Best Free Background Check for Employment

In 2024, conducting employment background checks is more important than ever for employers. With identity theft and embellished resumes on the rise, employers need to verify that candidates are who they say they are and have the qualifications and history they claim.

However, traditional background checks through third-party agencies can be expensive. The good news is there are now many free resources online that enable employers to conduct basic background checks themselves.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through all the steps for performing free background checks on job candidates in 2024—from what sites to use to what details to look out for.

What is a Background Check Service?

A background check service is a company that conducts background checks and screenings on individuals for employers, organizations, or other entities. Some key things to know about background check services:

  • They access public records and proprietary databases to look into a person’s history to uncover any red flags or relevant information according to the client’s needs.
  • Typical checks include identity verification, employment history, education history, criminal records, sex offender status, credit reports, and driving records. Some services also conduct drug tests or global watchlist searches.
  • Background check services allow employers to outsource screening processes rather than conduct time-intensive manual checking themselves. This saves HR resources.
  • These services must adhere to legal compliance standards like the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) around acquiring and sharing personal information.
  • Leading background check companies include Sterling, Checkr, GoodHire, FirstAdvantage, HireRight and many others catering to business, nonprofit and government screening needs across various industries.
  • Background check services utilize large database networks, automated workflows and dedicated analyst teams to research and compile background reports on individuals as needed per client criteria.

Background check services conduct relevant personal and professional vetting of individuals on behalf of employer clients to inform hiring and other business decisions. Their access to data and screening expertise provides efficiency and legal coverage around sensitive screening processes.

Why Perform Employment Background Checks

Before getting into the specifics on how to conduct free background checks, let’s review why verifying candidate backgrounds is so essential for employers in the first place:

Confirm Candidate Identities

With rampant identity theft today, you need to ensure the person applying for a job is who they claim to be. Free background checks allow you to cross-reference candidate information and photos across various databases online to verify identities.

Validate Resumes and Claims

Many job seekers unfortunately embellish or fabricate parts of their resumes. Free online background checks allow you to validate past employers, titles, education, certifications, honors/awards, and more that candidates have listed.

Assess Character and Compatibility

By searching a candidate’s name online, you can potentially uncover information related to their character, ethics, attitudes, political affiliations, and more that might impact your hiring decisions.

Adhere to Employment Regulations

Some industries require employers to conduct background checks by law, such as healthcare, education, financial services and any jobs involving interaction with vulnerable groups like children, elderly and disabled.

Failing to run adequate free online background checks could result in heavy fines or inability to obtain necessary business licenses if found non-compliant with relevant employment regulations.

Mitigate Legal Liability

If a future employee were to commit a crime like assault, theft, embezzlement or harassment on the job, employers can potentially be held legally liable for not properly vetting candidates ahead of time through adequate background checks.

Conducting thorough free online background screenings provides a layer of protection and due diligence.

Best Sites for Free Background Checks

Now that you understand the immense value of performing background checks, let’s explore the top free online resources available in 2024 to legally search candidate histories:

1. Google

Running a basic Google search on job candidates remains one of the most effective free background check methods. Oftentimes you’ll uncover social media profiles, previous employment information, criminal records, publications/writing samples, professional licenses and other relevant history.

Make sure to enclose full candidate names in quotation marks on Google to yield the most targeted name search results.

2. Facebook

Facebook remains the world’s largest social media site in 2024. Conduct Facebook searches to find candid photos, hobbies/interests, friend networks and other personal details that might provide additional candidate insights.

You can also cross-reference profile photos from Facebook with any IDs or headshots submitted by candidates to help validate identities.

3. LinkedIn

After Google and Facebook, LinkedIn is the next best free site for performing job candidate background checks in 2024. LinkedIn profiles provide a wealth of professional details often not found elsewhere like employment history, certifications, awards, leadership roles, skills, recommendations and professional affiliations.

As with Facebook, comparing any profile headshots against official ID photos can further help confirm candidate identities and honesty across sites.

4. Twitter

Similar to Facebook, searching candidate names on Twitter can uncover useful personal details related to opinions, interests, affiliations and character to help evaluate culture fit.

Use Twitter’s advanced search functions to surface the most relevant tweet content tied specifically to candidates.

5. Personal Websites

Many professionals highlight their backgrounds, achievements, publications, speaking engagements and other career highlights on personal websites or blogs.

Be sure to search any personal site URLs that candidates have included on resumes or LinkedIn to potentially uncover more details supporting their qualifications.

