A comprehensive guide to all types of background checks

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Background checks are important tools for employers. It's a process where an employer looks into a person's past to learn more about them before hiring them. They help make sure the right person is hired for a job. 

Note, however, that there are many types of background checks. They can look at different things like work history, education, criminal records, and finances. Especially now, with businesses facing new challenges, it's more important than ever to do background checks carefully to avoid hiring mistakes.

An Overview of the Various Types of Background Checks

An employer often decides on the type of background check a candidate needs depending on the industry and position. Often the options include: 

  • Social security/Identity check: Verifies an individual's identity and social security number. This often serves as the foundation for the other background checks. 
  • Criminal record check: Confirms an individual's criminal history.
  • Employment verification: Verifies an individual's past employment history.
  • Education verification: Confirms an individual's educational qualifications.
  • Reference check: Gathers information from references about an individual's past work performance and character.
  • Professional licence verification: Confirms the validity of an individual's professional licence(s)
employment background checks

Depending on the situation (ie. what the role calls for, how much responsibility the candidate has), you may also consider running: 

  • Sexual offence check: Specifically screens for any history of sexual offences.
  • Credit check: Assesses an individual's financial responsibility.
  • Social media check: Reviews an individual's online presence and social media activity.
  • Driving record check: Examines an individual's driving history and violations.
  • Global sanctions check: Screens an individual against global watchlists and sanctions lists.
  • Civil offence check: Looks for any history of civil offences, such as lawsuits or judgments.
  • Bankruptcy check: Checks for any history of bankruptcy filings.
  • Financial regulations check: Assesses compliance with financial regulations for certain positions.
  • Psychometric assessment: Evaluates an individual's personality, cognitive abilities, or other psychological traits.
  • International background check: Conducts a background check on an individual's history in another country.
  • Gamer profile check: Examines an individual's online gaming behaviour and history.

In the next sections, we’ll deep dive into these background checks, understanding more of their purpose and process. 

Criminal History Check

A criminal history check enables the employer to verify whether the applicant was associated with any criminal activity in the past. The criminal record check helps establish if a candidate could present a risk to either the firm's customers or to its other employees. Criminal proceedings usually follow when a person violates criminal law, and the violator receives some form of punishment if found guilty.

types of criminal record checks

Types of Criminal Background Checks 

A criminal background check typically involves the search of the following records:

  • National criminal databases
  • Criminal court records
  • National and state criminal records
  • Sex offender databases/registries
  • National and global terror watch lists.

The various types of criminal background checks that may be performed are:

  • District/County level criminal records check. A majority of criminal cases are processed, and the records are stored at the district/county courts. The records held there pertain to cases of violations of state criminal laws. This verification can be the starting point for the candidate's criminal history check.
  • State/Nation criminal records check. Searches of state and national criminal records help widen the inquiry and increase the chances of discovering past convictions, if any.
  • Sex offences registry check. This check includes, in addition to a check of conviction records, a check of registered sex offender lists. Usually, states hold centralised information that helps check if a candidate has ever been convicted for a sex offence.
  • Global homeland security search. Most countries, through their foreign offices, facilitate criminal record searches on global terror watch lists.


DBS Checks: The Criminal Records Check in the UK

In the UK, the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check is the official way to verify an individual's criminal history. 

These checks are essential for employers to ensure the safety and security of their workplaces. Importantly, DBS checks come in different levels, each revealing varying degrees of detail about an individual's criminal past. Employers must adhere to strict guidelines when requesting DBS checks, ensuring the level sought aligns with the responsibilities and sensitivities of the role in question.

Here’s an Employer’s Guide to DBS Checks in the UK, and How It Helps Safeguard the Vulnerable Adults

Veremark can streamline the process of DBS checks. We offer full-automated verification for all levels - basic, standard, and enhanced - and can get you the results in 24 hours. 

