Frequently Asked Questions: Criminal Background Screening

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What comprises a basic criminal background check?

A basic criminal records check includes a search for felony and misdemeanor records at the county level, using all names and counties generated through a Social Security Number Trace.

Why do you recommend I run “all names, all counties, all the time”?

This approach is the best way to do a comprehensive felony and misdemeanor criminal records check. It allows you to certify to your company you did as complete a background check as reasonably possible at this court level. Following this approach is considered the industry standard, and conforming to the industry standard will be strong evidence of proper due diligence in the event of employment litigation.

What if I ask you to call me if you find more than 4 places to search?

Asking us to call you and obtain approval if your applicant has lived in more than a pre-determined number of places or under multiple names could create some challenges. If you run a full background check on an applicant with 5 places to search, but pick and choose counties/names on a different candidate that has 8 places to search, that could be considered a discriminatory process. You have done two different types of checks, one comprehensive, the other not. Selecting counties and names is based on the results of the SSN Trace. It is not an arbitrary process and the number identified does not differ based on whether you ask us to contact you. We recommend “all names, all counties, all the time” because it ensures a consistent, streamlined approach to your background screening process.

Doesn’t a statewide search cover this?

Research shows statewide searches are notoriously outdated, incomplete, and inaccurate. Only 33 states even offer access to a repository that holds criminal records. We cannot claim that statewide repositories, when a countywide search is available, are FCRA compliant. Our obligation is to provide you information from what is considered the most current, accurate source. Statewide repositories, with very limited exceptions, are not that source.

Then why do you ask if I want to run a New York Statewide search?

In most of that state, a repository check is the only option available for pre-employment screening purposes. In the areas of the state where a county search is available, we offer that to our clients. It is the only state in the nation where we recommend different options based on your applicant’s residential history and the only state where at times, the best available method is a database search.

Should I be running a federal district court search?

Federal district court searches are the first option we recommend for a client that wants to go above and beyond a comprehensive felony and misdemeanor court search. Crimes often adjudicated in the federal court system can include but are not limited to: drug trafficking, bank fraud, and kidnapping. Because not all crimes are handled at the local level, running the federal district court search in the same geographical areas as the countywide searches delivers an added layer of protection.

What about a “national” criminal background check?

The limitations found in statewide checks are magnified through a national check. The best commercially available databases hold records from approximately 40% of the country and have the same quality concerns found in state repositories. Like statewide searches, EmployeeScreen IQ only offers this type of database product as a complementary product to the standard countywide misdemeanor and felony and federal district court search. Any record found in a state or nationwide database must be validated at the county level to ensure it is accurate and current.

Kevin Bachman is the Director of Customer Relations at EmployeeScreen IQ. Kevin can be reached at 1-800-235-3954 x450 or by e-mail at kbachman@employeescreen.com.

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