Are Background Checks Accurate?

By Michael Klazema on 5/22/2019

How accurate are background checks? If you run a criminal history screening on a job applicant and it comes back clean, can you rely on that result? Is there still a chance that the individual has a criminal record?

To answer the last of those questions, yes: there is always a chance that someone whose background check comes back clean does have a criminal record. However, this answer is not necessarily an indictment of the accuracy of background checks. Rather, it is a reflection of the fact that no one database can provide a full picture of a person’s background. No criminal history database or source claims to be totally comprehensive, either.

For instance, if you run a county criminal history check in the county where your business is located, that check will only be accurate up to the county lines. It won’t help you find out about any crimes that the individual may have committed in another part of the state. Similarly, if you run a state criminal history check in Michigan, you can’t expect it to uncover crimes committed in California.

These geographical limitations often prompt employers to look for “nationwide” criminal history background check databases. However, there is no such thing as a central, national database of criminal history information. There are multi-jurisdictional databases that compile information from multiple counties and states throughout the country.

At, our US OneSEARCH background check scours such a database. We strive to keep our database as updated as possible to ensure accuracy with our checks. At the same time, we are reliant on county, state, and federal agencies, which report their data to us. If a crime has taken place since the last time a specific agency reported to us, it won’t be documented in our database search.

So, how can you conduct accurate background checks? The best way to protect yourself against the inherent limitations of most data sources is to not rely on a single data source. Instead, design a background check policy for your business that draws data from multiple sources.

One strategy we recommend at is to start the background check process with an address history check. That way, you can determine where your candidate has lived recently and order county or state checks, or both, in those areas.

This method isn’t foolproof. It’s always possible that someone could have committed a crime while on vacation, for instance. However, statistically, most crimes are committed close to where a person lives and works. Using an address history check as the guiding light for your background check process is one way to ensure accuracy.

For help devising a background check solution that makes sense for your business, contact today.

Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • October 15  What’s new with Uber and Lyft background checks? We look at the latest developments in ridesharing and driver screening.
  • October 10 Seasonal work plays a critical role in the economy every year as companies bulk up for the rush of holiday business. Does the pressure to quickly build staff stop businesses from using strong background screenings?
  • October 08 LifeWay is a Nashville-based organization that supplies bibles, hymnals, educational materials, and other resources to thousands of churches nationwide. LifeWay offers the OneSource program, which connects churches and organizations to discounted services for background checks.
  • October 03 A fingerprint background check is often considered the gold standard of background checks. How far back does a fingerprint background check go?
  • October 03 Businesses continue to take advantage of outside contractors to perform work, but is the approach too hands-off? Avoiding common pitfalls requires practical hiring policies.
  • October 01 For years, the idea of a temporary (or “temp”) worker remained relatively rare. Some businesses have always used temps and temp agencies to fill stopgap needs, but such practices have not been widespread—until now. The rise of the gig economy has pushed businesses in nearly every industry to reconsider their hiring strategies. 
  • September 26 White-collar crimes such as fraud and embezzlement can severely impact a business internally and externally. How can companies protect themselves from this threat? 
  • September 25 Do Nevada background check laws include a reporting limit on criminal convictions? We set the record straight on this confusing subject.
  • September 24 Employee background checks and volunteer background checks are among the most critical strategies that religious organizations can use to make sure those protections are in place. 
  • September 19 Some employers believe that looking at an applicant's life online can yield important insights for hiring. Is a social media screening useful—or even legal?