Background Check or Criminal Record Check: What's the Difference?

People sometimes use the terms "background check" and "criminal record check" interchangeably. But they are two different things. Let's dig in and clarify what we mean.

What is a background check?

Pre-employment background checks provide employers with critical insights into their candidates. These insights enable employers to hire with more confidence. Why is this so important? Simple. Bad hires can cost companies big bucks.

Several different types of background checks exist, including driving history, education and employment verifications, social media screens, and—yes—criminal record checks (just to name a few).

Criminal background checks are considered the foundational element of most employment screening programs. In addition to running criminal history checks, employers will often run other types of background checks, depending on the job itself (not to mention applicable local, state, and federal laws).

For example, if the job doesn't require employees to drive on behalf of the company, the employer probably wouldn't run an MVR check. If the job does involve online interactions with customers, the employer might run a social media check to make sure the candidate doesn't have a history of bad job-relevant behavior on places like Facebook and Instagram.

Bottom line: Pre-employment background checks help employers make better hiring decisions. That said, creating a legal, compliant, and effective screening program can be complicated, which is why working with a reputable vendor, ideally one who is accredited by the Professional Background Screening Association, is always a wise decision.

What is a criminal record check?

As we noted above, a criminal record check is one type of background check. Understanding a candidate's past—particularly a person's criminal history—is an essential input to the hiring process. (And we'd argue that criminal history checks are more important now than ever before, given the number of states with ban-the-box laws that limit the timing and placement of criminal history inquiries for employment purposes.)

A criminal history check helps an employer assess whether a candidate's previous behavior could negatively affect the person's ability to fulfill the responsibilities of the position and/or pose a potential risk to clients and co-workers. While not foolproof, past behavior is often indicative of future behavior (we discuss this concept in more depth on our Screening Continuum page) and should be carefully considered on an individualized basis, in accordance with EEOC guidelines.

The default scope for a criminal history search is seven years. Extended scope searches (10-year, full criminal history) can be supported at an additional cost to the client, to the extent permitted by applicable law. Several types of criminal history searches exist as well: county, state, federal, and nationwide. (Read more about look-back periods and types of searches here.)

A "basic criminal background check" is in the eye of the beholder and is based solely on client requirements. That said, Good Egg offers a baseline package configuration that is the starting point for building out a screening program to meet the client's needs.

How do we work towards meeting a client's specific needs? Well, part of our discovery process with a prospect is to understand their business, including the positions to be screened, the number of hires expected per year, and the budget allocated for their background check program.

Want to review your background check process and see how we'd approach it? Let's chat!


New call-to-action

Danielle Deutsch

Posted by Danielle Deutsch

Danielle is the Senior Digital Marketing Coordinator at Good Egg & Foley Services. In her spare time you can find her either visiting an aquarium, enjoying a Broadway show or competing in a Crossfit competition.

Download eBook Now! How to Choose the Right Background Check Vendor