What are the Different Levels of Background Checks?

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Levels of Background Checks

Companies and individuals might choose to perform background checks to verify someone’s identity, probe for a criminal record, and check education history or employment history. The goal and frequency of background checks differ depending on the institution running them, the sector, the jurisdiction, and other factors.  Typically, a recruiter will do an employment background check in the pre-hiring stage. However, post-hire, ongoing checks exist as well. There are four levels of background checks, which will be explained in detail.  

Level 1- Levels of Background Checks

At their most basic, background checks are limited to a single jurisdiction – where the subject of the check is based. Level 1 checks can incorporate employment history. There is a distinction between fingerprint-based and name-based screenings to make here. A lot of people (erroneously) believe the former kind is more accurate because they use DNA. In reality, very few organizations check fingerprints today. 

This is because they are expensive and time-consuming. What’s more, they tend to be based on outdated laws or uninformed policies. They are far from the most accurate and easiest way to screen job candidates.  

Companies in finance or insurance have to do these checks, but that’s usually only supplementary to name-based screening. Digital screening is a lot more valuable to employers. Hiring risk is mitigated by a reliable online background check as long as you choose an accredited screening provider. Fingerprint checks are less transparent and compliant than a name-based report. 

Level 2

A level 2 background check is a specialized type of background check usually required for a specific type of job applicants. The jobs involve working with vulnerable groups of people, like seniors, disabled persons, children, and teens. 

You might be required to undergo a level 2 check for a volunteer job if it is at a nursing home, senior center, daycare center, or school. The paid staff at these establishments will have to be screened as well. People who want to adopt a child might be subjected to this check as well. 

Level 2 background screening involves a search of your name in a database of information on convictions, arrests, and incarceration involving crimes or violent behavior. It can reveal relevant records that a court has sealed, including detention and juvenile convictions. 

On this level, criminal history is detected through a state or federal database check. Level 2 checks can also be done after someone has been hired, depending on the degree of trust or responsibility that comes with the position. 

Level 3

Level 3 background checks are the most common of the four types. They consist of education, reference, employment, and criminal history checks. In some cases, they include pre-hire drug screening. As with the other types, the point of these checks is to guarantee you’re hiring the right person. 

It’s important to check whether someone poses a potential risk to the company or its other employees. Companies face detrimental lawsuits if someone can prove a person who inflicted damage and posed foreseeable risk was hired despite that.  

On this level, you look at county, state, and federal court records. The search starts with district court records, then proceeds with county court databases. You might check for petty offenses in municipal court records. 

This type of background check can provide insight into someone’s character if you see they have a series of arrests for similar crimes. While you won’t know whether they were convicted, a history of arrests is telling. You can only see conviction records in a federal database. However, federal databases tend to provide insufficient details. The information available is limited to the type of case and the person’s name. 

Level 4

Finally, level 4 background checks include a bankruptcy record search, a media search, and everything else included in the previous level. They are typically done on candidates for executive-level positions. A manual search for criminal history data is performed. 

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