Questions Frequently Asked by Job-Seekers

Following are some questions we receive from job seekers on a regular basis. We also have a one-hour long video presentation that you may find helpful in understanding the background check process from the point of view of the job seeker.

Why do employers run background checks?

Employers use background checks to evaluate job applicants and employees for employment, promotion, or retention. The information in the background check helps them make smart decisions about which candidates to hire or promote by giving them insight into candidate’s skills, experience, knowledge, safety, and judgment.

What is included in an employment background check?

Typically, employment background checks include research to corroborate an applicant’s identity claims (Are they who the say the are?), criminal histories, driving records, and verification of employment, licensure, and education claims. Less often but when appropriate to the job, employers may also look at your credit history, civil litigation and bankruptcy history, or even interview colleagues and acquaintances about your past behavior.

My prospective employer wants to run a consumer report on me? Does that mean that they are going to look at my credit?

“Consumer report” is the legal term used by the Fair Credit Reporting Act to describe background checks used by employers. It may include a credit report but most often does not. Anytime an employer buys criminal records, employment or education verifications, or other information about an applicant or employee, that information is a consumer report.

The employer does want to look at my credit. What will they see?

If an employer looks at your credit report, they will see information such as:

  • Public financial records (liens or judgments and bankruptcies)
  • Accounts placed in collections by your creditors
  • Your credit accounts (credit cards, student loans, mortgages, car loans, etc.) and the corresponding payment histories, balances, and credit limits.

One thing employers will not see is your credit score. Credit scores were developed to determine the likelihood that you will pay a debt. Credit scores were not designed to be predictive of your ability to perform a particular job competently, safely, or honestly. If an employer is actually seeing a credit score, something is wrong.

You can review your credit in advance of applying for a position for free by visiting This service, required by federal law, gives you free access to your credit report once a year. (Hint: You should do this at least once a year even if you aren’t expecting to look for a job or apply for a loan soon. The sooner you identify a mistake, the sooner you can get it corrected before it has a negative impact on you!)

Is my personal information safe with Imperative?

Yes! All of our information resides on secure servers in secure locations. We take your privacy very seriously, which means we strictly adhere to our privacy policy and never send your information to other countries for processing that can be completed in the United States. We are a founding member of Concerned CRAs, a group of over 200 background screening companies who follow consumer protection best practices.

I was told that another name is showing up during my identity search. How can I fix this?

When identity searches are conducted, a search of private information sources indicate whether the information you provide (name, date of birth, and social security number) match the information in consumer reference files (databases with information from credit bureaus, driver licenses, and other commercial firms).  If a different name is showing up when your social security number was searched, it is not necessarily an indication of fraud.  Also, this research is NOT a verification of the information held by the Social Security Administration.

The information can be incorrect for several reasons. It is not unusual to find different names in these databases due to past data entry errors (i.e. two numbers on an SSN get transposed). Sometimes another name will show up due to actual fraud. If someone uses another’s SSN to get credit, the fraudster’s name will often show up in the identity research.

Because these records come from myriad sources and are compiled into a single database, we cannot identify the original source of any single piece of information.

A recommended resource in which you can possibly remove these additional names from your identity search would be You can review your credit at no cost and federal law requires each of the three credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to give you a free credit report every 12 months if you ask for it. They also make it easy to accomplish many credit-related tasks right from your computer and ensure that the information on your credit report is correct and up to date.

Will my deferred adjudication case show up on my criminal history background check?

We often hear from job applicants who say “My lawyer said that if I accepted deferred adjudication, that case wouldn’t be on my record!”

When you enter a deferred adjudication program (also called pre-trial intervention, first-time-offender, and adjudication withheld programs), you typically enter a plea of guilty or no contest (you agree not to fight the state’s charges against you) and agree to serve probation (which may include staying out of trouble for a certain period of time, completing community service, passing regular drug tests, attending anger-management classes, or paying fines and making restitution). When you have completed the deferred adjudication probation, the court may dismiss the case against you. However, in most states, it is not automatically removed from your record.

What your lawyer probably should have said is that the case won’t show up on your record as a conviction.

Most states allow employers to consider dismissed criminal cases for up to seven years after the dismissal. Because you pled guilty or no contest, it is reasonable for an employer to believe that you engaged in the conduct alleged in the charges against you. They will then evaluate that conduct in light of the position for which you are being considered, including how long ago the conduct occurred and the severity of the conduct, along with the rest of the information you present during the application and interview process.

The criminal background check is wrong! It reported a criminal case that doesn’t belong to me! How do I fix it?

This is too common an occurrence. Some background check companies sell criminal records to employers without doing proper research to ensure that the records information reported belongs to the individual about whom it is being reported. This regularly happens when background screening companies rely on instant criminal background check databases.

Unfortunately, this puts the burden on you, the applicant, to get the information corrected. Contact the background check company and dispute the accuracy of the information. Under federal law, the company has 30 days to either verify that the information they reported is accurate, update it, or remove it from the report. If you request, they will also notify the employer of the changes to your report.

Imperative is a founding member of Concerned CRAs, a group of more than 200 background screening companies who oppose the sloppy use of criminal database information. We verify all records from any source directly with the originating jurisdiction to ensure that the information is accurate and up to date, making it extremely rare that we receive a dispute.
However, if you believe anything on your report is inaccurate, please contact us immediately! We will quickly research the information and, if necessary, update it. We don’t want our clients to miss out on a great candidate because of an error on the part of a court clerk or our own staff!