Past Employment Verification

This is a crucial background check that employers need to perform to verify a candidate's past employment history to establish suitability for the role. This check is essentially used to verify that the employment history as claimed by the candidate is true. The past employment verification enables hiring firms to examine the candidate's prior work history and uncover insights such as - the record of job stability, nature of work experience, supervisory/leadership experience, etc. This check also helps uncover any gaps in employment which can be discussed - should the candidate be shortlisted for consideration for the role. The past employment verification establishes:

  • Job start/end dates
  • Positions held
  • Description of responsibilities discharged
  • Reason(s) for exit
  • Details of compensation/perks

Considering the alarmingly high frequency of exaggerated and fraudulent employment history claims, this check also serves as a good proxy for the candidate's honesty and integrity.

background check for employment

Employment Checks in the UK

In the UK, checking a candidate’s employment history pretty much follows the same process of contacting previous employers. However, there are several ways to streamline the process. 

One is to access Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) 5-Year History. This gives you access to the relevant details like start and end dates and name of the company. It ensures accuracy because the companies themselves submit this to HMRC. Learn more about HMRC’s 5-Year Employment History here

Another option is to conduct an Instant Employment Check. Veremark offers Instant Employment Verification to reduce your time-to-hire and help ensure that you’re hiring the right people with relevant skills. Learn more about our service here

Education Verification

Quite often, candidates try to pass off mere attendance at a course as having graduated. Many firms consider education verification as not being as important as some other checks, such as criminal history checks and past employment checks. 

However, exaggerated claims of academic achievement and educational qualifications are also very rampant. Such misrepresentations can only be verified through an education verification check, and left unverified can have a substantially adverse impact on hiring outcomes. 

This check essentially confirms if the educational qualifications claimed by the candidate are true. Certain jobs, by law, require the incumbent to have specialised education/certification/training. Education checks enable employers to validate such qualifications to present to the authorities should the need arise. 


Singapore’s MOM Education Verification

In Singapore, it’s a requirement for employers to check a candidate’s education attainment. 

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) constructed a strict process to make sure that a person’s education is not only authentic, but that the awarding-institution is also accredited by relevant authorities. 

Veremark is MOM-accredited to conduct this education verification. Learn more about our MOM Education Verification Package here

Reference Check

Employers commonly ask candidates to furnish references from the firms where they worked previously. The reference check is a means to ascertain qualities such as attitude to work, professional competencies, ethics, leadership abilities, teamwork, etc. The reference check also helps verify claims of past accomplishments and professional contributions made in previous companies. 

How to Conduct Reference Checks

Reference checks may be carried out via mail/e-mail, an in-person meeting, or via a telephone call. 

  • Reference check via mail/e-mail is the least effective. Answering a questionnaire can be off-putting, and this mode is inherently difficult to use in any kind of inquiry that requires back-and-forth communication. 
  • An in-person meeting with the reference presents itself as the best option. Still, it is seldom used because of the difficulty in coordinating a mutually suitable time and the additional cost that it entails (for travel, the meeting(s), etc.). 
  • A telephone call is the most viable option - it occupies the middle ground between mailing and in-person discussions, allows a back-and-forth conversation, and is low on cost.

Oftentimes,the most pressing concerns when it comes to conducting reference checks are the time it takes to complete the check and how it can be labour-intensive. The best way to eliminate these roadblocks is to partner with a reliable background screening service, such as Veremark. We have a team to conduct the reference interviews for you, so you can save time and money and focus on other core tasks for your business. 

background checks for employment

How Is A Reference Check Different From A Background Check?

A reference check is done to gain insights into the candidate's abilities for on-job performance. The reference check is performed using the references (previous manager/colleagues) provided by the candidate.

Background checks help verify the candidate's professional experience and credentials. The background check verifies the employment record, criminal record, credit history, etc.

What Is A Back-Door Reference Check?

A back-door reference check describes the situation when an employer decides to check with people that the candidate had not provided as professional references. These references could be former managers/colleagues that the employer finds who they believe will be able to provide a more objective assessment of your abilities. The same laws as for regular reference checks also apply for back-door reference checks.


Drug Screening

Jobs in certain specific industries, such as aviation, road transport, etc., have a special requirement for periodic drug and alcohol testing to be performed. These tests are used to determine if alcohol or other banned/illegal drugs are present in the screened person's bloodstream. For employees in the above industries, these tests help verify that they are mentally fit, physically unimpaired, and are therefore physically and mentally fit to carry out their assigned jobs. Drug screening by firms further the wider societal cause of fighting substance abuse. Drugs/substance abuse by employees lowers workplace productivity, and such employees, if not screened out, will be a potential risk to their colleagues, customers, and the wider society in general.

