Criminal Background Checks for Employment [2022]

Before hiring a job candidate, screening the applicant’s background helps employers make safe and well-informed decisions about whether they will be a trustworthy and competent employee.

criminal background check guide

Criminal background checks are often part of this process and may even be required for new hires if your company is in certain regulated industries or serves vulnerable populations, such as children, the elderly, or the disabled.

Given that properly accessing and reviewing all of the important sources for an applicant’s criminal history requires extensive time, resources, and familiarity with complex laws and regulations, many companies expedite this process by partnering with a proven criminal background check vendor.

At iprospectcheck, we serve clients of all sizes across many different industries by conducting accurate and fast criminal background checks as part of their pre-employment screening process.

From our track record as one of the most trusted and reliable criminal background check companies, we have assembled this guide to key information on criminal background checks for employers.

Let’s start now.

What is a Criminal Background Check?

When CRAs conduct criminal background checks for employment, they gather and analyze background information from municipal, state, county, and federal criminal records databases for job applicants.

The types of information that might be reported include misdemeanor and felony convictions and pending criminal matters.

Different searches might produce different records. For example, if an employer only searches a state’s criminal records repository, the employer will only receive information about any convictions and arrests that are contained in the state’s criminal justice system.

Employers might instead elect to complete nationwide searches to find criminal record information from multiple states or perform searches in every county and state where an applicant has lived.

What are the Restrictions on Employers for a Criminal Background Check?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) establishes federal requirements on how employers and third parties collect and use information on job candidates in a criminal background check. On top of the federal regulations that apply to criminal background checks for employment, local and state jurisdictions may impose additional requirements.

Failure to abide by FCRA regulations in conducting pre-employment criminal background checks can result in serious fines and penalties on you as the employer. Additionally, a job applicant may pursue a civil suit against you for violations of the FCRA in the hiring process.

Laws and Regulations on Employers’ Use of Criminal History

Aside from regulations on employers as to how they can conduct and gather information required for a criminal background check, there are laws and regulations regarding what you may do with any information uncovered in a pre-employment background check.

When you discover negative information on a job candidate through a criminal background check, you may be restricted in how you can use that information in making a hiring decision.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces anti-discrimination laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), that restrict you from applying criminal information discovered in a way that discriminates against the job applicant based on age, gender, orientation, race, ethnicity, religious background, national origin, or disability.

One of the important things to keep in mind is whether the criminal information that you are analyzing for an applicant is for an arrest that did not ultimately result in a conviction or a conviction. You may not necessarily be permitted to consider some arrest information that did not result in a conviction in certain circumstances.

Some states and municipalities have enacted ban the box legislation that prevents you from asking about a job applicant’s criminal history at the initial stage of the job application. Depending on the specific law and jurisdiction, you may not be permitted to run a criminal background check on a job applicant until they have accepted a contingent job offer.

One of the ways that a legally compliant and reliable criminal background check vendor can help you to avoid liability for violations of law in the process of screening and using information found in a criminal history check is by only including legally compliant content in their reports.

That way, you do not have to worry about having access to information that you are not legally allowed to consider in deciding whether to hire an applicant or not.

What Information Do Employers Consider in a Criminal Background Check?

The type of criminal information that is significant to an employer depends on a variety of factors, such as your company’s industry, the specific job duties of the position, applicable laws and regulations on required screening, and your specific hiring goals.

Some of the most common sources of information for pre-employment criminal background checks include the following:

  • State court records
  • Nationwide private database searches for criminal  records
  • Federal court records
  • County court records
  • Sex offender registries

A reputable criminal background check vendor will gather information only from reliable and authenticated sources to avoid issues that arise from relying on incorrect or outdated criminal history information.

What Shows Up on a Criminal Background Check?

The types of information that might appear on a criminal background check for employment include misdemeanor convictions, felony convictions, pending charges, arrest warrants, probation violations, and incarceration records.

Arrests that are older than seven years that did not result in convictions will not be reported. Some states allow defendants to ask for their criminal records to be sealed or expunged. Sealed or expunged records will not be reported in those jurisdictions, and it might be illegal for you to consider that type of information for employment purposes.

Legal infractions that only include citations and fines might not be considered to be crimes in some jurisdictions, so they might not appear on criminal history reports obtained from those databases.

When an applicant has a criminal record, you will see the following types of information:

  • Date of offense
  • Type of offense
  • Severity (misdemeanor or felony)
  • Disposition
  • Date of disposition
  • Sentence information

Criminal records checks might also include sex offender registry checks. This type of search checks sex offender registries in all states to see whether an applicant is a registered sex offender.

Some of the different types of databases that might be included in a criminal history check for employment from iprospectcheck include the following:

  • State court records – Returns criminal court records within the state where the employer and applicant are located
  • Nationwide private database searches for criminal records – Returns information about criminal records from any state
  • Federal court records – Returns information about any federal court convictions and pending cases
  • County court records – Returns criminal records from the counties in which the applicant has lived
  • Sex offender registries – Returns information for applicants that are registered sex offenders in any jurisdiction

How to Get a Criminal Background Check

An individual may request a copy of their Identity History Summary directly from the FBI. This report generally includes criminal activity information based on fingerprint records submitted by state and local authorities to the FBI. The online application process requires the individual to submit an official copy of their fingerprints, a completed request form, and a fee.

