We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Government Background Check?

By Jessica Hobby
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Historical Index is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Historical Index, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

When American citizens choose to work for the federal government in positions that require access to classified information, they are required to undergo an intense government background check. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is responsible for conducting the majority of background checks for most federal agencies and their contractors. An executive order signed by President Eisenhower in 1953, gave OPM and other agencies the authority to regulate the security of federal personnel through the use of background investigations. Government background checks that aren’t performed by OPM are usually conducted by the Department of Defense or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The agency conducting the government background check has a first priority to make sure that the applicant is reliable, trustworthy and loyal to the United States. To what depth they investigate an applicant depends on the position that has been applied for. Positions that require the most access to classified information and that give an employee the opportunity to do the most individual harm, require a background check of the largest scope.

A government background check is regarded as the most thorough of background investigations, therefore, it is considered very intrusive by many people. The first step of a government background check requires an applicant to fill out a security questionnaire that has extremely personal questions on it. Additionally, applicants must be fingerprinted, so their prints can be entered into the computers of the FBI and confirm that they are not criminals.

Next, interviewers that work for whichever agency performing the government background check, find and locate people listed on the security questionnaire and others that may not be, so they may have an unbiased account of an applicant’s character. They will conduct interviews with an applicant’s friends, family, acquaintances, current employers, past employers and anyone they can find to give personal information to them about an applicant.

In addition, a credit report will be run to make sure there are no major credit problems with an applicant. Most government background checks take at least 30 days, and many of them 90 days or longer. The length of the investigation depends on the number of contacts an applicant has outside of the United States and the difficulty that an interviewer has contacting people on an applicant’s security questionnaire. After the pertinent information has been gathered about an applicant, adjudications officials at the agency requiring the investigation will evaluate the information communicate their recommendation to the appropriate personnel or security office.

Historical Index is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon351269 — On Oct 12, 2013

We normal citizens can do our part by doing our own background check on a person or stranger that we engaged for personal and business. You cannot afford not to in today's dangerous world. A look at the criminal records map of major US cities shows a very scary, high incidence of reports daily.

By anon168954 — On Apr 19, 2011

Are particular investigations made during World War II for employment in defense industries available to succeeding generations, especially if the persons are deceased and the information is needed for answering unknown information concerning these persons?

By Armas1313 — On Mar 02, 2011

In order to pursue employment in certain countries, FBI criminal background checks are required. The FBI is able to easily access any information that you have typed up on the internet at any time, and uses these things to assess your character and loyalty to your country. They also want to be sure that you are not willing to break the law. Ultimately, the primary trust is placed in your character as a person, and this is how they hire.

By Renegade — On Feb 28, 2011

The FBI will often check with neighbors and close friends to find out more about an individual during a background check. They are looking for any red flags that might come up because they don't want to be caught with their pants down.

Historical Index, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Historical Index, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.