The drug tests typically vet candidates for the use of illegal drugs such as methamphetamines, THC (marijuana, cannabinoids), Cocaine, Opiates, Phencyclidine, etc.

Why Is It Important To Conduct Pre-Employment Screening For Drug Use?

Pre-employment drug screening is critical to ensure workplace safety. The significance of drug screening is higher in safety-sensitive jobs. Drug/alcohol use among employees increases the frequency of accidents, increases absenteeism, lowers productivity, injury claims, and increases injury/compensation claims. Screening for drug usage mitigates risks associated with hiring an employee with a history of substance abuse.

Learn more about Health and Drug Screening here

Sexual Offences Check

The sexual offender check helps prevent hiring someone with a previous history of sexual offences. Undertaking this check mitigates the risk of sexual offences and other related acts of violence being committed in the workplace. The checks also help ward off allegations of inadequate due diligence/negligent hiring, and protect against damages claims. 


Credit Background Check

The credit background check examines a candidate's credit history. The credit history is sourced from recognised and reputed credit agencies. Many countries/states have regulations that stipulate that the concerned person is to be informed and their express permission obtained before undertaking credit checks. This test helps establish if the prospective hire is financially responsible. This check assumes special significance for senior hires in the finance/financial services industries.

How Is A Credit Background Check Done?

After the hiring decision has been made, firms usually avail of the services of the third-party agency for the credit background check. The check is meant to reveal information on the candidate's debt record, credit card debt, mortgage/car payments, student loans, and the payment history on these debts, including details of any late payments. Credit report, as required by law, does not include the date of birth and credit score.

What Laws Govern Credit Background Checks?

For example, in the US, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) stipulates the rules for employment background checks, including credit checks. Specifically for credit checks, the FCRA stipulates that:

  • The employer must obtain the written consent of the candidate before initiating the credit check.
  • The credit report cannot include adverse information more than seven years old and bankruptcies more than ten years old.
  • The candidate can be discriminated against because they filed for bankruptcy.
  • Suppose some information contained in the credit report becomes the basis for rejection. In that case, the candidate must be informed of the same, and the contact details of the third-party agency that conducted the check must be shared with the candidate. 
  • A copy of the credit report must be shared with the candidate if it becomes the basis for their rejection.
  • The candidate has the right to contest the findings of the credit report.
  • Some states in the US have laws that restrict the use of credit checks only to jobs involving financial transactions or confidential information. 
  • In the US, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) oversees how the credit check reports are used by employers.

Social Media Behavior Check

The social media check provides information that helps form a 'rounded' assessment of the prospective hire. Suppose a candidate is posting hateful, sexist, homophobic, or racist comments online. In that case, such information gives a fuller picture of the candidate's thinking and makes it easier to come to a hiring/rejection decision. This check is done in addition to the regular background and reference checks. 

Facts About Social Media Checks

The usefulness of the adverse media checks can be assessed from the fact that a survey in 2014 done by CareerBuilder revealed that 51% of the firms, which commissioned a social media search on candidates, discovered reason(s) not to hire them. The same survey also found that 33% of respondents became more likely to hire the candidate based on the information revealed during the social media check, and another 23% were actually led to hiring the candidate.  


Why Social Media Checks Should Be Handled with Caution

The adverse media checks need to be undertaken with caution because the information is sourced from the candidate's Facebook, X, Instagram, TikTok, or LinkedIn accounts and are therefore unverified. A fuller assessment made possible by social media checks helps in the hiring of a quality candidate. Social media checks can also uncover discrepancies between what was posted on social media accounts and what was said during the hiring process or on the resume.

Firms need to be aware of the regulatory requirements around privacy laws when accessing people's social media accounts. Also, several countries/states bar adverse action based on off-work activities/conduct of people. The exceptions to this regulation are defined very narrowly, and firms need to be aware of these. Following a social media search, a decision not to hire a candidate based on age, race, religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc., may be deemed discriminatory. To prevent legal risk, firms often choose to hire the services of third-party agencies for these checks. 