Gathering criminal history on a job applicant requires you to check all local, state, and federal criminal record databases that could have relevant history on the individual.

There are free online criminal background check resources that claim to provide these results, but you should exercise caution before relying on them. They are often incomplete, inaccurate, and out of compliance with applicable laws.

The best way to ensure that your company is engaging in compliant, effective, and efficient criminal background screening is to work with a trusted vendor like iprospectcheck.

How Far Back Does a Criminal Background Check Go for Employment?

The FCRA limits background checks for positions paying under $75,000 to seven years for the following types of information:

  • Arrests that didn’t result in convictions
  • Liens
  • Civil judgments
  • Civil lawsuits
  • Bankruptcies

However, the FCRA’s restrictions don’t apply to jobs paying more than $75,000 per year.

Some states allow people to expunge certain types of conviction records. If a conviction has been expunged, it will not be reported.

The FCRA’s restrictions also don’t apply to information about an applicant’s employment record or educational history.

Is There a Difference Between a Criminal Background Check and a Background Check?

A search of a job candidate’s criminal history is one of the major categories that may be included in a background check.

However, pre-employment background screening can capture much more important data on job candidates that can be useful and possibly required before you make a hiring decision.

Your company’s specific needs will determine how broad the pre-employment background check should be.

In addition to criminal history, some of the common categories of information collected and reviewed for a background check include the following:

  • Employment verification
  • Education verification
  • Licensing and credentials status and verification
  • Identity confirmation
  • Credit report
  • References check
  • Motor vehicle records
  • Civil judgments search

When you work with an experienced background screening vendor, you can select the categories of information that are relevant to your company and the positions you are recruiting for.

Customizing your background check report for employees helps you make sure that you are only paying for the services that you need and are getting the full scope of the information necessary to make an informed hiring decision.

How Long Does a Criminal Background Check Take?

The majority of criminal records indexes are available electronically and can be completed within minutes with the right set of research skills, knowledge of courts and their systems, and user accounts set up and in place. There are still courts in the United States, however, that require a human being to walk in and request records histories manually from a court clerk.

Depending on what court records are needed, a criminal background check can take up to a week to complete. In the COVID-19 era, some courts are closed and unable to access records until they re-open. The vast majority of criminal background checks will take less than an hour to complete.

This is where an experienced company like iprospectcheck can make all the difference in procuring fast and accurate criminal records. For many courts, iprospectcheck has API integrations created that extract this current and updated data easily and quickly. iprospectcheck knows where to go to get records quickly, and has accounts set up with all the online indexes across the United States.

How Much Does a Criminal Background Check Cost?

Turning to an online criminal background check site for a free public criminal records check may result in an incomplete, inaccurate, and unusable background report. You cannot verify whether the vendor examined all the necessary records or even correctly confirmed the identity of your candidate before performing a search.

On the other hand, some background check companies force you to purchase a screening package that includes services and reports that are unnecessary for your company. As such, you waste money on irrelevant services that could also needlessly delay the hiring process.

You can maximize the value of your background check requests by working with a reputable vendor that will help you select the best service package for your particular needs. Having the option to customize the background check report that you need and discounted pricing for high-volume orders make iprospectcheck your affordable and convenient choice for criminal background checks.

iprospectcheck: Your Trusted Partner for Fast, Accurate, Compliant Criminal Background Checks

At iprospectcheck, we are dedicated to streamlining and simplifying the hiring process for our clients by providing legally compliant, reliable, and efficient criminal background checks on job applicants.

Along with providing complete and accurate criminal background checks, iprospectcheck offers many different screening services for employers, such as employment verification, education verification, drug and alcohol screening, identity verification, civil records searches, credit checks, and credit reports. We offer affordable, convenient options for employers to customize their pre-employment screening packages and receive only the information you need for your specific hiring process.

The helpful service team at iprospectcheck is committed to responding to all your inquiries promptly. Our team members are exclusively based in the U.S., which means that you have instant access to trained and knowledgeable representatives for any questions or concerns that may arise.

Contact iprospectcheck today to find out how we can assist with your company’s criminal background check needs.

DISCLAIMER: The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Consult your counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

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About the Author
Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers is a highly accomplished business executive with over 30 years of experience providing strategic vision and leadership to companies ranging from the fortune 500 to iprospectcheck, a company which he co-founded over a decade ago. Matthew is a valued consultant who is dedicated to helping companies create and implement efficient, cost effective and compliant employment screening programs. Matt has been a member of the Professional Background Screeners Association since 2009 . When not focused on iprospectcheck, he can be found spending time with his family, fly fishing, or occasionally running the wild rivers of the American west. A lifetime member of American Whitewater, Matt is passionate about protecting and restoring America’s whitewater rivers.