Businesses conduct pre-employee background checks to provide a safe and secure work environment for employees as well as the business. Such background checks help prevent potential thefts, harassment, violence and negligent-hiring lawsuits. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRC) defines what data can be reported. Typically, such searches go back no more than seven years. Some nonprofit organizations may request applicants to pay a background check fee; otherwise, businesses incur this expense.

County Criminal Records

County courthouse records are checked to find if the job applicant has a criminal record in a certain county (the county where the person lives, as well as any counties of past residences, employment or schools). Such records are public, and are searched using the individual's full name, and verified by other information such as Social Security numbers, driver's license number and date of birth. The information provided to the employer includes any charges, dispositions and sentencing information.

State Criminal Records

Although it would seem that a statewide criminal records check provides a comprehensive search of all county criminal records, the opposite is true. For example, some states require counties to forward their criminal records, while others do not. For those that do, counties may be slow forwarding records and/or the state database is updated irregularly--which compromises the accuracy of a statewide records search. However, a state criminal records search sometimes provides information unavailable at the county level, such as state department of corrections data. Therefore, a pre-employment check may also include a state criminal records that casts a wider net for information.

National Records

Federal courts retain records of federal crimes, such as interstate crimes and crimes on federal property. A search is conducted in federal districts where the applicant resided, worked and attended school. In addition, a comprehensive background search may include research in a national warrants database to determine if the applicant has any outstanding arrest warrants, which are then further researched at the county level. Warrant databases are not affiliated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, which is only available to law enforcement agencies.

Sex Offender Registry

Most states provide centralized databases of their registered sex offenders (people convicted of sex-related crimes). A check of such a database determines if a job applicant is a registered sex offender. A qualified background check professional will verify this information at the county court level. The United States Department of Justice maintains the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Website that coordinates sex offender registries from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, the District of Columbia, participating tribes and the federal government into a single, searchable national database.