Why Are Social Media Background Checks Important?

A social media background check to scan a candidate's social media posts for objectionable behaviour reduces risks to brand, reputation, data security, and breach of confidential information. 

In-House Versus Professional Social Media Checks

While the business case for conducting a social media check has been established, firms still debate whether the process should be done in-house or should be outsourced. In-house checks done without specialised knowledge could lead to a breach of regulations and legislation. Also, improper interoperation of the information gleaned could lead to an incomplete or incorrect picture of the candidate.

Generally, professional social media checks use smart-search techniques and behaviour analysis tools while also being legislation/HR guidelines-compliant. This delivers an objective, regulation-compliant, complete and rounded evaluation of the candidate.

Driving Record

A check of the candidate's driving record is used to discover details of the candidate's records of traffic accidents, driving record points, driver's licence status, instances of 'driving under the influence', and other traffic violations/fines/convictions. A majority of countries/states legally mandate obtaining the candidate's permission to run this check. Details of the candidate's name as recorded in the driver's licence, date of birth, address, driving licence number, place/date of issue, and so on, together with the individual's permission, would be required to undertake the check. This is to comply with all the requirements of the applicable fair credit reporting regulations.

These checks may not be necessary for all positions but are absolutely essential for roles that require the candidate to drive as a part of the role (delivery drivers, transporter, ambulance drivers, etc).


Professional License and Certifications Check

Claims of exaggerated or false professional credentials are very common on job applications and resumes. Not verifying the validity of the claimed professional qualification can lead to hiring or promoting a candidate who is not professionally qualified for the role.

Social Security Number Trace/Identity Check

Most countries have some system of a social security number/employment authorization. This check is used to verify the candidate's identity to establish that they truly are who they claim to be. A social security number trace helps verify if the personal information furnished by the candidate is factual. The identity checks also help establish the eligibility of the candidate to work in a particular country.

Identity checks are especially important if you hire across various countries, such as with multinational companies. Learn more about Identity Checks here

Global Sanctions Check

The global sanctions check searches for candidate information held with international regulatory/law enforcement agencies, sanctions bodies, and financial regulators. The global sanctions check helps uncover any violations by the candidate connected with financial irregularities, securities fraud, money laundering, drug trafficking, terrorism, unauthorised sharing of restricted technologies, etc.


Civil Offences Check

A civil offences check provides additional information that helps verify that the selected candidate is a good fit for the company's culture and will be a positive force driving the business towards its goals. The civil check is also known by many other names: civil litigation checks, civil litigation history, civil litigation search, or civil records/court search. 

How is Civil Check Different from Criminal Records Check?

A civil offence check differs from a criminal offence check in one key aspect. Civil law aims to offer a remedy to a civil offence/situation/dispute between private individuals/companies by providing financial compensation. On the other hand, criminal law stipulates punitive action to deter people from committing criminal offences. 

What Do Civil Checks Look Into?

Civil proceedings against an individual might be financial such as - debt relief orders, breach of contract, Individual/fast track voluntary arrangements, and bankruptcy-related orders.

Civil proceedings may also include cases of personal injury - road accidents, medical negligence, etc. Or, civil proceedings could involve employment disputes related to discrimination or breach of contract.

Once the findings of the civil offences check have been received, to arrive at a final hire/reject decision, one could ask oneself questions such as:

  • If the candidate has a long history of debt, are they suitable for a position with financial responsibility?
  • Is not a candidate with multiple personal injury claims not likely to take time off to deal with claims?
  • Are any judgments, in respect of the candidate, likely to create additional work for the HR/payroll departments?
  • Is not a candidate, who has a history of making compensation claims against previous employers, not likely to do the same to your firm?

Bankruptcy Check

A bankruptcy/insolvency search checks the financial solvency of the prospective hire. Bankruptcy is declared when an individual is legally assessed as being unable to repay debts owed to creditors. Insolvency is a situation when an individual is unable to repay debts within a stipulated/agreed time frame. 

