FAQ: Does a Background Check Mean I Will Be Hired?

Updated March 10, 2023

There are many steps employers take when hiring candidates for available positions. One of the steps employers take when conducting an effective hiring process is performing background checks to evaluate applicants. If you're applying for a job that requires a background check, it may be beneficial to learn more about this process. In this article, we discuss reasons why employers use background checks and the ways in which they conduct these checks when hiring.

Does a background check mean I have the job?

Undergoing a background check doesn't always guarantee that an employer has decided to hire you for a job. However, a background check is usually an indicator that an employer is seriously considering you for an available role. A background check often occurs near the end of a hiring process as one of its final steps or may occur after an employer extends an offer. Employers usually pay for background checks, so they often only perform background checks on interviewees whom they're interested in hiring.

However, background checks don't always ensure job offers. One reason for this is that an employer may choose to request a background check for multiple potential hires. The findings from your background check may also influence whether an employer extends an offer to you. If you've already received a job offer, your eventual hiring may depend on your background check. Employers may also choose to withdraw job offers following a background check if they discover legitimate concerns, such as intentionally misleading information on a resume.

Related: What Is the Vetting Process?

When do employers conduct background checks?

Employers often perform background checks before extending job offers. A brief period in between a background check and a job offer is common because the results of a background check can result in an employer choosing to hire a different applicant. However, they may also choose to begin the background check after they extend an offer. Sometimes, an employer may even have a candidate begin working during a probationary period while awaiting the background check results.

Because a background check often requires written consent, a prospective employee typically has advance notice that a background check may occur. This step usually occurs following one or more interviews, so an employer typically asks you to agree to a background check near the end of the hiring process.

How long does it take to process a background check?

Typically, background checks require between two and five business days to process. This is the time it usually takes background check service companies to return results to your potential employer. These companies may contact your previous employers and educational institutions, request credit reports, search government records databases and review criminal records from corrections departments. However, a hiring manager may also require additional time to review the results before finalizing their decision.

Delays can occur if the background check service company identifies an issue in the background check, or there may also be internal issues that cause delays. It's also possible that your check may contain incomplete or missing documents. Consider following up with your potential employer if delays occur to determine whether there's anything you can do to move the process along. If your background check contains incorrect information, you can also appeal the findings with the company that conducted it.

Related: How To Perform a Background Check on Yourself

Do employers reach out immediately after background checks?

Employers don't always contact you immediately after receiving the results of a background check. They may do so if they've already extended a job offer, and there was nothing of concern noted during the background check.

However, if you're one of several candidates for a job, your prospective employer may require time to receive the results of background checks for all potential hires. Then, they may discuss the final decision with applicants who they decide not to hire. Another potential delay is that a hiring manager requires additional time to compile your job offer or prepare paperwork.

What do employers look for in a background check?

The criteria an employer searches for in a background check can vary based on the position you're pursuing, the location in which you work and other factors. Common items of interest include:

Education history

Education history in a background check includes the schools from which you graduated and the dates you attended those institutions. A background check can also highlight the degrees you earned and their subject areas. This information is important to verify the legitimacy of your credentials and to determine whether your application and resume are accurate.

Related: How Do Employers Verify College Degrees?

Employment history

Employment history includes any positions you previously held, the companies you've worked for and your job titles. Other information background check companies may include in this section are your dates of employment and job duties. Similar to your education section, your potential employer often wants to verify the accuracy of your resume and reported experiences in interviews.

Reference and employer check

In addition to an employment history verification, your potential employer may also contact references you provide and former employers from the jobs you listed on your resume. They may want to contact the people who have directly worked with or supervised you to determine your work ethic, punctuality, skills and trustworthiness.

Criminal record

Your criminal record may also be a part of your background check. Whether the results impact your hiring depends on the type of crime committed and the job to which you're applying. Background checks typically only reveal your criminal history for a limited time. Usually, the limit on criminal history for a background check is the preceding seven to 10 years, depending on the state.

Related: Can You Get a Job With a Criminal Record?

Credit check

Your background check may also include a credit check, particularly if an employer is considering you for financial positions or any other positions in which you handle money. This information can help an employer assess your financial responsibility. For some jobs, such as those requiring government security clearance, employers may also consider any outstanding debts you possess.

Driving record

A background check may also include a review of your driving record. Usually, this only occurs if your job involves driving, such as truck driver positions of if your employer provides you with a company car. Your driving record may include information such as traffic violations and the licenses you hold.

Drug and alcohol testing

You may also submit drug and alcohol testing as part of a pre-employment screening during your background check. Whether your screening includes drug and alcohol testing and which chemicals the tests screen can vary depending on the job. Urine testing is common, but other samples, such as hair, might be important. Jobs that often use drug and alcohol testing include healthcare positions and those involving controlling vehicles or machinery.

Employment eligibility

Your future employer also often verifies whether you're permitted to work in the United States. These checks typically include confirming your identity. You can verify your ability to work by providing identification, such as a driver's license or passport, or displaying an appropriate visa.


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