Reputation Defenders

What Is a Criminal Background Check?

What Is a Criminal Background Check?
Richard Doan
Reputation Defenders Team
7 min

What Is a Criminal Background Check?

A background check is a way to verify someone's identity and determine whether there are any issues with their employment record. A background check can help employers ensure they're hiring people who won't cause harm to others or themselves.

Background checks are often used during the recruiting process. They can include checking public records such as court documents, police reports, and tax information. A background check might involve contacting references, former employers, or current colleagues.

The most common background checks are credit and criminal background checks. Credit checks examine a person's financial history, while criminal background checks examine criminal activity.

Why do employers conduct criminal background checks?

According to the Society for Human Resources Management, many companies use background checks as part of their pre-employment screening process. Here are some of the most popular reasons why employers conduct criminal background checks:

To protect employees, customers, and company assets. One of the most common reasons employers conduct criminal background checks is to protect employees, customers, and company resources.

To identify risks. Another reason employers conduct background checks is to identify potential risks. This includes identifying possible fraud, theft, embezzlement, sexual harassment, discrimination, violence, etc.

To comply with government regulations. Many employers conduct background checks because they must do so under federal law. These include the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Drug-Free Workplace Act, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and others.

To verify employment eligibility. Employers sometimes conduct background checks to ensure that job applicants meet legal requirements, such as being eligible to work in the United States.

For internal purposes. Some employers conduct background checks to help them make decisions about hiring, firing, promotion, compensation, training, discipline, termination, etc.

What data is in background checks?

There are many different types of data that make it into most background checks. Typically, the same information appears on most background checks. Here are some examples of what you might find in a typical background check:

  • Full legal name (and previous alias or last name).
  • Social Security Number.
  • Date of Birth.
  • Employment history.
  • Education history.
  • Military discharge status.
  • Criminal record.
  • Driving records.
  • Credit report.
  • Bankruptcy filings.
  • Court documents.
  • Voting history.
  • Property ownership.
  • Tax links.
  • Links against a property.
  • Other public records.
  • And much more…

Most common background checks

Pre-employment background checks determine whether someone is qualified for a job. They typically include checking for convictions, arrests, bankruptcies, liens, judgments, and lawsuits against the applicant. These checks often cover seven years of criminal records and up to three years of civil records. Some employers conduct employment credit checks, which look into the applicant's previous employment history. This includes looking into how long they worked there, their salary, and any disciplinary actions against them. In some states, professional licenses must be verified every few years, regardless of the time since the license was granted.

Employment credit checks usually have a limited amount of time covered. However, it depends on the state law. For example, California requires that employment credit checks be performed within five years of hiring. You should verify their licensing information earlier if you hire someone in another state.

Credit checks go back seven or ten years, depending on the individual's state laws. Most states require that the employer perform a credit report on the employee within 30 days of starting work. Employers may run a credit report on employees even if they don't start working immediately because they could change jobs or move across state lines.

Some states allow employers to request a copy of a consumer's credit reports for free once per year. Others charge fees for each report requested. A credit report contains information about a person's payment histories, outstanding debts, and collections. You can obtain a free copy of one of your credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — once per year.

How long do criminal background checks take?

Although many background checks can be completed and returned within three to five days, others can take much longer. Background checks are often used for employment screening or to verify identity documents. Depending on the type of check being conducted, the length of the process varies greatly. Some checks require little information, while others require extensive documentation.

FBI checks typically take about 30 days to complete. However, there are times when the agency can expedite the process. If you want to know how long it takes to conduct a background check, here are some factors to consider.

The check length depends on whether the person has been convicted of a crime, their state, and the documentation required.

The background check can be done in just a few hours if the person has never been arrested.

However, if the person has been arrested, the process could take up to 60 days.

In addition, if the person has ever moved out of state, the background check could take even longer.

A background check that includes multiple states can take anywhere from one week to several months.

Benefits of criminal background checks for employment

The benefits of conducting background checks on potential employees include determining whether or not they're trustworthy and ensuring that they'll do what they say they'll do.

A background check provides employers important information about a candidate's character, including honesty, reliability, integrity, and trustworthiness.

In addition, hiring managers often use background checks to ensure that applicants aren't criminals, such as convicted felons, sex offenders, or people with mental health issues.

A background check isn't just about determining whether someone has been convicted of a crime. There are many benefits to conducting one. Here are five reasons why you should consider doing a background check on potential employees:

  1. You want to hire the best candidate.
  2. You want to know if someone has had trouble with the law.
  3. You want to ensure your workers aren't abusing drugs or alcohol.
  4. You want to protect yourself against fraud.
  5. You want to avoid hiring people who might harm others.

How to conduct a criminal background check

First, you need to establish what steps your company should take for background checks on job applicants or current employees. We highly recommend you create a criminal background check policy and put it into your employee handbook. This way, everyone knows exactly how your company handles background checks.

You can find extensive templates online for creating a policy, but your company policy should at least include these basic steps:

Get the subject's acknowledgment. Inform the subject that you will process a background check and have them sign a release.

Before you have the subject's signature, never proceed with the background checks.

Spoken approval is not an adequate acknowledgment; you need it in written form.

Next, you must ensure that the person you're doing the background check isn't already under investigation. This is called "dual reporting," and it's illegal. If you discover someone else is investigating the same individual, you'll need to stop immediately.

If you've received permission to perform a background check, you'll want to gather information about the subject's employment history. You'll need to know what positions they held, how long ago each position was filled, and whether there were gaps in employment.

You'll also want to determine whether the subject had access to sensitive information. For example, if you suspect the candidate stole trade secrets, you'll need to look into their previous employers.

Finally, you'll want to review the subject's credit report. A good rule of thumb is to request three reports — one from each major credit bureau.

What are the red flags on a background check?

A criminal background check is designed to uncover information about a person that could affect their ability to perform a particular job. This includes prior convictions, bankruptcies, liens, unpaid fines, and even arrests. While most people think of a conviction as something that happened in court, there are many different types of convictions. Some are related to the law, while others are related to behavior. For example, a DUI conviction is considered a legal matter, whereas a disorderly conduct charge is considered a behavioral issue.

In addition to convictions, another type of information that can come up in a background check is called "arrest history." Arrest records include both misdemeanor and felony offenses. However, they do not necessarily indicate guilt because people are often arrested for reasons unrelated to the incident. These reasons can range from traffic violations to domestic violence.

Another thing that can come up in background checks is whether or not someone holds certifications, licenses, or degrees. If someone claims to hold a certain qualification, such as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), but cannot provide proof of the claim, it is important to ask questions about how they obtained the credential. Often, credentials are earned through educational institutions. However, sometimes people obtain credentials by taking courses online or attending seminars. Sometimes, people make up credentials that they believe will help them land a job.

Finally, background checks look into previous employment history. A lot of companies use this information to determine whether or not someone is likely to be reliable. For example, if someone works for one employer for several months and suddenly leaves, it raises suspicion. On the other hand, if someone has been working for a company for several years, it is less concerning.


December 30, 2022

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What Is a Criminal Background Check?

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