An inquiry is something that appears on your credit report each time it is viewed by a person or a company. There are two types of inquiries: hard inquiries and soft inquiries.
Hard inquiries occur when somebody views your credit report for the purpose of deciding whether they should approve your application for a loan. These types of inquiries will often lower your credit score for a temporary amount of time.
Soft inquiries occur when somebody views your credit report for reasons other than extending your credit, such as a potential employer doing a background check on you.
Whether an inquiry will be a hard inquiry or a soft inquiry will not always be apparent. If in doubt, you should ask the party that is going to view your credit report what type of inquiry will be made.