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The Moral Compass: Conducting A Criminal Background Check Ethically

What is a criminal background check and how is it conducted? What criminal records are typically included in a criminal background check?

When you apply for a job, housing or even volunteer work, you may be required to undergo a criminal background check. This is an investigation that attempts to determine whether you have any criminal history. Organizations conduct criminal background checks to ensure that they are not placing individuals with an unsatisfactory record in positions that put other people's safety at risk. A criminal record can also be a deciding factor in determining an individual's overall suitability for eligibility.

A criminal background check usually involves the gathering of information from various sources, and it may include one or more of the following components:
- A review of county, state, or federal criminal records for any criminal convictions, prison time, or outstanding arrest warrants.
- A review of sex offender registries maintained by various states.
- Verification of identity and current address.
- Employment or educational history review.
- Driving history check that may include driving suspensions, DUI, and any other driving-related violations.

Criminal background checks are essential for many organizations, and the process is critical in ensuring that they are making data-driven decisions when it comes to hiring, admitting or partnering with individuals.

How is It Conducted?

Most employers or organizations hire third-party companies to conduct criminal background checks, rather than conducting these checks themselves. However, there's no set standard for background checks, which means it can vary from company to company.

The hiring company will mostly seek out and contract with a background check provider of their choice, following which the provider will compile information about an individual, providing a background report. The background report usually summarizes criminal history, including traffic misdemeanors to sex offenses to violent crimes.

The applicant or employee is required to sign a release form that consents to the check, after which the provider will use this information to gather details from various sources, which may include official filings, court records, criminal databases, and other sources.

What Criminal Records are Typically Included in a Criminal Background Check?

A criminal background check typically involves a review of an individual's criminal history across multiple jurisdictions, including local, state, and federal agencies.

The following commonly get checked during a criminal background check:

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1. Felony and Misdemeanor Convictions

Suspects who have been convicted of crimes will usually have their court records available for review. These records will detail what crimes they were convicted of as well as the sentencing they have received.

2. Arrest Records

These contain documentation of all arrests that have occurred over the course of an individual's life.

3. Sex Offender Registry

Sex offender registries list those who have been convicted of sex crimes and must register as prescribed.

4. Driving Records

A driving record check may show everything from minor accidents to serious offenses like DUIs.

5. Credit Reports

Some criminal background checks will also include a check of an individual's credit report. This is because credit history can be an indicator of potential risk.

6. Employment Verification and Educational History records.

These records can be utilized in revealing a candidate's work and education history.

7. Character Checks

Some companies/personnel managers may hire private investigators for thorough character checks that can include an interview of neighbors, friends, or personal references to get a fuller image of their character.

How to Succeed in What is a Criminal Background Check and How is it Conducted? What Criminal Records are Typically Included in a Criminal Background Check?

If you want to succeed in a criminal background check, here are a few critical recommendations to keep in mind:

1. Be Honest

Discrepancies between your statements and official records may attract attention during criminal background checks. If you were previously convicted or served time, it may be best to share this information straightaway.

2. Mind your Online Presence

Since a criminal background check involves investigating an individual's digital and online footprints, do ensure that your online activity is free of any subtly suspicious or incriminating comments, images or posts.

3. Watch Your Credit Score

Inquire reports of your credit score now and then to assess your finances, because sometimes credit checks may play a part in thorough background checks.

4. Be Patient

It may take some time to complete a criminal background check, depending on the scope and requirements by the hiring company.

Benefits of What is a Criminal Background Check and How is it Conducted? What Criminal Records are Typically Included in a Criminal Background Check?

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Several benefits come with conducting an investigation on an applicant's criminal history although, in many ways, it is a controversial topic. Some organizations believe that criminal background checks are vital in ensuring workplace safety and providing a safer and secure environment to clients and co-workers.

Here are some of the benefits of a criminal background check for employers or organizations:
- Helps in protecting business's assets and reputation.
- Can serve as liability protection, providing evidence that the organization took all necessary steps to reduce or eliminate potential risks.
- Provides an increased level of safety for employees.
- May also help in identifying individuals with dishonesty or bad habits and discover if the person regulated by certification or licensure bodies.

Challenges of What is a Criminal Background Check and How is it Conducted? What Criminal Records are Typically Included in a Criminal Background Check? and How to Overcome Them

Conducting a criminal background check has its challenges. Here are a few of the challenges and how they can be overcome.

1. Incomplete Records

Criminal background investigation results can be incomplete or irrelevant, meaning the individual may have committed crimes very far back, have a criminal history in different countries or states, and might be unknown to the state criminal database.

You can handle this by conducting a more thorough, hand-on search of public criminal records in entirety rather than depending on just one database.

2. Bias or Discrimination

Employers may be tempted to rely heavily on criminal background checks to filter out anyone with a criminal history, that may result in possible discriminatory practices.

One possible solution to this challenge is identifying which crimes are most pertinent to the position and focus on the candidate's work or educational history rather than criminal history.

3. The Risk of False Positives

Background checks may make errors that can have unpleasant consequences like rejecting an otherwise talented candidate or tarnishing a person's reputation.

It's important to verify that the background check report is factual and hire companies with a good reputation of producing accurate reports.

Tools and Technologies for Effective Criminal Background Checks

Technology can be of great benefit in managing the screening process for criminal backgrounds; however, it always needs to follow legal regulations and ethical principles for delivering trusted and accurate results. Below are some tools and technologies that can be useful in criminal background screening:

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1. Proprietary Search Platforms

Proprietary search platforms avoid the perils of only reviewing one database and instead, sweeps through multiple records to probe the past of an individual.

2. Regulatory Compliance Management System

An automated regulatory compliance management system can help individuals comply with legal requirements as they relate to records retention and disposal.

3. Identity Verification Tools

These tools can be helpful in confirming that the person undergoing a background check is the right person relevant to the records they are examining.

Best Practices for Managing Criminal Background Checks

To maximize the benefits of criminal background checks, here are some best practices you can implement:

1. Develop screening policies and procedures outlining the roles and the records for screening.

2. Adopt a consistent and standardized approach to physical records management and the security of the information.

3. Protect the candidate's confidentiality by limiting the information gathered outside official investigation parameters.

4. Educate employees on protocols for background checks and on potential issues that could arise in the process.


Criminal background checks can be stressful procedures, but they also provide significant benefits to any organization that uses them. Background checks have become an essential safety measure for many institutions, both voluntary and mandatory due to the protection it provides the employees, those they serve and the business at large. Although the process poses challenges, it is an essential part of employee screening, also defining what hiring companies look for in candidates. Fortunately, with developing technology, criminal background reports will potentially become quicker and more reliable in the coming years, equipping more companies to make well-informed hiring choices while providing applicants with due diligences.

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