To help make informed hiring decisions, mitigate risk, and promote workplace safety, many employers choose to conduct pre-employment background checks. The backbone of these screenings is often a criminal background check to confirm a candidate’s eligibility for the role.
Criminal background checks may also be an industry requirement for roles such as healthcare, childcare, or those working with other vulnerable populations.
Criminal background checks generally search federal, state, or county records to identify any reportable criminal records associated with the candidate. There are many criminal background check services to choose from, but not all are created equal. For example, not all services are compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which means they can not be used for employment or tenant-screening purposes.
Read on to learn how to find the best criminal background checks and which can be used by employers.
What is the best criminal background check?
Due to their large number of screening options, ability to customize packages, easy-to-use interfaces, and quick turnaround times, Checkr, Accurate, HireRight, and Sterling are among the largest and most respected FCRA-compliant criminal background check providers. Other factors that set them apart as the best providers of criminal background check services include competitive pricing, global screening options, and HR tech integrations for streamlined workflows.
How to get criminal background checks
Employers can conduct criminal background checks on their own by contacting law enforcement agencies directly and searching public records, but this is a time-consuming (and costly) task for any HR team to manage. Additionally, choosing to use a consumer-facing criminal background check website, like InstantCheckmate, may not meet FCRA-compliance requirements which is essential for employment or tenant-screening purposes.
With clients that include large gig employers and fast-growing companies in high-turnover industries, Checkr stands out as the best FCRA-compliant criminal background check service provider. Checkr offers fast, accurate background checks, with 98% of nationwide criminal checks completing within one hour. Available screenings include national, federal, state, and county criminal record checks, as well as continuous criminal record screening. Searches are available in 200+ countries, including GDPR-compliant international background checks.
Its modern platform with built-in workflows help employers improve hiring efficiency while a mobile-optimized candidate portal provides visibility into the background check process. Additionally, its compliance tools help support fair hiring.
In April 2022, Checkr acquired GoodHire, another highly-ranked background check company. Together, they are among the best criminal background check sites with many screening options to help scale your business and an excellent experience for both customers and candidates alike.
- Key features: Easy-to-use dashboard, adjudication tools, scalable API and a broad ecosystem of partner integrations
Accurate provides compliant criminal background checks as well as other screening options, like credit checks and monitoring services. Serving a variety of industries, the company provides background checks in more than 200 countries and offers round-the-clock customer support to ensure transparency and communication with candidates throughout the background check process.
Accurate offers county, state, federal, and international criminal searches and allows employers to set up their own criteria in conjunction with applicable regulations. Using machine learning to instantly report motor vehicle records and clear criminal search results, Accurate claims a 99.9% accuracy rate.
- Key features: Continuous criminal monitoring, user-friendly candidate portal
Sterling offers compliant criminal background checks that include nationwide, federal, state, and county searches for US candidates. They also offer global criminal and sanctions searches in over 200 countries. Other criminal searches include the national sex offender registry, industry exclusions and sanctions lists, and criminal activity monitoring.
According to their website, they utilize their own technology to access digital court records and employ court runners for in-person searches. Their platform involves a 6-step process for reporting, with compliance filters and the option to apply custom criteria to reported information.
- Key features: AI technology to speed records searches, custom search criteria
According to its website, HireRight is the largest global provider of background screening services. Offering screening services in over 200 countries and territories, they employ a network of both in-house and on-the-ground researchers who conduct criminal background checks, civil records searches, industry-specific checks, sex offender registry searches, driving records, and prohibited parties checks. They also offer an international criminal background check service for companies with global reach.
HireRight offers tailored features for companies in specific industries such as transportation, education, and financial services, as well as small businesses. The company boasts an average turnaround time of 2-4 business days and the ability to integrate with popular ATS and HRIS software.
- Key features: Comprehensive criminal screening options, expansive network of researchers
If you’re an individual looking to search for information about another person, Instant Checkmate may be considered as one of the best websites for criminal background checks. Originally created in 2010 to help people engaged in online dating feel more comfortable meeting up in person, Instant Checkmate is an automated, consumer-facing service that provides access to public records data on a subscription basis.
While it may not be FCRA-compliant, the service does enable individuals to search public records for contact information, location data, criminal records, death records, and phone numbers and may even return other personal data such as social media accounts, email addresses, aliases, or date of birth.
- Key features: Reverse lookup options, geographic crime stats
Intelius is primarily a people search service, which means it is not FCRA-compliant and therefore may not be recommended for employers to use when conducting background checks.
However, Intelius is a fast public records search provider. Users can search using a person’s name, phone number, or address to get started with a nationwide criminal background check or add a state or county for more accurate results. Intelius may ask questions to help narrow down the results and can provide a wealth of information on people including known associates and possible relationships, professional licenses, traffic and vehicle records, and much more.
- Key features: Unlimited background checks, large array of data categories
Similar to Intelius and Instant Checkmate, TruthFinder is not FCRA-compliant, but may be considered as one of the best websites to check criminal records for consumers. It enables users to scan hundreds of millions of US-only public records in order to find results.
The site lets you search by name, address, email, or phone number and can return results from public court databases like traffic tickets and felony or misdemeanor charges or convictions (though it may exclude pending cases and sealed or expunged records). Truthfinder is easy to use and offers data in a single report, but does require membership for unlimited searches.
- Key features: Mobile app, dark web scan
BeenVerified is another subscription-based background search provider mainly used by consumers for people and other related searches, such as reverse phone lookup, email lookup, address lookup, username search, unclaimed money, vehicle lookup, and social media search.
Many consumer-centric background check services, like BeenVerified, rely primarily on search records that have been digitized though many court records are only available in-person. Therefore, the comprehensiveness of its criminal background reports may be limited. Since BeenVerified is a consumer-focused website, it’s also not FCRA-compliant.
- Key features: Report dashboard, county resources for further independent search
SentryLink is a relatively small provider of FCRA-compliant employment screenings, including criminal background checks, driving record checks, Social Security number trace and validation. According to SentryLink, driving record results are instant and most criminal reports are available the same day, with 90% completing within 4 business days.
SentryLink may not offer an integrated solution compared to other providers of criminal background check services, which may impact the user experience. Reports and release forms are delivered in a Microsoft Word document or PDF and they have yet to build ATS or HRIS integrations. Also, SentryLink’s does not currently offer searches outside the United States, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam.
- Key features: Tamper-resistant PDF reports, searchable online archive
Order criminal background checks from Checkr
There are many criminal record search tools available to meet your needs, whether you’re an individual needing to look up information about a date or potential roommate or an employer needing to conduct a criminal background check as part of a pre-employment screening. The best background check providers offer modern technology, comprehensive data, streamlined workflows, and fast results.
Checkr is one of the best criminal background check services, offering multiple screening options, including comprehensive criminal searches and continuous monitoring within the US as well as international searches. Our advanced platform and proprietary data network provide fast, accurate reports, while built-in compliance tools and industry-leading integrations streamline your hiring workflows. Get started today.
*Website images and pricing mentioned in this article are accurate as of date of publication.
The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.
About the author
Sara Korolevich serves as checkr.com’s editor and content manager. In this role, she produces educational resources for employers on a broad range of screening topics, including background check compliance and best practices. She also writes about Checkr’s company and product news to keep customers updated and informed.