Background Screening Blog

Layer Up this Winter with Multiple Criminal History Sources

Posted by Verified Credentials on Dec 23, 2019 12:17:34 PM

Layer Criminal Searches in Background Checks

When the weather gets cold, the best defense is to layer up with coats and sweaters to put as many barriers as possible between you and the frigid temperatures. If you don’t pack on the layers, you could leave yourself vulnerable to a cold snap. This is not unlike the criminal history searches in your pre-employment background screening program. A criminal record strategy relying on the thin fabric of limited information sources could miss important records. With the potential to lead to unintended consequences, many companies choose to take a layered approach instead. Here’s why you may want to consider layering up this winter to reduce potential risk to your company.

Layering your background searches

What’s the best way to bundle up your background checks? The concept is relatively simple: By adding more layers of searches, you can reduce the likelihood of missed records, helping ensure your background screening program meets its intended goals and helps protect against negligent hiring claims. But what does it mean to “add layers” to a background check?

In short, it means adding different kinds of searches to leave less room for gaps in a candidate’s history. There are many kinds of criminal history searches to choose from, but here are the top five most frequently used according to our research:

  1. County Criminal Record Searches
  2. State Criminal Record Searches
  3. Federal Criminal Record Searches
  4. National Criminal Database Search
  5. National Sex Offender Public Record Search (NSOPR)

Layering these criminal record sources, along with others, may seem redundant. However, when you recognize the potential of locating more records with a layered approach, the benefit is clear. Let’s unpack three ways layering searches can reduce missed records.

A snag in the plan of using a standalone database

Sometimes missed records happen because some hiring professionals believe some database sources are a one-stop-shop for criminal records. Because of this misconception, some companies choose to rely on a National Criminal Database search as the sole source to find criminal history, including sex offender data. And yes, in many cases, state sex offender registries could be included in this database. However, like any database, records may be subject to lag times, and records may not be reported in real-time.

The National Sex Offender Public Registry is the only U.S. government website that links public state, territorial and tribal sex offender registries in one national search site. This is why many companies include a National Sex Offender Public Record Search (NSOPR) in their background screening package. 64% of companies that use a National Criminal Database don’t stop there – they search the National Sex Offender Registry, too!

So, the NSOPR could contain different records not included in a National Criminal Database, and layering it in could give you access to complete sex offender information from across the country.

Threading jurisdictions together can make all the difference

Missed records can also happen because of the type of record and their storage. When courthouses or agencies record an offense, the record may be stored in a variety of ways, depending on the jurisdiction or search area. If you’re not doing your due diligence to include the jurisdictions where records may be found, you open up the possibility of missing records.

Statewide criminal history repositories often include records from counties within the state, so some organizations opt for a statewide criminal history search in lieu of searching individual county records. However, there’s a chance that local counties may not report records promptly, if at all, because reporting standards vary widely. On the flip side, if you only use a county search, you could miss records that occurred in counties outside a candidate’s known address history. Layering county and statewide criminal record searches may give the best shot at catching local criminal records.

Bundle up in other ways for different offenses

Failing to search the right source could leave you out in the cold. Federal crimes don’t show up in county or state records at all. That’s because federal crimes are in a separate jurisdiction from local types of crimes. These could include, but are not limited to, serious offenses such as robbery, kidnapping, white-collar crimes, and many more. Federal criminal records are stored within the 94 federal courthouse jurisdictions across the country. Organizations that want to cover their bases may also search all of the federal jurisdictions, rather than just the one where the candidate currently lives. While there may be some overlap between searches, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Sometimes serious driving-related offenses are not considered crimes and are instead classified as driving offenses. A search of a candidate’s driving record may be the only way to find these types of incidents in some states. Hiring is more often without borders too, and international criminal search areas may not layer up like overlapping search areas, but they could act like the mittens for the extremities. By layering non-criminal record sources on top of your criminal history searches, you can identify potentially severe issues with a candidate’s history, including those that might limit their ability to do the job.

The whole point of your background screening package is to catch records before they result in consequences for your company. It’s called sweater weather for a reason. Exposure to the elements means more risk – for a cold, or dreaded frostbite for those of us “up North.” If you’re not layering your searches, it may not seem like a big deal at first, but when risk starts to creep in, and records go missed, it’ll be too late. By layering your criminal history searches, you can better protect your company from liability and keep your workforce safe and warm this winter. When prepared, you’ll find yourself enjoying the crisp air, not dreading a harsh winter.

Ready to add an extra layer to your background screening package? Contact Verified Credentials to schedule a consultation and see how our suite of services can make a difference for your organization.

Topics: Employment Background Checks, National Criminal Database Search, Federal Criminal History Search, National Sex Offender Registry, Driving Records