In many cases, companies perform background checks on job applicants to get a better sense for their past work history, reliability and qualifications. Background investigations can include everything from interviews of past employers to education verification, court record checks and searches of motor vehicle and other government databases. The cost of a background investigation varies depending on which searches are included.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Depending on the components of a background check, the cost can vary. Individual searches, such as those of government databases or court filings, are priced separately, and range according to jurisdiction.
How Much Does a Background Check Cost?
The cost of a background check depends on the types of searches a company chooses to include. If you are conducting background checks through a paid agency, you will also be paying for their administrative time, as well as any phone interviews they conduct with past employers or checks performed to verify an applicant’s educational history. You can also conduct searches through a court or repository directly and pay only the administrative fees they charge.
When working with an agency, a search of county courts could cost around $20, which includes information on both misdemeanors and felonies. Statewide criminal searches can be less expensive, starting at about $10 and running up to $20. Investigations classified as “national background checks” by agencies actually just search a variety of state databases, as a “national” database is not available. These searches can cost as much as $45 each. Verification of an applicant’s Social Security Number or sex offender registry status costs around $10 on average since that information is more easily found in databases. The total cost of a background check would include any of the above components you selected and could be well over $100.
Can You Do a Background Check on Yourself?
You can conduct a background check on yourself. A number of websites allow you to search your address history, employment history, educational background and sex offender status for free. You should consider the source very carefully before acting upon any information found online, however. Reputable sites of this nature include TLO.com, a TransUnion site, and IRBsearch.com, a PeopleSmart site.
In addition, you are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major United States credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) once per year. This credit report will reveal only information related to loans, bankruptcies, liens and judgments.
Do Arrests Show Up on a Background Check?
Depending on the length of time that has passed since an arrest, it may or may not show up on a background check. Unless you have a record expunged, it can stay on your report indefinitely. However, certain types of records are limited under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a law protecting consumer rights in credit reporting. This legislation contains a “seven-year rule,” which requires that civil suits, civil judgments, arrest records and paid tax liens be removed from a consumer report after seven years. This applies to every state in the U.S. Some states prohibit reporting of these items completely.
If records are expunged, or sealed by a judge, they will not show up on a background check. This is true regardless of what the records were and how long ago the incidents occurred. However, some information can remain on the internet long after it has been expunged.
What Do They Look For in a Background Check for a Job?
Background investigations look for a variety of information that speaks to your character and provides an alert to any possibly problematic items in your past. Education and employment history indicate your reliability, skill level and qualifications for a particular position. Court record searches turn up many criminal records, except those protected by the FCRA and other consumer protection legislation. Department of Motor Vehicles searches reveal traffic violations to determine your capabilities as a driver, important for many jobs that involve transportation.
- Background Checks: What Do Background Checks Show?
- Electronic Code of Federal Regulations: Fair Credit Reporting Act
- Criminal WatchDog: How to Run a Personal Background Check on Yourself
- Federal Trade Commission: Free Credit Reports
- Criminal WatchDog: How Much Does a Background Check Cost?
- Federal Trade Commission: Fair Credit Reporting Act
- HireSafe: How Much Does a Background Check Cost?
- Personal Finance: How Much Does a Criminal Background Search Cost?