Not Your Grandfather’s Background Check

Authored By W.Barry Nixon, SHRM- CMP

The importance of performing background checks is well-known, with more than 83% of both public and private organizations conducting them as part of the hiring process. But times have changed throughout the years and background checks not only are performed to ensure a safe and secure work environment, but also to provide an affirmative defense against negligent hiring lawsuits.

The County Criminal Records Check scans the county courthouse public records to determine if an applicant has a criminal record on file for crimes committed where the applicant has lived, worked and attended school. Felony information, misdemeanors and infractions are included and the county check allows access to the most reliable source of information to identify if an individual has a criminal record and information relevant for employment screening purposes. The Fair Credit Reporting Act determines the information that can be reported, as well as how far back the records can checked.

The Federal Court Criminal Record Check reveals any federal crimes committed within specified federal districts, crimes that cross state boundaries, or crimes committed on federal property.

The Statewide Criminal Records Check is compiled from information reported at the county level and includes prior criminal records searches, county criminal databases, department of corrections, administration of the court, and state sex offender registries. It is important to note, however, that the database’s accuracy is based upon the timeliness of the county’s reporting schedule. Be sure to verify any negative information with county courthouse records.

Multi-jurisdictional criminal record database is, perhaps, a more appropriate term for a Nationwide Criminal Records Check, given that there is no criminal database that contains all criminal records. Rather, information is gathered from prior county criminal records searches, county criminal databases, department of corrections, administration of the court, and state sex offender registries. This expansive check can be useful in gaining information that a county search may not have determined and is best to conduct for jobs that pose the greatest security risk or greatest potential to create liability for the organization. Remember to verify information at the county level and keep in mind that the quality of the information depends on when it is updated, limitations in geographical information and the accuracy of its sources.

A National Wants and Warrants search checks any outstanding and extraditable arrest wants and/or warrants registered with the National Crime Information Center. These serious felonies or offenses or outstanding county warrants that may be found mean that law encouragement agencies are actively seeking the individual, however, bear in mind that this does not determine guilt, nor is it a background check of the FBI’s NCIC database. This type of check should only be included as part of a comprehensive background screening.

Most states provide centralized sex offender services to the Department of Homeland Security, which houses a compilation of the state sexual offender registries.

And, finally, a Global Security Terrorist Search is compliant with the requirements set forth in the Patriot Act. This compilation of domestic and international sanctions lists detailed information regarding those who have engaged in money laundering and terrorist financing. Industries like financial services, import/export and travel must follow additional requirements. These terrorist searches should be performed for sensitive positions that involve wide access to facilities, information systems, significant responsibility for financial resources and access to highly sensitive information.

Post By Barry Nixon (70 Posts)

W. Barry NIxon, SHRM-CMP is the founder of, the publisher of The Background Buzz, The Global Background Screener, The Annual Background Screening Industry Resource Guide and In Search of Excellence in Background Screening: Insights from Accredited Background Screening Firms. He is co-author of Background Investigations: Managing Hiring Risk from an HR and Security Perspective, a recognized background screening expert and serves as an International Ambassador for the National Association for Professional Background Screeners.