Best practices for hiring, onboarding, and maintaining a safe work environment include some form of background screening today. This includes criminal background checks and ongoing monitoring.

A background check aims to provide information to make employers make the best hiring decision. Its contents can vary depending on what information the employer is looking for, but many checks include criminal history. 

Background checks help companies protect their assets, comply with regulations, reduce risk, and avoid negligent hiring claims. Businesses of all sizes use background checks as a standard component of their hiring procedures.

If youโ€™re considering adding background screening to your recruitment process or expect to undergo one, here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

Where do screening companies get information?

Background check companies and free people search sites gather information from a number of county, state, and federal sources, such as:

  • District courts
  •  State police departments
  • Department of corrections
  • Prison parole and release files
  • State courts
  • County courts
  • Federal databases
  • County and state criminal record databases

A lot of this data is available online, but it still might be necessary to do research in person because there is no single source of criminal background information.

What information does a criminal background check include?

The law permits employers to access the following background information:

Misdemeanors: generally punishable by a fine or detention in county jail. They are less serious than felonies.

Traffic violations: Unless the traffic violation is a felony or a misdemeanor, it wonโ€™t be reported, but it can be costly regardless.

Felonies: Felonies are serious violations that may carry a sentence.

A charge or accusation that didnโ€™t result in a conviction is not likely to be reported. Local laws can ban the disclosure or use of such records. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, non-convictions can be reported for a period of seven years. If more than seven years have passed, the accusation, arrest, or charge disappears from the personโ€™s record forever.

The majority of background check companies will not include records of arrests or situations involving dismissed or dropped charges or a trial that ended with a not guilty verdict.

Other records

Background check sites use publicly available information to check other records. These details are often available online. ID verification is the first component of any background check. Itโ€™s aimed at verifying that the person is who they say they are. Employment and education are two further elements. The background check provider might contact a job candidateโ€™s previous employer or the school listed on their resume to confirm they worked and studied there.

Many background check sites also search social media. The report might include your social network accounts and, if itโ€™s public, your social media activity. While an employer may not use this information to make a hiring decision, setting all your profiles to private is a good idea.

Position-specific searches

You can conduct a comprehensive search based on the position youโ€™re hiring for. Driving positions necessitate a motor vehicle records check. Industries like finance, healthcare, and transportation have concrete legal requirements for screening. Ideally, all background checks should be entirely position-based because there is no one-size-fits-all process.

In any case, your background check should be relevant to the position available. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requires companies to consider business and job necessities when choosing background checks.

Legality of background checks

As long as background checks on potential employees are legally compliant, employers can perform them or hire a third party. The regulations governing collecting and using personal data derived from a background check are complex and dynamically changing, and compliance is critical.

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