When a new employer does a background check on you, what exactly are they checking? I understand that it combines a criminal record check but what else?

Will they call up each of the past employers listed and verify exact date and time and duration of employment. Because I have forgotten exact months for the employers that I left 5 years ago.

  • 1
    What country? I suspect most countries have similar things they check but that what this list is may vary country to country.
    – enderland
    Oct 4, 2013 at 0:24

4 Answers 4


I'd start with the caveat that this can be hugely variable depending on the job.

In general, the company is trying to verify that:

  • what you told them that led to the job offer/hiring decision was accurate (ie, dates of job history, employment verification)
  • that there are no unknown risks to hiring you as an employee in this environment (legal to work in the country, criminal record)
  • that you are as competent to do the job as they think you are (driving violations if you are an ambulance driver)
  • that you are of good character (professional reference check)

How that plays out in a specific case is often a factor of the employer and the industry. You'll find that high risk jobs have many more checks than jobs where the employee cannot easily harm the business if the business makes a hiring mistake.

How it gets implemented is also a part of the business. As one respondent said - it's not unusual to have a third party do the background checks as the administration of all of that can be some serious work. Where that's the case (and often it's obvious, because you fill out a web form that isn't from the company website) - anything you can do to avoid a mismatch in the paperwork will speed up the process - for example, researching your former company's current address, employment verification phone number or contact point, etc.

Honesty is always the best policy here - if you don't know dates, give the dates you do know and admit to uncertainty. I got in the habit a while back of being very careful to always have a copy of my resume nearby with month/year on it so I could always be consistent. But if you're unclear on a detail say so.


The scope of what is checked can vary depending on what is needed by the company, position, and customer, and what is blocked by the law. It can be employment history, financial, criminal. It can take a couple of days or it can take months. They might also request non-work references.

When employment checks are done, they don't care about exact dates, but they do care about months. If they discover that the dates were manipulated to hide a hole in employment history or to skip listing a very short they would be concerned. Most companies will only provide employment date, and title information for background checks. They might provide salary information for loan approvals checks.

Financial checks may be required by some employers/positions. They will look into judgements and defaults because that may show lack of judgement. High levels of debt may show a motivation to steal.

Criminal checks are obvious, but what would disqualify a candidate does vary by company and position. Violent crimes are bad for all positions, but reckless driving would be a concern for a position as an ambulance driver.\

advice: If you don't know a date try and determine the date, but then note your uncertainty. Be truthful when answering all questions. The investigator discovering a minor problem that you didn't note on the forms can make the situation worse.

  • You're completely right that it varies. I had one interview process stop completely because I'd had credit problems (usual sort, i.e. late medical bill payments), while another didn't care and brushed it off with "everyone has some of those". A lot depends on the job description, too; I don't ever have anything to do with finances in my work, so fewer companies care that I was late with some medical bills some years ago, but if I were an accountant, they'd care!
    – Debra
    Oct 13, 2013 at 17:50

In general most employers will utilize a company that specializes in background checks. Those companies will run a check of databases for information that it can link to you. If they find information in their database that conflicts with what you have provided they will often look into it to see if there is anything that the company should be aware of.

In addition they will usually run criminal history checks on any address they have for you, those will include those you provided and any that come up in their database search that they believe may be you. If anything shows up at addresses you have not listed they will work to determine if it is actually you, or someone with a similar name or alias.

Many places will also pull a credit history report. They will cross this will any criminal activity they find. From this information they will put together a document and report any items of concern to the requester(usually your prospective employer).


They are checking your history in terms of what you've stated in your resume and possible interviews to ensure accuracy of the information. If you stated that you graduated from a specific school in a specific year that may be checked.

The thoroughness of the check may include queries to past employers where exact dates may be used though some employers may not want to dig into exactly when someone started to the minute and may just give a ballpark of, "Joe started in early August," rather than a specific date.

Contractors would be exempted as they may be in a business-to-business relationship with the company and could bypass some of the HR rules. A Full Time Employee may be seen as more of an investment that the company wants to check out rather than discovering later has lied. Contractors may be easier to terminate in some cases as the contract may contain provisions for ensuring the hire is temporary.

  • hmm..but how come this check happens only for FTE and not for contractor?
    – Victor123
    Oct 3, 2013 at 18:04

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