What Information Does and Doesn’t Show in a Background Check?

As an employer, it’s essential to run a background check for many reasons. However, do background checks show the whole picture? What do they encompass? Here, we’ll answer those exact questions, going over what exactly does (and doesn’t) appear on a background check.

What Information Appears on a Background Check?

Background checks are standardized to an extent, and though they may vary from background screening provider to provider, here is some info you are likely to find on any background check. For DataCheck’s pre-employment screening, we offer customizable and comprehensive background checks complete with the following info:

Identity Verification

We recommend not hiring someone who isn’t who they say they are! 

Identity verification runs a social security number through various U.S. departments and agencies to ensure it has not been used before and is actually assigned to the name provided. Identity verification also provides information like date of birth and address, giving you the chance to cross-reference these facts with those provided by the candidate.

Credit Reports and Lines 

Background checks can include credit reports and information about open credit lines. These reports are created through information gathered by major credit bureaus, which collect their data through financial establishments. With a credit report, you can learn much about a potential employee’s credit cards, mortgages, auto loans, student lines, payment histories, and financial habits.


Criminal background checks are among the most important. A background check is often conducted on a multi-level scale, encompassing searches on national, federal, state, and county databases. Serious convictions may appear on a background check forever, while less severe crimes fall under the FRCA’s seven-year background check rule and may be expunged after seven years. Some places have state-level laws and may place additional rules on what crimes appear on a background check, so your exact results could vary.

Sex Offender Status 

While assault and harassment crimes may appear on the criminal background check, sex offender status is also available as part of your state’s registry as well as the sex offender national database. The national database covers all territory, tribal, and state registries.

What Information Doesn’t Appear on a Background Check? 

Standard background checks are a great place to start when you’re analyzing potential candidates. However, some things don’t appear on background checks, or may require specialized services. Here’s the information that is less readily available on most standard background checks.

Old Misdemeanors and Charges 

Seven years from the date of the verdict, a record can no longer report on non-convictions. Old misdemeanors and charges of a less-serious scale will be expunged after seven years as per laws set by the FRCA.

Social Media 

When you run a federal background check, social media accounts of a potential employee do not appear. After all, they’re personal and not part of data collected by government entities. Social media can only be examined with the addition of a social media background check that’s specific, like DataCheck’s social media screening services.

Current Drug Usage

While criminal charges and convictions for serious drug offenses within the most recent seven years are available on a background check, only a drug screen will reveal current drug usage. A current, pre-employment drug screening is necessary to ensure your potential employee is not abusing any illicit substances as defined by your particular state.


Background checks cannot see whether or not those contacts believe an applicant is good for a position, and you’ll need to call the people listed on the application to see what information and perspective they provide.



What Information Should Employers Require in Addition to a Background Check?  

The above-listed items — social media screening, drug tests, and reference checking — are not part of a standard background check, but still provide absolutely vital information that can make or break a hiring decision. At DataCheck, we suggest running all of the above tests alongside your basic background check, plus any of our other customizable background screening additions.

It costs over $3,000 to hire someone on average and about $15,000 to replace a bad hire with a good employee. About one-third of businesses that don’t conduct background checks site price as the factor, but not paying for a background check can end up costing you far, far more in the long run. 

Does a Background Check Tell the Whole Story? 

So, does a background check tell the whole story about an employee? Yes and no; it fully depends on how in-depth you go with your background check. Even with all of the information, it’s hard to say: potential employees can still display qualities that make them unfit for a position.

Objectively, there will always be details you don’t know about a person. However, performing background checks shows your due diligence as an employer and protects you legally from negligent hiring lawsuits. Background checks are generally reliable guides, giving you the information necessary to make a well-informed decision. If you’re ever concerned about on-going employee habits, running ongoing background checks could be an option.

Let DataCheck Provide Your Background Check Information

With decades of background screening experience, DataCheck is the best way to get comprehensive information about a candidate. We find all the data you may need, and allow you to pick and choose what info appears based on your hiring needs. 

We know that choosing an employee is a very important process, which is why we at DataCheck take great pride in helping employers just like you every day. Curious how DataCheck can help you? Contact us today or ask your question on our online form to get started on fast, affordable, and high-quality background checks!

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