Criminal Background Check 101: What You Need to Know

Criminal background checks are more than just a step in the hiring process. Check out more reasons why running a criminal background check may be a good idea.

When you think of a criminal background check, the first thing that may come to mind is employment. Background checks are a routine part of employee screening and the legal way to get insight into a candidate’s past. However, a company running a background check on a prospective hire isn’t the only entity with a reason for running a background check. There are multiple uses for looking into someone’s criminal history, and there are many ways to request them.

Who Can Run a Criminal Background Check?

criminal background check people filling out paperwork

In the professional setting, background checks are extremely important to the hiring process. A background check shows corporations a person’s driving record, criminal history and much, much more through a standard criminal history check. Large corporations and business aren’t the only ones with the ability to run a background check.

Besides the professional setting, the personal setting is another common and useful scenario for a criminal background check. There are many different reasons why you would want to request a background check. It is important to remember that criminal history is a public record, so essentially, anyone could run a background check.

Of course, running a criminal background check this has to be done within the parameters of the federal law. But depending on the level of information requested, the methods can vary. Under the Fair Credit Report Act, big corporations are legally required to get your consent before they request one. When it comes to personal matters, however, this could be different.

Other Reasons for Requesting a Background Check

some people run criminal background checks on their nanny

Humans are curious, and more importantly, humans are cautious. Running a background check on someone can stem from a number of reasons. The obvious reasons are definitely safety, precaution, and trust. Think of a landlord and tenant; would you trust someone to move into your home if you didn’t know about their criminal history?

Personal Self-Checks

It is possible to run a personal background check. The reasons may vary from case to case, but a common reason is to run the check is a precursor for seeking jobs. You may be getting ready to go through a round of job interviews and want to know what will show up on a background check. A self-check is a good way to know what to expect when your prospective employers check your driving records, criminal history, and previous addresses.

Dating and/or Personal Relationships

While some may see it as controversial, running a criminal background check on a prospective partner can be a good way to know what you’re getting yourself into. Especially in the age of online dating, requesting public records could be a safety precaution and a way to make sure that you can trust the person who you are entering a relationship with.


Maybe you’re moving into a new neighborhood or meeting new people. In order to learn more about your neighbors or the people that you interact with, you may choose to run a background check on someone. This could also be useful if you have suspicions about a particular person. Keep in mind that there are many legal implications to running a background check on someone without their consent, and this can affect the type of information that shows up.


This scenario could dip into the professional setting, but let’s face it: Most babysitting and childcare situations are done informally. Trusting someone with your children is a very important issue, and sometimes just meeting someone isn’t enough insight into their past. Many parents run background checks on new babysitters and nannies to get insight into their past, especially when it comes to sexual misconduct. Working with third-party companies is a good way to ensure that you follow the law when it comes to requesting background checks.

How to Run a Criminal Background Check

criminal background check | beyond a Google search

There are many methods to obtaining record history on someone. Depending on who is requesting the information and the level of information you’re trying to get, getting a background check is relatively easy, but how long it takes to run a background check varies.

Internet Searches and Free Searches

A simple internet search can go a long way. For prospective significant others and other personal relationships, a quick Google could reveal a lot of information about a person. From social media accounts to simple public records, this may be enough of information to confirm what you need to know about the person that you’re searching for.

There are certain specialized websites that consolidate personal information like social media profiles and legal public records. Sites like PeekYou are free to use and collect people’s public information.

The National Sex Offender Registry is also free and available to view for the public.

Third-Party Services

For a more intense criminal background check, you may consider going with a private, paid company. Whether this is for professional or personal use, you may want more peace of mind that comes with going through a third-party company. Background check services like CheckPeople and Instant Checkmate are some of the top companies for requesting criminal history. If you want to view more third-party services, check out the best background check services.

criminal background check 101