6. Professional Association Sites

If candidates belong to any professional groups or associations related to their work, you can sometimes verify previous employment details or achievement claims through registry searches on those association sites.

For example, specialized sites like the American Bar Association for lawyers, the American Medical Association for physicians and the American Institute of CPAs for accountants all offer member profile searches where you may uncover more insights on suitable job candidates who belong to those groups.

7. Court Records

One of the best free government sites for delving into a person’s past criminal and legal history is through court record searches. County courthouse sites often provide free public access to case details that can be searched by candidate name.

SearchQuarry also provides free access to national criminal record and court case databases indexed by name and state.

Be aware though that court record sites only cover cases a person was actively involved in as a plaintiff, defendant or witness. They do not contain full criminal background histories like an official paid report would include.

8. Sex Offender Registries

All states maintain publicly searchable online sex offender registries that employers should check as part of a comprehensive background screening process. Sites like the National Sex Offender Registry allow searches by specific names and locations.

While sex crime histories alone shouldn’t necessarily disqualify candidates, being fully informed about any past convictions can help evaluate culture fit. Certain offenses may also legally prohibit hiring people into jobs with exposure to vulnerable groups like children, healthcare patients and the elderly.

9. Obituaries

As shocking as it sounds, some devious job seekers have fabricated resume credentials using the names of recently deceased professionals. But a quick name search on sites like can easily uncover any duplicate identities using death records readily searchable by name and location.

If any candidates share names with recently deceased people, be sure to pay extra attention to validating their claimed backgrounds against available records before making final hiring decisions.

Details to Research in Free Background Checks

Now that you know where to access free background history in 2024 on job candidates, let’s explore the types of specifics to research:

5 Main Categories to Research

  1. Identity – Name, Age, Aliases
  2. Contact Information – Address History, Emails, Phone Numbers
  3. Employment – Companies, Titles, Dates, Responsibilities
  4. Education – Schools, Degrees, Dates
  5. Criminal & Court Records

Diving deeper, here are 25+ specific personal and professional details on candidates worth researching:

Personal Details

  • Full Legal Name & Age
  • Current + Past Addresses
  • Phone Numbers
  • Email Addresses
  • Aliases / Alternate Names
  • Photos + Physical Features
  • Family Members
  • Political Affiliations

Employment Details

  • All Past Companies & Titles
  • Employment Dates
  • Manager Names
  • Colleagues
  • Responsibilities
  • Achievements
  • Skills
  • Salary Histories
  • Terminations

Education Backgrounds

  • Degrees Earned
  • Schools Attended
  • Coursework
  • Test Scores
  • Honors + Awards

Activity Traces

  • Social Media Posts
  • News Articles
  • Books/Publications
  • Speeches/Talks
  • Professional Licensure

Legal History

  • Criminal Charges
  • Court Cases
  • Bankruptcies
  • Tax Liens
  • Arrest Records

Financial Background

  • Bankruptcy Filings
  • Foreclosures
  • Tax Liens
  • Wage Garnishments
  • Professional Licensure Status

5 Background Check Red Flags

While most past employer errors or youthful discretions should not automatically disqualify candidates, here are 5 specific background history red flags to be cautious about:

1. Identity Theft

Beware of unexplained gaps, conflicting past addresses or employers, aliases and other telltale identity inconsistencies uncovered in records that could signal potential ID theft or use of fake credentials.

Compare license photos side by side against social media profile pictures with facial recognition tools like PimEyes to validate matches.

2. Embellished Credentials

Inflated credentials happen all too frequently with savvy applicants name dropping impressive companies or overstating academic qualifications hoping employers won’t double check records for verification accuracy.

Carefully confirm listed employers, titles, education levels, graduation dates, licenses, test scores and responsibilities against all available records online to pinpoint any embellished CV gaps needing explanation.

3. Violent Offenses

While past minor offenses like petty theft or public intoxication charges from long ago normally warrant little concern—more serious violent offenses, sexual crimes or recent theft convictions could warrant deeper scrutiny before extending any job offers.

Evaluate case timing, circumstances, sentencing and rehabilitation efforts to properly assess potential ongoing risks.

4. Discriminatory Social Media

Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic language frequently spouted on social media not only contradicts most corporate culture values–it also elevates litigation risks if views ever influence workplace decisions on colleagues unfairly later on.

Note any highly opinionated intolerant mindsets uncovered online potentially at odds with fostering inclusive equal opportunity team environments before hiring.

5. Dishonesty Patterns

Systematic embellishment across education, credentials, skills and responsibilities could signal poor integrity or lack accountability. Verify paper record accuracy to pinpoint any consistency issues suggesting unreliable candor going forward.

