17 Background Investigator Interview Questions and Answers

Learn what skills and qualities interviewers are looking for from a background investigator, what questions you can expect, and how you should go about answering them.

Do you have a strong sense of justice? Are you good at paying attention to detail? If so, you might have what it takes to be a background investigator.

Background investigators are responsible for researching the backgrounds of individuals who are being considered for jobs, licenses, or other opportunities that require a clean record. They also investigate the backgrounds of people who are already employed or have been granted licenses.

To land a job as a background investigator, you’ll need to be able to answer questions about why you want to be a background investigator, as well as questions about your research and investigation skills. You’ll also need to be able to pass a background check yourself.

In this guide, we’ll provide you with some background investigator interview questions and answers to help you prepare.

Are you familiar with the Fair Credit Reporting Act?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a federal law that regulates how background investigators collect and use information about an individual’s credit history. This question helps employers determine whether you have the knowledge to complete your job responsibilities legally. In your answer, explain what this act is and why it’s important for background investigators to follow its guidelines.

Example: “I am familiar with the Fair Credit Reporting Act because I worked as a private investigator before becoming a background investigator. As a private investigator, I had to abide by the Fair Credit Reporting Act when gathering information on my clients’ targets. The Fair Credit Reporting Act protects individuals from having their personal information collected without consent or used in ways they don’t agree with. It also requires background investigators to be transparent about how we gather our information.”

What are the steps you take to conduct a thorough background investigation?

This question can help the interviewer understand your process for conducting background investigations. Use examples from past experiences to describe how you conduct a thorough investigation and what steps you take when reviewing an applicant’s or employee’s information.

Example: “I start by researching the person’s name, address and social security number to find out if there are any public records that I can access online. If not, I will contact the individual directly to request their permission to run a search on these details. Once I have this permission, I will use public record databases to look up any available information about the individual.

If I still cannot find anything, I will reach out to family members or friends of the individual to see if they know where the person is living currently. This helps me ensure that I am able to locate the individual in case something happens later.”

How would you conduct an investigation into a subject’s financial history?

Background investigators often need to gather financial information about a subject. This can include reviewing tax returns, credit reports and bank statements. Interviewers ask this question to see if you have experience conducting these types of investigations. In your answer, explain how you would go about gathering the necessary financial information for an investigation.

Example: “I would start by requesting the subject’s most recent tax return from the IRS. I would then request their previous three years of tax returns. Next, I would contact the subject’s banks and request copies of their checking account statements for the last two years. Finally, I would request a copy of their credit report from one of the major credit bureaus.”

What is the most important aspect of conducting a thorough background investigation?

This question is an opportunity to show the interviewer that you know how to conduct a background investigation and what’s important about it. Your answer should include two or three things that are most important when conducting a background check, such as accuracy, timeliness and confidentiality.

Example: “The most important aspect of conducting a thorough background investigation is ensuring that all information is accurate. I always make sure to confirm any information I find in public records by contacting the source directly. Another important part of conducting a background investigation is being timely with my reports. I understand that these reports can be used for making important decisions, so I take extra care to ensure they’re complete and delivered on time.”

Provide an example of a time when you discovered a lie during an investigation. How did you handle it?

An interviewer may ask this question to learn more about your investigative skills and how you apply them in the workplace. When answering, it can be helpful to provide an example of a time when you used your critical thinking skills to identify a lie during an investigation.

Example: “During my last background check, I discovered that one of the references provided by the applicant was not actually their friend as they claimed. After speaking with the reference again, they admitted that they had never met the applicant before but were paid to give positive feedback on their behalf. In situations like these, I always follow up with the applicant to ensure that they are aware of what happened.”

If you were given access to a subject’s social media accounts, how would you use them to your advantage during an investigation?

This question is a great way to assess how you would use social media in your background investigation. It also shows the interviewer that you understand the importance of using all available resources during an investigation. In your answer, explain what steps you would take to ensure you are following the law and ethical standards when accessing someone’s social media accounts.

Example: “I would first make sure I had permission from my supervisor before accessing any social media accounts. If given access to a subject’s social media accounts, I would look for inconsistencies between their online presence and their professional life. For example, if they claim to be a devout Christian but post about partying on Instagram, this could show me that they may not be as committed to their faith as they say. This information could help me determine whether or not they should be hired for the position.

What would you do if you discovered a mistake on a subject’s previous background check?

This question can help an interviewer determine how you handle mistakes and errors in your work. It also shows them that you are willing to take responsibility for your actions and learn from them. When answering this question, it can be helpful to mention a specific mistake you made on a previous background check and what steps you took to correct the error.

Example: “In my last position as a background investigator, I discovered a small but important detail missing from one of my subject’s background checks. The subject had listed their spouse as divorced when they were actually still married. This was a serious issue because the company I worked for required all employees to have no felonies or misdemeanors within the past five years. If convicted of fraud, the employee would lose their job.

I immediately contacted the subject and asked if they could provide me with more information about their divorce. They told me that they had not yet filed paperwork for their divorce and provided me with documentation proving this. I updated their file accordingly and informed my supervisor of the situation. My employer decided to keep the employee until the divorce was finalized.”

How well do you understand the differences between a criminal record and a criminal conviction?

