What's Included in a Criminal Background Check?

2 min read
Fri, Jun 09, 2023

Whats included in a background checkWhen considering background checks for new hires, HR professionals want to make sure they're covering all the bases to keep their employer and employees safe. This often requires a deeper dive into the candidate's criminal history, depending on the job and the population the employee will encounter. Before deciding which criminal background checks are necessary, it's essential to understand what's covered in each. 

What's included in a criminal background check?


What types of criminal background checks are there?

While it would be ideal for a singular database to cover all criminal records, it's much more complicated. A National Criminal Database does exist, the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC), as a conglomeration of data from many different systems. Federal, state, county, and municipal records are included; however, the data is commonly out-of-date and inaccurate. The database is also generally only accessible to law enforcement. 

Criminal background checks available to employers can include:

  • National Criminal Database Search
  • Sex Offender Database Search
  • Federal Criminal Search
  • Statewide Criminal Search
  • County Criminal Court Search
  • International Watch List (and/or Int'l Criminal Search)

Click here to learn about each type of criminal background check and turnaround time.

What's Included in a Criminal Background Check?

The real question is... what does the hiring manager need to know?

A criminal background screening policy can be helpful in deciding what information is deemed necessary for the job description. As an example, the most basic and quickest criminal background check would likely be the National Criminal Database and Sex Offender Search. The report would reveal felonies, misdemeanors, traffic court records, and if the candidate is registered as a sex offender. This information may be all that's required for the safety of the new hire and anyone else they encounter in the workplace.

For a deeper dive that includes the most up-to-date records for a particular jurisdiction, it would be wise to include statewide or county criminal records. These types of criminal background checks may take a few days longer due to the availability of the court data and the accuracy of the records. 

If the concern relates to fraud, tax evasion, or international threats, the Federal Criminal Search or International Watch List screens would be relevant. These types of checks would provide information that would be necessary for high-level security jobs or those related to financial transactions. 

The information included in a criminal background check is only as accurate as the most recent update. If any criminal activity is pending, if an arrest didn't lead to a conviction, or if the record was expunged, it may not be revealed in the screening results. The best practice for employers is to be prepared to screen only for what's required for the job and to follow EEOC guidance for assessing criminal records in employment decisions

EEOC Background Screening  Decision Matrix


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