Best Background Check Practices

Beyond where to uncover criminal histories, here are 5 vital practices for conducting free employment background checks legally and responsibly:

Get Signed Permission

Always have candidates sign formal consent and disclosure forms outlining background check scope BEFORE you begin verifying applicant details. Failing to get upfront permission can violate privacy laws and invite lawsuits.

Stay Within Scope

Only research history details directly relevant for evaluating job qualifications. As tempting as it might be, avoid prying into information unrelated to legitimate business interests. Stick to career facts around education, skills, employers and character.

Consult Legal Counsel

If you ever uncover any potentially serious red flag findings around violence, theft, fraud or falsehoods, consult attorney counsel right away on appropriate next steps for compliant decision making conforming fully with “Fair Chance” hiring laws before taking adverse actions based solely on background reports.

Disclose Reports

Known as “adverse action” requirements, you must share full copies of any background investigation reports with candidates BEFORE making final determinations allowing them fair chances to dispute or explain any flagged findings.

Secure Storage + Data Disposal

Protect applicant private data with encryption security safeguards. And safely destroy background check files containing personally identifiable information on candidates post-hiring per secure data retention/destruction statutes. Don’t maintain unnecessary archives.

How to Run a Free Pre-employment Background Check Service?

Here are the basic steps to run your own free pre-employment background check service:

  1. Obtain consent from applicants to conduct the background check. Have them sign a disclosure form allowing you to run checks on them for job screening purposes.
  2. Search public records online for core identity information like full legal name, previous addresses, phone numbers, emails or aliases. Use sites like Spokeo, TruthFinder, Nuwber and PeopleFinder.
  3. Search court records for any civil litigation or criminal convictions tied to applicants. Check online databases on county court websites as well as state court case look up sites.
  4. Run sex offender checks via official state sex offender registry sites searchable by name and location. The U.S. Department of Justice NSOPR site lets you find state databases.
  5. Look for newspaper mentions about applicants related to crimes, achievements, society news reports or other items relevant to assessing character and integrity using Google News tab searches.
  6. Search social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and LinkedIn for additional clues into any concerning or illegal behavior displayed publicly online across past posts and images.
  7. Compile findings into a background check summary report detailing all history unearthed, any discrepancies flagged and final pass/fail hiring recommendation based on role risk assessment.

Be sure to follow all legal compliance practices around consent, securing records storage, data privacy and allowing applicants chances to dispute any adverse findings as part of this process before finalizing hiring decisions. Treat it as rigorously as paid screening solutions within the constraints of free public data access.

How to Get a Totally Free Background Check?

Here are the best ways to get a totally free background check on someone:

  1. Search Your Own Name The easiest free background check you can do is on yourself. Most background check sites like Truthfinder, Instant Checkmate and BeenVerified offer free name-only searches or free trials allowing basic identity checks.
  2. Ask Friends/Family to Search Your Name Get people close to you to search your name during their free trials with background check sites. This avoids needing to input any payment info yet still surfaces core identity, address and court case alerts tied to your name.
  3. Government Sites All government sites with public records provide totally free access including statewide court/criminal record databases, county clerks’ records, sex offender registries, prison inmate locators and some state police repositories.
  4. Search Engines Enter the person’s full name in quotes on Google, Bing or other search engines. Filter results by date relevance since anything reported online can provide clues around arrests, court cases, bankruptcies or aligned with a known age or location.
  5. Public Libraries Libraries frequently offer patrons free access to paywalled databases with background check capabilities like the library edition of BeenVerified Premium or other commercial people search tools.

While less detailed than paid reports from screening firms, these free public record search methods can uncover plenty to enable basic employment vetting or personal history lookups completely free of charge.

How Long Does it Take to Perform a Background Check?

The amount of time it takes to perform a background check can vary greatly depending on the depth, the source(s) used, and whether it’s being done manually or using automation. However, here are some general timelines:

  • Basic Check – A basic instant check that searches available public records online and databases for core identity, address, and criminal convictions can usually be turned around in less than an hour.
  • Standard Check – A more comprehensive check that includes criminal searches, education/employment verification, credit reports and other common screening can typically be completed in 1-3 business days.
  • Global Check – For checks involving international locations, manual verification of multiple employers, or extensive global sanctions list screening, it may take 3-5 business days to gather and verify information across various global databases, contacts and languages.
  • Full Investigative Check – The most in-depth checks such as for government security clearances that involve agent fieldwork to interview associates, verify facility access histories worldwide, review tax statements and gather other confidential details can take 2-6 weeks given the intensive manual scrutiny.

