The Complexities Of Conducting A Criminal Background Check

Why You Need a Screening Partner to Get the Job Done Right

In this era of easy internet searches, you might be tempted to think that conducting a criminal background check on potential new hires on your own is the right way to go. Sure, you might not get every bit of information, but an inexpensive DIY criminal records check will surely catch the big stuff and that’s sufficient for your needs, right? Wrong. Nothing could be farther from the truth. 

The reality is that conducting a thorough criminal background search is complicated. There’s no one-stop-shop for all things criminal and basic internet searches leave a lot of important stones unturned. Consider the following complexities:

National Searches

The FBI provides by far the broadest, far-reaching database of criminal records, but access to this information is restricted; neither you nor your background screening partner can search this database. Any background screening company that touts a “national” background search is conducting that search using databases maintained by private companies. These companies make an effort to compile criminal records from across the country into one searchable repository, but these “national” searches have significant limitations. Not all localities have shareable electronic records, not all localities are willing to share what they have, and the databases are often out of date. While searching these private repositories is a legitimate first step, professional background screeners will never rely on this information alone. 

County Records Searches

Most crimes are committed and tried at a very local level, so searching country records for criminal information is critical. However, again, there’s no one-stop shop for searching county records. The US has over 3000 counties and each has its own way of storing records. Screeners conduct county-level searches using the address and employment history provided, but this process will miss any crimes committed in counties where the individual did not work or live. 

State Records Searches

Some states have searchable databases of criminal records and combing through these repositories will catch any crimes not found in a county search. But not every state has a database and those that do cannot guarantee they are completely up to date. 

Other Federal Searches

Outside the FBI, the federal government maintains a database of federal crimes—those crimes that are violations of federal laws, committed on federal property, or that cross state lines. This database is actually pretty current but is sadly often missing critical identifiers like SSNs or birth dates that make searching possible. Experienced screening firms have advanced search methodologies to help them work around the missing information.

Choose an Experienced Screening Partner

An experienced background screening firm is familiar with all the available resources and understands how to use the data to compile a useful criminal background check. Keep your workplace safe by partnering with a professional criminal background screener. 


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