Federal Background Check Expectations and Disqualifiers

What is a Federal Background Check?

A federal background check is more thorough than a standard employment check. It is designed to ensure that the hired person is reliable, trustworthy, and of good character. Federal and multi-state background checks are often used for federal positions, those that require a high-security clearance, are at a high level, or will be handling money or finances. 

There are three levels of security clearance that might be needed for a federal job: Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret. The length and details of a government background check will vary depending on the amount of clearance needed for the position. These checks can also be tiered depending on the level of security clearance that will be required. 


Tier 1:

This is the most basic investigation required on all new Federal employees and contractors. It requires a National Agency Check and searches covering certain areas of a person’s background.


Tier 3:

This is for the initial investigation for employees at the Confidential and Secret national security access levels. It includes a National Agency Check with Local Agency Check and Credit. 


Tier 5:

This is a government-wide investigation of those who need access to Top Secret classified national security information. It includes all of the checks for Tier 1 and Tier 3 in addition to checks on the candidate’s spouse, interviews with references, and verification of place of birth.

During a federal background check, every item on the application and resume is verified and reviewed and includes information such as where the applicant went to school, employment history, and licenses (medical, legal, gun permits, etc.). This process is similar to a standard background check but can go into more detail.  

Criminal records are also checked so arrests, warrants, court summons, and even dismissed charges, are all subject to the check. Non-convictions that did not require a court appearance are also looked at, such as misdemeanors. Crimes that are prosecuted at a federal level such as bank robbery, kidnapping, tax evasion, and counterfeiting are considered extremely serious and would be reviewed extensively. Employers are able to collect all records including all case documents so they can make an informed decision about whether or not to hire the employee.

Personal information and a criminal background are not the only items that are looked at. Information that gives a better indication of the candidate’s personality and interests can also be included in a check. For example, social media posts are not off-limits for a federal background check. A candidate’s posts can appear on a background check for a federal job. These scans can be very minor or go deep into the social media account. 

Some employers will choose to run a multi-state background check in addition to the federal check to ensure all information available on a candidate has been considered.



Employment Disqualifiers

Disqualifiers could prevent an applicant from getting a job because there could be concerns about being able to handle the position or obtain security clearances. 



A federal employment application will ask if the applicant is a U.S. citizen. This is important because a candidate might need citizenship to gain security levels. Illegal immigrants and green card holders might not be able to pass this portion of the background check. If the candidate answers this falsely, they will most likely not be considered for the position. 


Substance Abuse:

The use of an illegal substance would prevent an applicant from being able to pass a federal background check, especially for one that requires a federal security clearance. 


Criminal History:

Depending on the job and the type of work it requires, the history of a criminal record or time in prison may prevent an employee from getting a job. This is a very individualized basis and could fall under the requirements of the new Fair Chance Act



A federal background check will consider your credit history. Again, depending on the nature of the job, being able to handle financial obligations might be a pre-requisite, especially in those jobs that handle money. A history of bankruptcy would indicate that the candidate is most likely not going to be able to handle the obligations of the position. 


Dishonest Information:

If an application has inconsistencies, the candidate can be disqualified for the job. An applicant should never change or omit information. The fact that it was even attempted can be seen as a dishonest characteristic. 

If a candidate is worried about something that might arise during a background check, they are able to check it on their own and discuss any concerns during the process. The hiring manager will most likely appreciate the upfront honesty and be aware of the situation ahead of time. It should not prevent an applicant from trying for a job because each case will be reviewed on an individual basis. Each federal department that decides whether a person is suitable for a position makes the decision independently so a disqualifier for one agency might not be one for another. 


A government position requires a different set of hiring regulations. Candidates need to submit to a federal employment background check to make sure they are a good choice for the position. DataCheck handles federal background checks to help find the best candidates for the job.