How To Read A Background Screening Report

November 2016

When you order a background screening report, whether for a tenant, employee or some other purpose, you might have a hard time understanding it. Reading a background screening report is not always straightforward, because these reports are often filled with terminology the reader is not familiar with. If you are trying to understand a background check report, here are some tips to help.

Know What the Background Check Contains

While each background check is going to be a little different from the next, it will contain much of the same information. The first section or page on the background report will list the applicant's information, including name, address and the last few digits of his or her Social Security number.

After this initial information, you will receive the background check information you ordered. This typically includes criminal records checks, Social Security number verification, and checks and credit checks. It may also include employment and rental history. Some of the information is self-explanatory, but you may come across some terms you don't understand, particularly in the criminal background check section.

Common Terminology on Criminal Background Checks

If you ordered a criminal background check, you will find a number of items listed that are not necessarily criminal convictions. Reading a background screening report requires understanding these terms, which may include: 

  • Adjudication withheld — This means the accused individual essentially admitted to the charges without actually accepting a guilty judgment.
  • Deferred judgment — The defendant is not found guilty and judgment is deferred to give the defendant time to comply with conditions set forth by the judge.
  • Dismissal — The case was dismissed with no further consideration, often due to lack of evidence.
  • Nolo contendere/no contest — The defendant pled no contest to the charges without admitting guilt, and is therefore found legally guilty.
  • Nolle prosse/nolle prosequi — A type of dismissal when there is insufficient evidence in the case.
  • Diversion program — A work or educational program required by the court.

If you see problems like these, you may want to dig a little deeper to find out what really happened and ensure that the individual is safe.

Understanding the Credit Portion

If you ordered a credit check, and need to know that the individual is financially responsible, dig deeper than just the credit score. Some individuals will have problems in their past — like a bankruptcy or foreclosure — that they have since recovered from. However, the credit score will not reflect those improvements for many years. Take the time to look at the history, which will show if the individual has learned from past mistakes and is making wise financial decisions now.

If you are spending the money on a background check report, take the time to understand the data you are receiving. If you are in the market for a background screening, contact Global Verification Network for a free quote on the reports that will meet your needs.

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