I'm applying for a new job and they want me to fill out a bunch of paper work before the interview. One of these is giving them authorization to do a 'consumer report'. I hadn't heard of consumer reports before but a quick google search shows they can be quite in depth, including things like talking to your neighbors etc. Is this usually what happens? What do they normally include and why would they be necessary (in addition to more standard things like criminal background checks and contacting references)?
As dwizum pointed out, no fixed way on what is checked. A consumer report is a fancy term for background check. It heavily depends on the industry you're going to and what they - the company - consider important. For example, a bank may be more likely to consider financial obligations such as overextending yourself financially or unpaid debt. A delivery driver job may be interested in your driving history and if you gotten into a accident.
Most Likely: They'll check criminal history, education credentials, and verify past employments.
Likely: Financial considerations as well but depends on the industry.
Less Likely: Interview previous employers, references, or the likes. Sending a field agent out to each of these locations would be very time consuming.