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Employment Criminal Background Check
Questions and Answers

Criminal History Background Check
What Is A Criminal Background Check For Employment?
A Criminal History Background Check For Employment is a search of criminal history files for an applicant's possible criminal records. Criminal record searches are the core of most employment background checks and are the most common of all searches requested from A Matter of Fact.

Criminal Background Check, Criminal Record Check, and Employment Criminal Background Check are common names that are used interchangeably.

What Does An Employment Criminal Background Check Consist of?
By far the most common criminal record check is a County Criminal Records Check in the applicant's counties of residence for the last seven years.

Several Criminal Record Searches are available to help meet employer and job requirements including:
Note: Criminal history is only one facet of an applicant's character. For example, Education, Employment, and Professional License verifications check an applicant's history for appropriate skills, experience, and workplace behaviors. Relatively few prospective employees have criminal records relevant to the position for which they are being considered. On the other hand issues are regularly uncovered when conducting Education, Employment, and Professional License verifications. For information about what goes into a complete background check see Comprehensive Background Checks

What Shows up on a Criminal Background Check For Employment?
A County Criminal Record Check will show felony criminal history information if any. Misdemeanor or infraction information may also appear. A Federal Criminal Record Check will show criminal histories for federal crimes or crimes committed on federal property. 'Statewide' and 'Nationwide' checks, Sex Offender Registry checks, and Global Homeland Security Search will show if an applicant is listed on the respective database. For more information about what shows on a complete background check, see What Shows Up On A Background Check For Employment?

How Far Back do Employment Criminal Background Checks go?
Criminal Record Checks can uncover very old information. The information available depends on the policies of each court and applicable law. Typically, records of serious offenses are kept for a very long time, while records of lesser offenses may be purged after a few years. For more complete information about how old information can be in a background check, see How far back does a Background Check go?

How Long Does A Criminal Background Check Take?
Most criminal record searches are complete in one to three business days from the time we receive the background check request. However, in some cases the process can take longer. See How Long Does a Background Check Take For A Job?

How to Get a Criminal Background Check?
The basic steps include:
  • Provide the applicant with the required background check notification documents
  • Obtain written approval from the applicant
  • Place the background check order
  • Review the results

See our Start-Up Kit for step-by-step instructions on conducting an Employment Background Check. Also see Employment Background Check Guidelines and Sample Policies.

Are There Restrictions On An Employer's Use of Criminal Records?
Yes! Federal, state and local laws and regulations impact both employer inquiries into and use of applicant/employee criminal records. See Background Check Laws and Regulations.

What About Instant National Criminal Background Checks?
Instant Background Checks Are NOT Quality Background Checks. The Databases used for "Instant Background Checks" are notoriously incomplete and out of date. There are significant holes in their coverage in geography, time, accuracy, and completeness. What information is included, when it is included, and how it is included varies greatly for both commercial compilers and government reporting agencies. There are more than 7,000 significant courts in the United States that maintain criminal records. There is no national criminal record database that contains all these records. For more information, see Criminal Database Limitations.

Note: 'Statewide' and 'Nationwide' criminal database searches can be very useful elements in widening the geographical area being searched for a Comprehensive Background Check. Any negative information found in a 'Statewide' or 'Nationwide' criminal database search must be confirmed with the appropriate court. Criminal database searches can be useful research tools, but alone they should never be viewed as a valid employment criminal background check.

Is There Anything Unique about a California Criminal Background Check?
Yes! California Background Checks require special attention. For example, California law places greater restrictions on criminal history information than does federal law. For information about the combined Federal FCRA and California ICRA, see California Background Check Law and FCRA Employer Requirements. For more information about California criminal record sources, see California Criminal Records Search.

Note: Several states have laws that place more restrictions on the use of criminal records than does federal law. Additional information is available at State and Local Background Check Laws.
How Do I Find A Reputable Background Check Company?
There are significant differences between background check companies and their products. The mission of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) is to promote ethical business practices, promote compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and foster awareness of issues related to consumer protection and privacy rights within the background screening industry. For more information about how to identify quality firms, see Free Resources That Help Identify Reputable Background Check Companies.

How To Pass A Criminal Background Check For Employment?
The most important advice is to be honest about your history (a failed background check will usually be the result if you make false claims). Read the instructions and questions on the Job Application and any consent forms carefully. Answer the questions accurately and fully. Ask for clarification if something is not clear. If you have something negative in your record, bring it up in the interview. A frank explanation of past problems will give you the chance to tell your side of the story, explain what you learned from the experience, and show how your subsequent actions demonstrate you are a changed person. Few jobs and employers require an absolutely clean record to be hired. Most employers can and do consider how long ago a problem occurred and whether the problem has any bearing on the position being considered. For a more complete discussion, see How to Pass a Background Check.

Federal, state and local laws and regulations are rapidly evolving regarding employer inquiries into and use of applicant/employee criminal records. See Background Check Laws and Regulations and Employment Background Check Blog. It is the employer's responsibility to stay current with changing legal requirements. Employers should obtain legal advice concerning their legal responsibilities, and to ensure that background check documents, policies and procedures are in compliance with applicable local, state and federal laws and regulations.

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