Skip to main content

What Makes An Effective Background Check?

What Makes An Effective Background Check?

The primary goal in conducting a background check is to ensure the validity of a prospective employee or a volunteer working with minors.  As such, this is not an area where you want to take shortcuts. 

We understand it’s tempting to select the lowest cost search, but this can also put you at the highest risk.  You get what you pay for will ring true when it comes to your source for background checks.  If for example, your current background check service is free or almost free, I can almost promise the information you are getting is worth what you are paying.

So, what are some of the more critical things you should know?

Run A National Criminal Database Search

Let’s understand that despite its name, this search is not truly national. There is no such thing as a true national criminal history database that contains all criminal history records from all U.S. County courts. 

Even so, a national criminal history search is still generally effective at detecting potential records.  To enhance the effectiveness of your search, we recommend that you pair the national database search with a county search.  County record searches are considered the most accurate source of criminal history data since this is where records are filed.

Be Sure Your Report Includes A Social Security Number Trace

Maybe the most critical search in the process is the Social Security Number trace. This search gives the screening company all the information that is needed to run a thorough screening for you. It tells them whether the social security number that the individual gave you is valid, and it tells them the year and the state it was issued in.  Most importantly, it gives every address, in every city, state and county that the person has resided in. You would be surprised how many candidates omit the places that they have been in trouble in on their applications. No matter what searches you do, no matter what firm you use, make absolutely sure that you run this search.

Components Of A Comprehensive Background Check

At the very minimum, the background check should cover:

  • National Criminal Search
  • Social Security Number Verification
  • Sex Offender Registries Search
  • A 7-Year County Criminal Background Search

Note: The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) governs what a screening company can and cannot report back to you. Within a seven-year scope, screening firms can report back to you anything that is on the record. That means you will get arrests, convictions, deferred adjudications, not guilty verdicts, pretty much everything that shows up. After seven years, all you will get is convictions.

What Other Reports Should I Consider?

  • A motor vehicle report would be important to you if the person is driving for your organization for any reason.
  • If you are hiring an accountant or a finance minister, run a pre-employment credit check on them. If they can’t manage their own money, do you really want them managing yours?


  • Insurance One has a discounted pricing arrangement with Protect My Ministry which serves over 35,000 churches and faith-based organization.
  • Kevin Conrad is the President and Owner of Complete Security Investigations in Dallas Texas. He is a licensed private investigator and has been in business for over 18 years.
  • Ministry Safe is a leader in working with faith-based organizations in developing and training those who work with minors. Background checks are an important part of an effective program.

Final Words

  • Clearly, all background checks and background check companies are not the same!
  • If your primary screening program for those that work with minors is totally or heavily based on clearing a background check, your program is potentially flawed.  Background checks should be the last check mark on selecting an individual, not the first.
  • Depending on the type of search you are doing, expect to pay around $10 at the very least but likely closer to $20. Depending on where the individual may have lived in the past and the details of the search, it could be even higher.