What Does a Pre-Employment Background Check Contain?

Here's a Good Background Check Primer for Candidates—and Reminders for Hiring Managers

What a pre-employment background check contains is very much in the eye of the beholder—or, in this case, the eye of the employer.

Several factors will influence what employers decide to include in their pre-employment background checks, such as applicable laws (i.e. federal, state, and local) and the position for which someone is applying.

For example, if someone needs to drive on behalf of the company, the pre-employment screening will likely include an MVR background check. Someone applying for a position that doesn't involve any driving on company time won't need the MVR check.

Bottom line: there isn't, nor should there be, a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to pre-employment background checks. This is why working with a reputable background check provider who takes the time to understand your company's specific hiring goals and employee roles can make all the difference in the world when it comes to putting together the right pre-employment screening packages for your company's needs.

That said, we know many people—especially job applicants—often want an overview of what could show up in a pre-employment background check. This article will highlight some of the common items, including,

  • Education and employment verifications
  • Criminal background checks
  • MVR checks
  • Social media background checks
  • Drug testing

Education and Employment Verifications

Resumes typically include education, employment history, and any relevant licenses and certifications. But taking a job candidate at their word isn't a smart hiring policy since, sadly, studies show that many people embellish, pad, or even downright lie on their resumes.

55% of people admit to having lied on their resume at least once. 
[Source: CNBC]


The goal of education and employment verifications is to corroborate what the job candidate is presenting. 

But verifying "just the facts" isn't the only thing a background check company can delve into. The company can also do reference checks, which can provide further insights into a candidate's character. This can work well for candidates who might have a lean resume when it comes to employment history or experience. Positive words from a former boss can carry a lot of sway and make up for a candidate's lack of experience, especially if the boss talks about the candidate being a quick learner or self-starter.

Reference checks can also be a great way to verify important traits the hiring manager is looking for, like whether the candidate is reliable and meets deadlines. Reference checks are especially important in the age of Zoom interviews and remote workforces.

Criminal History Background Checks

When people hear the word "background check," a criminal background check is usually what comes to mind. Does the person have a criminal record? How far back does the criminal background check go? What sorts of crimes are reported? What about arrests?

Because the criminal background check process is equal parts complex and nuanced, we've written a detailed ebook you can download: The Ultimate Guide to Criminal Background Checks. Or if you want the basics, here are two articles to check out:

But here's the "too-long, didn't-read" version:

The most common pre-employment background check consists of criminal history searches in counties where a candidate has lived in the past seven years. These county searches are often supplemented with a nationwide criminal history database search, which provides a quick, affordable method to search for criminal history information that may be recorded in jurisdictions outside the candidate's address history.

The scope of a criminal background check can be adjusted based on the client's requirements, including the expansion of the address history from seven to 10 years; the inclusion of address history for locations where a candidate has worked or attended school; and the addition of searches, such as federal criminal, sex offender database, and/or sanction searches. (We always recommend including searches of the sex offender database.)

Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) Checks

Simply put, an MVR background check is a report of a person's driving history. It includes information, such as license expiration, status, license class, endorsements, restrictions, traffic violations, accidents, vehicular crimes, suspensions—even unpaid parking tickets and, in some states, unpaid child support. The MVR check provides the employer with insight regarding whether the applicant can be considered a safe and qualified driver. If an employee is going to be driving on behalf of the company, it makes sense to check the person's driving record before handing them the keys.

Learn more about Good Egg's MVR background checks and MVR monitoring.

Social Media Background Checks

On social media, people tend to be unfiltered. In other words, it's possible to get a sense of certain present-day behaviors that you wouldn't see in carefully edited resumes or rehearsed interviews—behaviors that could adversely affect the workplace.

A compliant social media background check will look for content from four critical categories:

  • Racist or intolerant
  • Sexually explicit
  • Potentially illegal
  • Potentially violent

The key word here is "compliant." Social media background checks must be compliant with EEOC, FCRA, and state privacy laws. 

At Good Egg, we deploy a full-featured, cloud-based platform that uses advanced machine learning for text and image content analysis. This solution combines advanced machine learning with human analysts to analyze up to 10 years of public posts from a candidate's Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Reddit. Things that are analyzed include original posts, likes, comments, replies, and reposts along with the images on each post.

Types of content that's flagged:

  • Hate speech
  • Political speech
  • Insults and bullying
  • Obscene language
  • Self-harm
  • Sexual impropriety
  • Terrorism/extremism
  • Threads of violence
  • Toxic language
  • Narcotics
  • Drug-related images
  • Violent images/racy images

In addition, our solution can flag posts based on matches (text or images) to custom keywords that the employer provides. Keywords can be designated negative, positive, or neutral. 

Learn more about our social media screening and monitoring services.

Drug & Occupational Health Screenings

Again, the items in this article show what an employer might include in its pre-employment background check. Not all employers run drug tests or occupational health screenings on job applicants.

If you're an employer who is considering drug screening, download our Ultimate Guide to Workplace Drug Testing for a comprehensive discussion. And you can read more about Good Egg's drug and health screening services here

Of course, certain industries require drug testing as part of the hiring process. A great example is the trucking industry, which falls under the watchful gaze of the Department of Transportation (DOT). To get behind the wheel, truck drivers must have negative drug tests in their driver qualification files. This might sound straightforward, but in the age of marijuana decriminalization, it can be confusing for candidates—and a headache for employers.

Bottom line: Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level. So if you're a candidate applying for a job with the federal government—and the job requires drug testing—beware and don't use marijuana.

Learn more about marijuana & drug testing in the workplace.

Got questions about pre-employment background checks?
At Good Egg, we're always happy to help!
Get in touch and let's chat.

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Mariah Barr

Posted by Mariah Barr

Mariah Barr is the Content Marketing Writer at Good Egg. She's played a few roles in her professional life, but they’ve always involved writing interesting and informative pieces. Outside of work you can find her walking her dog or working on a DIY home improvement project.

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