Additionally, some delays could occur if record inaccuracies are found that require further research or if applicants dispute any adverse findings. Promptly responding to any requests for additional information can help expedite completion. But for most standard pre-employment screening needs, 1-3 days is typical turnaround.

What are the Different Types of Background Checks Available?

The most common types of background checks available include:

Identity & Address Verification – Confirms personal identifiers like full legal name, previous addresses, emails, phone numbers and aliases.

Criminal Records – Searches national and statewide repositories for any misdemeanor or felony criminal convictions.

Driving Records – Checks DMV files for license validity, traffic citations, at-fault accidents, DUIs and license suspensions.

Employment History – Verifies past employers, job titles, durations, salaries, duties and reasons for departures.

Credit History – Pulls credit reports highlighting bankruptcies, foreclosures, late payments, total debts and other financial red flags.

Education History – Validates degrees, certificates, institutes attended and any academic awards or disciplinary issues.

Sex Offender Registry – Cross-checks national and state-level registries for any sex crime prohibitions.

Global Watchlists – Screens worldwide sanctions, enforcement and exclusion databases tied to financial fraud or security threats.

Drug Testing – Conducts urine, hair, blood or saliva assays to detect presence of illegal substances per company policies.

Knowing these background check options allows tailoring appropriate screens based on role risks and areas of concern companies want to pinpoint during pre-employment vetting.

What to Look for in a Free Background Check?

When reviewing a free background check on a job candidate or any individual, here are the key details to look for:

Identity Accuracy – Is the name, birthdate, email, address and other personal details correct which is vital for valid criminal searches using this identifier data?

Verification Consistency – Do employers, education, timeline details, past residences align across checks or exist discrepancies suggesting inaccuracies?

Criminal Convictions – Does the record show any misdemeanors, felonies or sexual crimes relevant for your situation? Review severity and timing.

Financial Issues – Are there bankruptcies, tax liens, judgements or foreclosures possibly reflecting financial distress risks?

Concerning Digital Traces – Do news reports, social media posts or public records suggest any violent, illegal or morally questionable behavior?

Sex Offender Hits – Does the individual show up in state or national sex offender registries prohibiting their involvement with vulnerable groups?

Terrorist Watchlist Alerts – For sensitive roles, explore any ties to global enforcement watchlists related to fraud, security or other priority threats.

While free background checks won’t provide all details of a paid screening, scrutinizing these key areas within the accessible public data can still uncover most serious red flags necessary to avoid risky hiring situations or personal relationships.

What does a Background Check Report Show?

A background check report typically shows the following types of personal and professional details and histories on a subject:

  • Identity – Full legal name, alias names, date of birth, current and past home addresses, phone numbers, email addresses
  • Employment – Company names and locations, job titles and start/end dates, salary history, reason for departures, co-workers or managers, performance or disciplinary issues
  • Education – Names of schools attended, degrees achieved, years of graduation, extracurricular activities, any academic awards or issues
  • Criminal Record – Arrest data, traffic violations, publicly available court case information including criminal charges, case status and sentences served if applicable
  • Driving Record – License numbers and status, traffic offenses, DUI records, license suspensions or revocations
  • Credit History – Credit scores, history with on-time or late payments, bankruptcies, foreclosures, tax liens, outstanding debts or accounts in collections
  • Social Media – Publicly accessible content from social posts, images or media that may reflect negatively on character or contradict other provided information

The level of detail contained in a background check report will depend on what is available in public records or paid private databases accessed and the scope authorized by subjects who consent to checks about themselves. Key details uncovered are then consolidated into a neat summary report for ease of review.

The Future of Background Checks

Several emerging legal and technology trends promise to transform pre-employment background screens in coming years that employers should prepare for:

Stricter Legislation

Watch for tighter state and federal statutes around running background checks focused on enhanced fairness, accuracy and candidate rights. New “Fair Chance” laws will increasingly limit accessing or considering non-conviction arrest histories.

Automation Expansion

Advances in public data mining coupled with more affordable automation will expand small business employer access to fast, low cost automated background screening capabilities once only available from expensive human-led agencies.

Deeper Digital Traces

Expanding digital footprints across multiplying apps and sites will create exponentially more background data to yield more candidate insights – and also create more privacy protection complexities for employers to navigate responsibly.

Continuous Checks

With increasing workforce transience, one-time pre-hiring screens will give way to continuous background monitoring enabling employers to detect potential problems emerging among existing employees over time through automated data monitoring tools.

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