previous employers but there are limits on how far back they can look and the type of information they are likely to unearth.

In this guide, we have explained exactly where an employer background check is likely to look for information and the sort of information they will find. We have also explained background checks in more detail and explained why running a check on yourself is a good way to see what your prospective new employer will see. We also recommended the best background checking sites you can use to do this.

Have you ever applied for a job but found that a former employer or bad experience cost you the job? Have you ever lost out on a job because of the background check? How did you deal with the situation? Our readers always appreciate the real-life testimonies of their peers, so why not share your experiences with them today using the comment box below.

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