The bankruptcy check helps assess the financial viability of the individual and uncovers information of any past bankruptcy/insolvency declarations. The findings of these checks are indicative of the individual's financial integrity, financial responsibility, and ability to manage financial decisions. 

In some instances, a person legally declared bankrupt may even be barred from holding any position entailing financial responsibility or from any direct/indirect role in the management of a business. The bankruptcy checks thereby help minimise the firm's financial and people risk by providing protection from dubious candidates/companies. 

When Are Bankruptcy/Insolvency Checks Recommended?

Typically, these checks are recommended under two circumstances: 

  • When hiring for senior positions entailing considerable financial autonomy/responsibilities.
  • When assessing the financial trustworthiness of individuals/companies planned to engage with - hires, buyers, sellers, business partners, etc.

Financial Regulations Check

The financial regulations check helps verify if the candidate, under consideration, has in the past handled responsibilities related to financially regulated activities. The checks will reveal information of any past disciplinary action(s) initiated by the concerned financial regulatory authority, or financial sanctions imposed by any country. This check is especially important for roles in the financial services industry.

employee background checks

Psychometric Tests

Psychometric tests are conducted to assess a candidate's performance concerning skills, knowledge, ability, personality traits, and job/academic potential. The three key areas of psychometric tests are - aptitude tests, behavioural tests, and assessment centres.

Psychometric testing involves, besides responding to the test questions, dealing with time constraints.

  • Aptitude Tests. Administered to assess candidate's cognitive abilities - numeracy, literacy, and spatial abilities.
  • Behavioural Tests. These tests help reveal a candidate's personality traits. These traits indicate suitability/unsuitability for particular roles.
  • Assessment Centers. Administered via human interaction assessments. The exercises require the use of job-specific skills. Simulations are carried out by trained assessors/psychologists.

Types of Psychometric Tests

  • Numerical Tests. These tests may be of two types - numeracy tests and numerical reasoning tests. The tests are intended to assess the candidate's ability to interpret and answer questions related to graphs, tables, sequences of numbers, and numerical word problems.
  • Verbal Tests. Tests of verbal ability facilitate the assessment of the ability to comprehend the meaning and tone of written information. Usually, the tests require the candidate to undertake an analysis of a given text and answer linguistics-based questions.
  • Logical Reasoning. These tests are normally non-verbal in nature. Logical reasoning tests require candidates to answer questions based on: 
  • Abstract reasoning - Ability to come to logical conclusions based on information provided via shapes and patterns.
  • Inductive reasoning - Requiring the deciding of the next image or shape in a series.
  • Deductive reasoning - Test of the ability to apply a set of rules.
  • Diagrammatic reasoning - Tests of ability to arrive at logical conclusions from available non-verbal cues.
  • Technical Tests. These tests are for technical professionals (mechanics, technicians, etc.) to test their technical skills. Some tests may not require prior technical knowledge and are designed to test the candidate's aptitude to acquire new technical skills.
  • Spatial Reasoning Test. Assesses the ability to interpret 2D/3D images. 
  • Electrical and Mechanical Reasoning Test. Test of the level of knowledge of electrical and mechanical concepts.
  • Error-Checking Tests. These tests enable the assessment of an individual's ability to pay attention to detail and the ability to discover errors in the presented information.
  • Concentration Checks. For roles such as administration, accounting, pilots, etc., these tests help evaluate the ability to complete tasks accurately under time constraints.

International Background Check

An employer wishing to hire top talent may target candidates globally. In such cases, the employer can run an international background check in addition to the regular employment background check. The international background check verifies international criminal records, education, and employment. 

Gamer Profile Check

‍ A new age profile check, not strictly connected to the hiring process, but one that is growing as rapidly as the growth of the gaming ecosystem. To play a game online or offline, one requires to have a gaming profile. Scamsters attempt to enter gaming groups/communities through fraudulent and fake profiles. To create a secure gaming environment, gamers' KYC details are verified to screen out fraudulent gamers. 

Background checks help a firm build a trusted team by mitigating hiring risk. Background checks facilitate fair, objective, and informed hiring decisions. Through diligent background checks, firms can create a safe workplace, guard against liability claims, comply with federal, state, and industry laws, and most critically protect the firm's hard-earned reputation. 

