Background Screening Terms You Should Know

Whether you’ve been in human resources reviewing background checks for years or are just starting out, there are several terms you should familiarize yourself with. Understanding exactly what is in a report helps to ensure you’re able to make informed hiring decisions and comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Below are only a few of the terms we at Essential Screens think you should know:


  • Adjudication Withheld – When a court does not issue a final judgement regarding a case but instead gives the defendant probation or community service. This is a non-conviction.
  • Adverse Action – If information in an applicant’s background check is going to negatively impact the employer’s decision to hire the applicant, the employer must follow the adverse action process. The goal of adverse action is to provide transparency into the decision-making process and inform the applicant of their rights. Additionally, this allows applicants to dispute incorrect information in their report. You can learn more about what the process includes here:
  • Alias – Any name used in substitution of a legal name on official documents.
  • Arrest Warrant – Issued when law enforcement believes an individual has committed a crime.


  • Bench Warrant – Generally administered for failure to appear in court or for jury duty. Further, a bench warrant may be either a criminal or a civil warrant.


  • Concurrent Sentence – Occurs when there is a conviction of multiple crimes, a sentencing serviced at the same time as another sentence, as opposed to one after the other.
  • Consecutive Sentence – Occurs when there is a conviction of multiple crimes, a sentence that must be served one after the other, as opposed to being served at the same time.
  • Consumer – The individual who will be screened.
  • Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) – Can perform background checks and issue information to employers, creditors, and landlords. Essential Screens is a CRA.


  • Deferred Adjudication/Judgement – The case may be dismissed at a later point in time if the defendant complies with actions provided by the court, i.e., community service. Depending on the state, this may not be automatic, and the defendant may still have to file for dismissal after completing the provisions. This is a non-conviction.
  • Disposition – The court’s final decision in a case.
  • Dispute – When information in a background check reveals inaccurate or false information, the consumer has the right to dispute that information.
  • Diversion Program – To set aside. When a defendant has been found guilty and the court orders them to attend a work/education program as part of probation. If the program is completed, charge may be considered a non-conviction.


  • E-Verify – Web-based and federally managed, E-Verify is a system that helps employers in the U.S. to confirm the employment eligibility of their applicants and employees. This system is aimed at helping employers remain compliant.


  • Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) – The FCRA governs all companies conducting pre-employment background checks, as well as employers that utilize background screening services. The FCRA promotes accuracy, fairness, and the privacy of personal information compiled by CRAs. Learn more at:
  • Form I9 – A federal form that allows candidates to verify and attest to their legal residency or U.S. Citizenship.


  • Guilty in Absentia – When a jury issues a guilty verdict against the defendant, even though the defendant did not appear in court. This is a conviction.


  • Pre-Trial Diversion/Intervention – This is a program made available for the defendant to follow before they go to trial. If the defendant adheres to the program, the trial is cancelled, and the defendant is not convicted.


  • Stet Docket – When the court chooses to not prosecute an individual and the case is eligible to be reopened after one year if a violation is committed during that time. This is a non-conviction.
  • Suspended Sentence – Deferment of punishment, usually over a period of probation.


  • Unable to Validate SSN – Seen on an address trace, there are a variety of reasons this message may appear. Most commonly, the applicant may have recently been issued their SSN and have an insufficient amount of address history to be validated. This is not an indication of employment eligibility.


  • Waived – When a defendant forgoes their right to a trial and pleads guilty. This is a conviction.

This, of course, is not a complete list, but it does include some of our most frequently asked about terms. In any scenario that you are unsure of a term you may contact us at or call 308-381-2664.

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