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What’s Included in a Background Check?

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

man checking boxes

Screening companies’ practices vary widely within the scope of legal requirements. Be proactive about understanding what is included in your checks (and what is not). A clear report is a good sign, but only if you know your searches are providing the relevant information. Background checks can be costly, so employers may be tempted to select searches based upon expense alone without fully understanding what information will be provided. For example, it might be tempting to only request a national criminal (or multi-jurisdictional) search; however, this is not a substitute for county court searches. This is a database search and is unreliable as the primary source of records. However, it is a great tool when combined with comprehensive county court searches.

Let’s talk about names. Are you searching AKAs and maiden names? Court records are generally based on name and date of birth, and this means the name used at the time the charge was filed is the name on the official record. Not searching previous names or possible aliases could result in missed charges. Misspellings? That happens too. The good news is that spelling variations are often revealed by the SSN Address Trace, enabling employers to search those names as part of the background check.

There is no such thing as a foolproof background check. Court structure varies by state, sometimes drastically. Some states offer statewide access to county court records, while others do not provide any access to lower courts. Make sure you understand what records are reported by your CRA. By being proactive and understanding the different types of services and searches available, you can be confident that your background checks are compliant and provide the level of assurance you need to make confident hiring decisions.


Sabrina Sawyer is the CEO of Integris and the VP of HR and Business Solutions at Associated Industries, a premier employer association located in Spokane, WA.

The information provided is not intended to constitute legal advice and is for informational purposes only. Employers are strongly advised to consult with legal counsel on matters related to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.


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