What Types of Background Checks are There?
There are many different types of background checks, and some of them contain overlapping results (i.e. criminal background checks will reveal sex offender crimes, but there are also sex offender-only background checks).
Below is a list of the different kinds of background checks and what you can expect to get from each.
Criminal Background Checks
Criminal background checks include scanning county, state, and/or federal records. Criminal records from any of those sources will contain the following if applicable:
- Convictions of felonies and misdemeanors
- Court records (dockets, judgements, etc.)
- Sex offenses
- Incarceration records
County background checks are pretty self explanatory; they contain records of arrests and convictions within that particular county.
State background checks, on the other hand, vary. Some states have just a handful of county records on file, while other states have all county records in their databases. Besides county records, state courts include records of all crimes prosecuted at a state level (meaning crimes that are illegal across all counties).
Since a national criminal database isn't available to the public, most national background checks search each state's online database. However, there are only 46 states with electronic databases; so national background checks only pull records from those states. If you need information for the four states that don't have records online (Delaware, Massachusetts, South Dakota, and Wyoming), you'll need to go to each county courthouse where the person being screened lived.
To determine which type of criminal background check you should run, see our guide to finding the right criminal background check.
Backgrounds checks for employment are the most common type of background checks. These checks generally include:
- Criminal history
- Character references
- Social security number verification
- Education verification
However, pre-employment background checks vary depending on the employer and the type of job (for example, a job in trucking will require an extensive driving records check, whereas an office job probably won't). Some employers will run a credit check, while others will specifically look for sex offenses. To know exactly what an employer will screen, review the application or contact the human resources department.
If you're applying for a job and worried or curious about what an employer might find, consider running a background check on yourself.
Some landlords will screen potential tenants in order to make sure they are responsible. For this type of background check, landlords typically review criminal records, credit reports, and contact past landlords and/or personal references.
Childcare Background Checks
Childcare workers undergo extensive background checks. The requirements for screening childcare workers vary but state, but most states require:
If you're looking to run your own background check for a nanny or other type of childcare provider, check out our free sex offender check or learn more about what information you should collect when screening a childcare provider.
Gun Sales Background Checks
Under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, anyone buying a gun from a Federal Firearms Licensee must undergo a background check. These background checks are completed using National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is run by the FBI. Learn more about background checks for guns here.
Volunteer Organization Screenings
Religious organizations and nonprofits will often run background checks on volunteers, especially if volunteers are working with vulnerable populations like the young or elderly. What information they collect will depend on the organization, though criminal records and personal references are the ones most often reviewed.
Security Clearance Screenings
Any job that requires security clearance, especially government jobs, will require extensive background checks that may include a face-to-face interview with an investigator. What information they collect may vary, but you can assume they will gather as much information as possible (so everything in this list is fair game!).
So, What Kinds of Background Checks Are There?
There are a variety of background check types as organizations all run different background checks in order to meet their needs. Most background checks run a combination of criminal, SSN, education, work history, and credit reports though.
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