National, Federal, State & County Background Checks: What’s the Difference?

National, Federal, State & County Background Checks

Background checks can save your organization from major disasters. You have to use your best judgment and thoroughly examine all available candidate information to build a qualified team.

You may be able to protect your company and your employees by doing thorough background checks. For example, you can do four typical criminal background checks in the United States.  We’ll go through each one, including things like what is a national background check, what is a federal background check, and how to use that information to make informed hiring decisions.

What Does a National Background Check Show?

A national criminal background check scans databases across the United States to identify infractions, misdemeanors, felonies, and pending cases at the county or state level. You will also need to scour through the sex offender database to determine if the person you are hiring is on them. 

National Background Check for Employment

When you do a countrywide check to determine if the potential hire has a case pending or is convicted of any crime, your search may not be thorough if you go just by the digital records. The national background checks do not check records that are not digitized or federal convictions. For updated and accurate information, you might want to check with the county they live in. 

While the severity of a misdemeanor conviction can determine whether a person faces a felony charge, other factors can also play a role. Disorderly conduct, public intoxication, and theft under $500 are all examples of misdemeanors. Arson, manslaughter, Rape, aggravated assault, and murder, as well as theft worth more than $500, are examples of felonies.

How to Get a National Background Check?

For a fee, you can ask the FBI to provide an Identity History Summary, sometimes known as a criminal record or a “rap sheet,” which contains information gleaned from fingerprint submissions and related to arrests, as well as, in some cases, government employment, naturalization, or military services.

What Does a Federal Background Check Include?

Searches throughout 94 federal US district and appellate court databases for federal criminal convictions and pending cases are conducted as part of federal criminal background checks. Among federal crimes are identity theft, tax evasion, counterfeiting, abduction, and robbery.

Additionally, federal employees like TSA agents and forest rangers, banks, and federal territories like national parks are targeted by criminals that target the federal government.

Federal Background Checks for Employment

Financial industry executives and CPAs are routinely subjected to federal criminal background checks to uncover instances of fraud and embezzlement or identity theft. However, there are no results from the FBI or the Department of Justice included in this search.

Federal Background Check Requirements

A background check may fail for various reasons, including a criminal past, a shaky credit history, a blemished driving record, a fabricated work history, or even a failed drug test.

The Difference Between Federal and State Background Checks

Criminal background checks target TSA personnel and postal workers for violations of federal law like embezzlement and illicit gun transactions. On the contrary, a national or national criminal background check searches across a wide range of state databases, such as those maintained by the Administrative Offices of Courts and Departments of Corrections, for any state or county convictions that have been digitized. In contrast to federal checks, these are derived from different databases.

If you uncover the results of a local criminal conviction in a national search, you may want to conduct a county-level search to obtain more comprehensive data from that jurisdiction.

County Vs. State Background Check

What Does a State Background Check Consist Of?

State-level background checks include criminal charges and convictions against a person and police and law enforcement records. This consists of both misdemeanors and crimes, as well as pending cases.

Some states don’t include county records in-state checks, so you may need to request specific county papers. State checks can be helpful, but they may not be comprehensive. Keeping in mind that the laws and courts of the United States are vastly different from state to state, the severity and penalties of offenses may vary widely.

Candidates who often move might have their history checked at the state level. Your background check provider will provide you with this list of addresses after doing a social security number check.

Background checks are an essential part of the hiring process and may provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision that benefits your business and your workers. Knowing how to interpret a criminal history check is an added benefit.

Searches of several databases at all levels of government must be conducted to perform a thorough background investigation. If you don’t maintain the workplace safe and harmonious, neither your firm nor your employees will. Doing your due diligence is best done before a new employee starts working for you.

The FCRA requires that you get the candidate’s written consent and advise them that the background check findings may be utilized in your decision before performing a background check.

What Is A County Background Check?

Each of the United States’ 3,200+ counties maintains a record of local misdemeanor and felony charges and convictions. The name and date range supplied in a criminal background check can be used to look for criminal records in specific counties in which state law permits.

The ideal areas to start your search are the candidate’s current county of residence, as well as surrounding counties and other counties they’ve previously resided in. The Social Security number (SSN) trace, often known as an alias search, can be used to locate the counties that the person has been in.

You will get the most current and accurate data when you do a county background check. However, a lack of digital courtrooms in some jurisdictions and the need for county clerks or court runners to find and deliver legal papers to the background check provider may impact turnaround time.


Background checks are indispensable to the hiring process. However, you must be thorough with their background checks to save your organization from disrepute and lawsuits. You must know the different types of background checks, what they entail, and how to do them. 

Criminal background checks are available in various forms, and not all screening findings are the same. Therefore, don’t settle for anything less than the most complete and accurate information available from a reputable source.


Pawan Kumar

I'm a Content Marketer at Springworks. I've been featured in many reputed publications and online magazines! I'm an avid reader and movie buff. Let's connect on Social Media.

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