A background check is a way to find information about someone that may not be readily available, and individuals and institutions choose to conduct them for a whole host of reasons. They are conducted through third party institutions and are meant to provide a picture of an individual's character based on past actions and records. These checks reveal information about an individual's professional, financial, criminal, and public history, and they include everything from speeding tickets to time spent in jail, bankruptcy to employment history.
When a person applies for a job, there is a good chance that his prospective employer will perform a background check in order to look into his professional and criminal record. If that applicant had seven different jobs within the last tax year, the employer may wonder if he are a good candidate who will stick with the job.
Furthermore, the check will reveal any criminal record that the individual has. Many employers are wary of hiring people with any kind of a criminal record, and they usually specifically ask about arrests and convictions. It is important for applicants to be honest about this as the company is very likely find out about the person's record anyway. When applying for a job to work with children, a criminal background check is often required to prove that the applicant has never been convicted of committing a crime against a minor.
Some landlords also use back ground checks before allowing individuals to rent apartments and houses. If a tenant with a criminal record were to create problems with neighbors (who may also be the landlord's tenants in other units), the landlord could have a serious mess to deal with.
Individuals some times also conduct background checks for personal reasons. Some dating safety sites advise women to consider conducting one at the beginning of a relationship, or even before the first date. While some people feel that doing this may stem more from paranoia than practicality, others argue that it is better to know everything up front.
There are many companies and services that offer these services to the public, and their price and comprehensiveness varies from service to service. A quick online background check can immediately provide basic information about a person in question, but a comprehensive one can take longer to compile and can cost a significant amount of money.