This question is designed to test your knowledge of the law and how it applies to background investigations. It also helps employers determine whether you are likely to make mistakes in this area, which could lead to legal issues for their company. When answering this question, be sure to explain the differences clearly and concisely.

Example: “A criminal record refers to a person’s history of arrests or convictions. A criminal conviction means that a court has found someone guilty of committing a crime. In my previous role as a background investigator, I was responsible for reviewing both types of information when conducting a background check. I would first look at the individual’s criminal record to see if they had any prior convictions. If not, I would then review the details of each arrest to ensure there were no convictions.”

Do you have experience using public records databases to gather information on subjects?

Background investigators often use public records databases to gather information on subjects they’re investigating. Employers ask this question to make sure you have experience using these types of databases and can do so effectively. In your answer, share what type of database you used in the past and how you used it. Explain that you are familiar with several different types of databases and know how to access them.

Example: “I have worked with a variety of public records databases in my previous role as a background investigator. I am comfortable using both online and offline databases to find information on subjects. I prefer working with offline databases because I feel like they give me more accurate information than online ones. However, I understand that there is some value in using online databases.”

When conducting an interview, what methods do you use to ensure the subject is being truthful?

An interviewer may ask this question to assess your interviewing skills and determine how you apply them in the field. Your answer should include a specific example of how you used your methods to conduct an interview successfully.

Example: “In my last role, I conducted an interview with a subject who was applying for a position as a bank teller. The applicant claimed that they had no criminal record or traffic violations, but when I ran their name through our database, I found several speeding tickets from five years ago. When I asked about these tickets, the applicant said they forgot about them because they were so long ago. However, after further questioning, they admitted to lying on their application. I use this method often during interviews to ensure subjects are being truthful.”

We want to improve our hiring process. What changes would you make to the way you conduct background investigations?

This question is an opportunity to show your problem-solving skills and how you can improve the hiring process. You can answer this question by explaining what steps you would take to make improvements, such as increasing efficiency or reducing costs.

Example: “I would start by conducting a thorough job description analysis of the position I’m investigating. This will help me understand what the employer’s expectations are for the role so that I can tailor my investigation accordingly. Next, I would implement a more efficient background check system that allows me to gather information quickly and accurately. Finally, I would create a database where all of my findings are stored so they’re easily accessible in the future.”

Describe your process for organizing and storing information from a background check.

This question can help the interviewer understand how you organize and store information, which is an important part of this role. Your answer should include a specific process for organizing files and folders and storing data in a database or spreadsheet program.

Example: “I use a digital database to keep track of all my background check information. I start by creating a new case file for each person I’m conducting a background check on. Within that file, I create separate sub-files for different types of information, such as financial records, criminal history and employment history. Each sub-file has its own folder where I place documents related to that type of information.”

What makes you an excellent candidate to investigate someone’s background?

Employers ask this question to see if you have the skills and qualifications they are looking for in a background investigator. Before your interview, make sure you read through their job description so that you can tailor your answer to what they’re looking for. In your response, explain why you feel you would be an excellent candidate for the position by highlighting your relevant experience and skills.

Example: “I am an excellent candidate for this role because I have several years of investigative experience. I know how to find information on someone’s past and use it to determine whether or not they should get the job. I also understand the importance of discretion when investigating someone’s background. I will always keep any sensitive information confidential until my client releases it to the public.”

Which industries have you investigated in the past?

Background investigators often work in a variety of industries, including healthcare and financial services. Employers ask this question to make sure you have experience working in their industry. Before your interview, read through the job description to see which industries they conduct background checks for. If you have relevant experience, share it with them.

Example: “I’ve worked as a background investigator for over five years now. I started out doing investigations for small businesses before moving into larger organizations. In my current role, I do background checks for hospitals across the state. I enjoy being able to help people by ensuring that those who work in healthcare are qualified.”

What do you think is the most important aspect of a background investigation?

This question is your opportunity to show the interviewer that you understand what’s important in this role. A background investigator needs to be detail-oriented and have excellent communication skills, so it’s important to highlight these qualities when answering this question.

Example: “I think the most important aspect of a background investigation is accuracy. I take pride in my attention to detail and always make sure to double-check all information before submitting reports. Another important part of conducting an investigation is confidentiality. As a private citizen, I know how important it is to keep personal information confidential, so I am careful not to share any sensitive details with anyone who doesn’t need to know.”

How often do you conduct background investigations?

Employers ask this question to determine how much experience you have conducting background investigations. They want to know that you are familiar with the process and can complete it quickly and efficiently. When answering this question, describe your typical workday as a background investigator. Explain what tasks you perform on a daily basis and how often you conduct background checks.

Example: “I usually conduct background checks once or twice per week. I start by reading through the client’s instructions for the investigation. Then, I gather all of the information I need from the applicant. After that, I search public records databases for any criminal history or civil lawsuits. Next, I contact previous employers and references to verify employment history and personal character traits.”

There is a mistake on a background check. How do you handle it?

Employers ask this question to make sure you know how to handle mistakes and errors on background checks. They want to see that you can be honest, apologize for the mistake and fix it as soon as possible. When answering this question, explain what steps you would take to correct the error.

Example: “If there was a mistake on a background check, I would immediately contact the person who ordered the report and let them know about the error. Then, I would work with my team to find out why the mistake happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again. If I found out that the mistake was due to my own negligence, I would offer to resign from my position.”


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