Going Beyond Criminal Records Searches: What Else Can You Be Doing?

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Despite what movies and television would have you believe, there is no one-size-fits-all background check that reveals every pertinent detail of a person’s life in a five-second flurry of keystrokes and mouse clicks.

In fact, no single database exists that compiles, so neatly, quickly, and accurately, all of the information you’d want to know about an individual during the course of a background check.

Even when it comes to something as seemingly straightforward as a criminal history, multiple courts, jurisdictions, and record-keeping systems muddle attempts to standardize information, meaning that nowhere can you simply punch a name into a computer and be certain you’ll find everything you need to know.

But this misperception often causes confusion when it comes to employment screening. Because background checks can vary greatly depending on factors like purpose, budget, and timeframe, employers often don’t know about all of the options at their disposal.

Factor in the multiple stakeholders an employer may need to satisfy in conducting a background check – the organization itself, the individual concerned, other applicants, customers, vendors, government agencies or regulatory bodies, even the general public – and it’s no wonder many fail to take full advantage of the resources that do exist.

Beyond the usual criminal records searches that, according to HireRight’s 2013 Employment Screening Benchmarking Report, 88 percent of employers say they conduct, there is an exhaustive list of public records that can be drawn upon to help screen prospective employees.

Here are a few you may want to consider adding if they’re not currently part of your current background screening program:

  • Civil records. Unlike criminal cases, where the commission of a crime is charged and prosecuted, civil cases allege the breach of a right or duty owed to the plaintiff. Examination of these records may reveal behaviors such as sexual harassment or violations of contractual terms.
  • Registries. Some states compile certain kinds of information into a publicly available registry. For example, all 50 states have a sex offender registry and other registries identify child or adult abusers, the latter typically in a health care context.
  • Bankruptcy records. This information is maintained by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court – an adjunct to the federal courts. Although there are several types of bankruptcy filings, most individuals either file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.
  • Motor vehicle records. In some states, driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses may only be found through a search of these records, rather than a criminal records search. A check of this data is important if an employee will be operating any type of vehicle.
  • Sanctions and watch lists. These are typically maintained by government agencies and may list individuals prohibited from participating in government contracts, those wanted by law enforcement or people suspected of terrorism. There are also a number of industry-specific sanctions lists for sectors such as financial services, education or health care that reveal whether a state of federal agency has imposed disciplinary action on an individual, or if that person is subject to any restrictions on practicing in a certain job, profession, or industry.
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HireRight is a leading provider of on-demand employment background checks, drug and health screening, and electronic Form I-9 and E-Verify solutions that help employers automate, manage and control background screening and related programs.

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The HireRight Blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be comprehensive, and is not a substitute for and should not be construed as legal advice. HireRight does not warrant any statements in the HireRight Blog. Any statutes or laws cited herein should be read in their entirety. You should direct to your own experienced legal counsel questions involving your organization’s compliance with or interpretation or application of laws or regulations and any additional legal requirements that may apply.