How Do Background Checks Work

Hiring manager performing online background check to show how background checks work

A background check is a common process used to gather more information about a person’s past activities, behaviours, and history to help with decision making. You can even run a background check on yourself. Here at Certn we provide personal background checks and background checks for businesses of all sizes.

What happens with the information that’s collected? The results of background checks are used by employers for hiring decisions, landlords for rental applications, institutions for security clearances, and more. Now that you know more about who might use them, in this blog post we answer the how question, “How do background checks work.”

How do background checks work for retail employee

How Do Background Checks Work

There are five standard parts of the background check process: consent, information gathering, verification, reporting, and decision making. Below we’ve covered each step to answer how do background checks work.

Consent and Authorization

Before conducting a background check, the individual being checked needs to provide written consent – it’s illegal to run a secret background check on someone. The authorization step is done through a signed release form or by reviewing and accepting online policies. The authorization is necessary to comply with privacy laws and regulations.

Information Gathering

After you consent, the vendor or entity conducting the background check collects information from various sources to build a comprehensive profile. The information may be collected manually or with the help of automation like in the Certn background check process. Certn’s online background check services are designed to handle a high volume of requests efficiently, making them suitable for businesses that need to process multiple background checks simultaneously.

The sources consulted in a check may include:

  1. Criminal Records: This involves checking local, state, provincial, and federal databases for any criminal history, including arrests, convictions, and other legal issues.
  1. Credit History: For certain checks, especially those related to financial matters, credit reports from credit bureaus might be examined to assess an individual’s financial responsibility. Whether a credit check is permitted as part of pre-employment job screening depends on where you live.
  1. Employment History: Verification of past employment, positions held, job duties, and reasons for leaving.
  1. Education Verification: Confirmation of educational degrees, certificates, and institutions attended.
  1. Reference Checks: Contacting provided references to gather information about the individual’s character, work ethic, and suitability for the role.
  1. Professional Licences: For jobs requiring specific licences or certifications, verification of the validity of these licences.
  1. Social Media and Online Presence: Some background checks might involve searching your public online presence to look for specific red flags or discrepancies that might impact your ability to perform a certain role.
  1. Driving Records: Especially relevant for roles involving driving, this checks for a history of traffic violations or accidents.
  1. Civil Records: This involves checking for any legal actions like lawsuits, bankruptcies, or other civil matters.


Once the information is gathered from various sources, it’s sometimes cross-checked for accuracy and authenticity. This ensures that the information provided by the individual matches the available records. Depending on the vendor that you use, the verification step may be manual or automated or a combination of the two. An example of where extra analysis could be helpful is in social media screening or where someone has a popular or common name. Manual intervention might also be needed if an automated identity verification process isn’t able to produce a match.


The background check vendor compiles the collected information into a report. This report is then provided to the requesting party, which could be an employer, landlord, institution, or individual. One of the benefits of working with a vendor like Certn is that all the information from multiple sources is available in one place inside your dashboard or hiring platform.

Decision Making

Based on the information in the report, the requesting party makes a decision. For example, an employer might decide whether to hire a job applicant, a landlord might decide whether to rent a property to a tenant, or an institution might decide on security clearance.

There you have it! That’s our answer to, “How does a background check work?”

verifying identity in how to background checks work

Online Background Checks for Faster Results

Now you know the answer to “How background checks work?” Incorporating background checks into your vetting process demonstrates a commitment to safety, integrity, and customer satisfaction, and by leveraging the insights from checks you can make even more informed decisions.

The best part is that with Certn, all this is possible…faster.

Certn can offer faster results compared to manual methods because we’ve automated the consent, information gathering and verification steps above. We use digital forms and consents that individuals can complete and sign electronically. This eliminates the need for physical paperwork and mailing, further expediting the process. We also use sophisticated algorithms to quickly retrieve, match, and cross-reference data from multiple sources. Finally, by allowing our clients to integrate background checks directly into their hiring or tenant screening workflows, they can save time and reduce the manual steps required in the reporting and decision making steps.

If you’re curious about screening the Certn way, or you still have questions about how do background checks work, book a demo to talk to one of our experts.