Employers and landlords utilize criminal background checks to create the safest possible workplaces and living spaces. If managers and property owners didn’t look into employee and tenant backgrounds, they would create a dangerous working and living environment that could potentially leave them susceptible to negligent hiring lawsuits, violence, damage and theft.

Several different types of criminal background checks exist and we describe them below.

Knowing what might hurt you

A traditional criminal background report will report the person’s criminal history according to the search depth level that the manager or landlord requests. Yet if the employer or landlord limits the general employer background checks to one state or geographic area, crimes committed in another state will not appear on the results.

For example, the reporting of criminal history records may be limited either by the search depth that you select or by applicable Federal or State reporting limits. In terms of a person’s sexual offense history, information can be obtained through a search of the National Sex Offender Registry.

To make sure that a thorough employment screening is conducted, landlords and employers should look at a wide variety of sources.

What you should look into

County criminal records will show misdemeanors and felonies across 3,400 county courts in the United States. The applicant’s criminal history in his state of residence can be found in state police records and state criminal records databases.

There are also national criminal records that can be searched to find crimes committed by a person while he was traveling outside of his state of residency. A search of these records will also show data in the county databases that the landlord or employer did not already check. This style of search should be utilized in addition to local searches just in case municipalities failed to record or provide up-to-date data.

A search of federal criminal records should also be conducted to find crimes that have been prosecuted in federal courts. Examples of such crimes include mail fraud, wire fraud, embezzlement and tax evasion.

There is also a “Prohibited and Restricted Parties Search” maintained by select government agencies that shows people that employers can’t legally hire because they have been identified as money launderers, terrorists, illegal weapons traders and narcotic traffickers. This also includes individuals who are subject to various economic sanctions programs. Federal bankruptcy records can also be searched to pinpoint any individual who has adjudicated cases of bankruptcy that indicate his inability to responsibly manage his finances.

Other background checks to consider

Less serious offenses can be found on an individual’s driving records. This is especially important for employers who require that the applicant have a safe driving record in order to operate a company vehicle. To find out if an individual has been involved with a breach of contract, small claims or product liability lawsuit, the civil upper and lower courts records can be examined. There is also a retail theft database that allows employers to search over 500,000 shoplifting and employee theft records.

Other background checks that are becoming increasingly common are education verification, credential verification, reference checks, skills assessments and Patriot Act searches.

Before running any type of background check, employers and landlords should consider what is required of the person who will fill the position in question. It may not be necessary to conduct all of the above listed searches for an open receptionist position or one’s tenancy in a cheap studio apartment.

Yet if the applicant is attempting to secure a position as an upper level manager, an in-depth background check will be fully justified and necessary.