Why Is The Employee Background Check Undertaken?

Employers undertake background checks on prospective hires, especially for roles that have security implications or are positions of trust. Examples include jobs in the government, airports, financial institutions, law courts, hospitals, educational institutions, etc. The objective of employee background checks is to safeguard the organisation's reputation and brand value and guarantee the safety and security of the existing employees.

Background checks are a reliable source for judging a prospective hire's character and suitability for the role. The checks help prevent safety and security risks that may arise from a specific hire. Typically, the checks are undertaken to verify the information furnished by the job candidate on the employment application and the resume. Furthermore, background checks are sometimes used to choose between applicants and pick the one most suited for the role. The background checks process is governed by related regulations to prevent its use for unlawful purposes, such as discrimination (religious, racial, gender, etc.), privacy violation, and identity theft.

When Is The Employment Background Check Conducted?

The background checks are typically done before making an offer to the candidate. Some firms issue the offer letter subject to a satisfactory background check report. Some other employers issue the offer letter with a 60/90 day probation period. This duration is used to assess the performance of the hire and also to undertake background checks. If the results turn out to be unsatisfactory, the employer could legally withdraw the offer. The employers may also conduct them during the early stage of onboarding.

We Can Help!

At Veremark, we work with organisations - both big and small, by taking care of all your background check requirements. We guarantee that all our checks adhere to the relevant legislation, improving your compliance. With no long-term contracts or lock-in period, you can simply order for the checks you need. 

Our fully-automated, award-winning software is trusted by the world’s best workplaces to verify the credentials and integrity of existing or prospective employees while also delivering the best candidate experience. Hand us your background check worries so that you can focus on what matters the most - the business.

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What background check do I need?

This depends on the industry and type of role you are recruiting for. To determine whether you need reference checks, identity checks, bankruptcy checks, civil background checks, credit checks for employment or any of the other background checks we offer, chat to our team of dedicated account managers.

Why should employers check the background of potential employees?

Many industries have compliance-related employment check requirements. And even if your industry doesn’t, remember that your staff have access to assets and data that must be protected. When you employ a new staff member you need to be certain that they have the best interests of your business at heart. Carrying out comprehensive background checking helps mitigate risk and ensures a safer hiring decision.

How long do background checks take?

Again, this depends on the type of checks you need. Simple identity checks can be carried out in as little as a few hours but a worldwide criminal background check for instance might take several weeks. A simple pre-employment check package takes around a week. Our account managers are specialists and can provide detailed information into which checks you need and how long they will take.

Can you do a background check online?

All Veremark checks are carried out online and digitally. This eliminates the need to collect, store and manage paper documents and information making the process faster, more efficient and ensures complete safety of candidate data and documents.

What are the benefits of a background check?

In a competitive marketplace, making the right hiring decisions is key to the success of your company. Employment background checks enables you to understand more about your candidates before making crucial decisions which can have either beneficial or catastrophic effects on your business.

What does a background check show?

Background checks not only provide useful insights into a candidate’s work history, skills and education, but they can also offer richer detail into someone’s personality and character traits. This gives you a huge advantage when considering who to hire. Background checking also ensures that candidates are legally allowed to carry out certain roles, failed criminal and credit checks could prevent them from working with vulnerable people or in a financial function.

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State of Hiring and Background Checks Discrepancies

Veremark’s 2022 Annual Report is based on the background check data collected from over 100,000 checks from companies and professionals across 6 countries and 5 key industries last year.

This report focuses on the state of hiring and background check discrepancies and is an essential guide to all recruiters and HR professionals conducting hires, background checks and onboarding in 2022.

In this report, we discuss:  

  • What areas and factors can Background Checks discover?  
  • Where did the findings come from by country and sector?
  • Discrepancies by top 5 sectors
    • Fintech and Financial Services      
    • HR, Staffing and Recruiting      
    • Technology and Software      
    • Professional Services      
    • Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)
  • Discrepancies by top 6 countries
    • Estonia      
    • Singapore      
    • United Kingdom      
    • Australia & New Zealand      
    • India      
    • Philippines
Get your own copy!