Technology enables hiring managers to do their jobs more efficiently than ever.

While technology has also improved criminal record searches, hiring managers still encounter some limitations when handling this part of the employment process.

Understanding how criminal background checks work is essential to working around these limitations.

Conducting a Criminal Background Check

Despite what is shown on television and movies, there is no such thing as a national criminal database.

There is the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), an electronic clearinghouse used by the FBI. However, in reality, the NCIC is a collection of multiple databases containing only about half of all available criminal records. The records available through the NCIC are submitted by numerous law enforcement agencies and courts in various jurisdictions. Each of these institutions can submit, edit, and remove their own records. Furthermore, unless it is a special request, only law enforcement officials are allowed to access the information in the NCIC.

Another issue with NCIC’s database is in the inconsistency of its data compilation. Each jurisdiction has its own classification system, so a crime that is classified as a felony in one jurisdiction might be classified as a misdemeanor in another.

How Does A Hiring Manager Conduct a Criminal Records Search?

Hiring managers can work around the limitations of the NCIC by first conducting a federal background check. This should bring up information regarding any criminal activity that crossed state lines or violated federal laws. Then, the hiring manager should check city, county, and state criminal records for information about the applicant.

The problem with this approach is that it is time consuming for hiring managers. To conduct an effective search, a human resource professional would have to make inquiries with the primary record holder in each jurisdiction relevant to the applicant. The primary record holder could be a county courthouse or a state law enforcement agency.

Additionally, since the hiring manager cannot search a single electronic database using identifiers such as an applicant’s name or address, it is difficult to verify the applicant’s information and obtain the most current records. Sometimes, applicants do not provide complete information about where they have lived or worked. Other times, applicants do not use their legal or married name.

Background screening providers offer hiring managers an effective way to address these issues. Background screening providers know how to conduct comprehensive criminal record searches that include multiple jurisdictions where the applicant has lived and worked. They can also ensure that the search covers a sufficient time frame to increase the likelihood of obtaining the most accurate information.

Just as important, background screening providers save hiring managers time by handling both on site record checks and online database searches in multiple jurisdictions. This type of comprehensive criminal history search provides employers with the best results for evaluating a candidate.

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