No criminal background check is complete without a national database search. And yet, most national database searches are aggravatingly inconsistent, incomplete, and in many cases, inaccurate. Data sources are shrouded in mystery, and the data itself often arrives in a muddled mess that requires hours of tedious sorting to find relevant information.

In this guide, we’ll look at why most national criminal database solutions currently on the market fall short, how InformData’s solution is different, and how our solution will help your CRA compete, grow, and profit in today’s turbulent hiring environment.

What is a national criminal database search?

Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, let’s establish what we mean by a national criminal database search.

A national criminal database search is a pointer tool composed of aggregated criminal data and public records to identify potential convictions and arrests on an individual. CRAs typically conduct national criminal database searches in conjunction with local county searches in jurisdictions where the individual has resided. The purpose of a national criminal database search is to uncover crimes that may have occurred outside of the individual’s home counties.

Because national criminal databases are not primary sources, their records are not reliable enough to be released to end-users. Instead, CRAs follow up on national search results with local county criminal searches.

National criminal database searches are not to be confused with the similar-sounding federal background checks, which look for cases prosecuted in federal courts. A national criminal background check might more accurately be called a “multi-jurisdictional” search (although the word “national” seems to have stuck.)

How most national criminal database solutions fail CRAs

Enterprise Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs) have long had the upper hand when it comes to access to data and the technology to deliver it efficiently. Mid-sized and smaller background screening companies have had to rely on third-party data providers, which can vary in quality, reliability, and customer service. It hasn’t always been easy to find a national criminal records provider your CRA can count on.

Yet, background screening companies aren’t so quick to switch for a variety of reasons including most commonly that the pain of integrating a new solution seems too difficult.

Over the years, the complaints we’ve heard from CRAs about national criminal database solutions tend to fall into one of a few categories:

1. Lack of transparency

The typical national criminal records database is a black box. Vendors obscure their data sources, so CRAs never know exactly how much to trust the information. This can often send CRAs off on wasteful wild-goose chases pursuing records that either can’t be reported or are of no interest to the end-user.

2. Integrations are too difficult

Most providers make switching difficult because they don’t have the tools to easily integrate their solution with their technology platform (third-party or proprietary).

3. No flexibility or customization

Many national criminal records data providers will tell you the data is the data — what you get is what you get; too much, too little, and rarely just right and often a needle in a haystack of noise. CRAs are on their own to make what they will of the data and/or make the data conform to the form the customer requires. That takes time. Time that impacts turn around. If you ask for results to be customized (such as the type of offenses you’d like to receive, time parameters, and so on) your options will be severely limited and you’ll probably be paying a premium.

4. Spotty coverage

No single commercially available database contains every arrest and conviction that has occurred throughout the United States. There are simply too many variables for this to be practical — not the least of which being that numerous courts still haven’t made their records available online.

Between 30% and 50% of all criminal records nationwide may be the best you can hope for. Nevertheless, some national criminal records solutions fall woefully short of even this modest target.

For a CRA, the more records available in a national database, the better. If your CRA fails to find a relevant criminal record, it can damage your reputation with your end-users. Employers do not like making risky hiring decisions based on incomplete and out-of-date information.

5. Pricing efficiency

Price efficiency is a function of what your criminal database covers. Let’s say you order a national criminal search. The result will often lead you to order additional local searches at the state, county or city jurisdiction – at additional cost. If your national criminal database is limited to only national records, you end up paying twice and sorting through two sets of results to get your client what they need. Only a national criminal solution that also provides the option to search both nationally and locally optimizes efficiency and minimizes cost.

Why do problems with national criminal database searches matter more now than ever?

National database search results are instantaneous. And considering how often your background screening firm runs them, national criminal searches should be among the most frictionless activities your operation performs.

All too often, however, for the reasons listed in the previous section, national criminal background checks slow down CRAs. They can disrupt your workflow, lengthen your turnaround times, and lead you to chase information. In short, low-quality national criminal background data can, at best, put you on the defensive and, at worst, send your customers into the hands of your competitors.

Given the current employment climate, that’s the last thing you need.

In a recent blog analysis, we surveyed the hiring landscape as the world economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. CRAs told us that at this moment, they have an unprecedented opportunity for growth. But to capitalize on this opportunity, CRAs must also overcome some vexing challenges, including turn-around-times and operational scale.

On the positive side (for CRAs), a perfect storm of converging factors is driving high demand for employment background screening:

New jobs are being created at a record pace, particularly in the service industry.

Job churn is off the charts, a situation dubbed “the Great Resignation” by industry observers.

Rather than returning to their offices, people who transitioned to remote work during the pandemic are asking to remain remote. Several large employers (including Amazon, Facebook, and Ford) are offering permanent work-from-home options.

“Gig” employment continues to grow. More than two-thirds of millennials have a side hustle.

Employers are hiring in massive numbers, have less direct contact with their employees and job candidates, and employees are coming and going at a breakneck pace. All of this amplifies the need for more efficient, more comprehensive background screening.

Meanwhile, human resources departments that cut back during the early days of the pandemic are struggling to keep up. They’re relying on CRAs to pick up the slack.

Unfortunately, CRAs are dealing with difficulties of their own. Background screening firms have not been immune to the effects of the Great Resignation. Qualified screening research personnel are in short supply — and fresh hires can take months to get up to full productivity.

Criminal background checks are also taking longer to complete due to circumstances beyond the control of CRAs. Many courts still have social distancing rules that limit the number of public terminals available, require appointments for research, and set time limits on each researcher, creating constraints on the supply of screens that can be performed..

Employers are looking to regain their footing quickly as the pandemic economy subsides, and it’s unlikely your end-users will have much tolerance for delays or errors.

High demand combined with supply constraints breeds intense competition. If your customers are dissatisfied with your CRA’s performance, they will simply move on to one of the many other similarly-priced CRAs jockeying for the same business. So-called CRA churn can wreak havoc on your business.

As we advised in our blog post analysis, making the most of the current market opportunity requires an openness to change; your CRAs old way of doing things may no longer be adequate when confronted with extraordinary demand and fierce competition:

“Succeeding in the 2021 economy means finding ways to be nimble and responsive in the short term while building out essential infrastructure to support long-term growth and efficiency. The solutions to both are found in your people, processes, and technology, either via organic internal improvements or external partnerships or acquisitions.”

— Nick Fishman, Chief Marketing Officer, InformData

A national criminal database solution is one of those essential pieces of the infrastructure your CRA relies on to support growth and profitability. In today’s tumultuous market, you cannot afford a national database solution that impedes your efficiency, increases your costs, or jeopardizes the accuracy of your reports.

That and advances in our technology platform are why we felt now was the perfect time to introduce a national criminal database solution backed by InformData’s commitment to technological innovation, massive built-in research infrastructure, and proven processes.

Five ways InformData’s national criminal database solution is different from (and better than) the rest

We’ve heard all the complaints here at InformData. For over two decades, the consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) and background screening companies that rely on our county, federal and state criminal record data have been asking us, “When are you going to introduce a national criminal database solution that solves these problems?”

The answer to that question is now.

As with everything we do at InformData, we were not interested in creating a national criminal database solution just to say we had one. We wanted to be sure our solution added value for CRAs above and beyond anything currently in the marketplace. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Our reimagined national criminal database platform meets the high standards for transparency, flexibility and efficiency we set for ourselves. And we’re confident it solves the problems you face with your present national criminal database solution, too.

We’ve designed our national criminal database solution to target six key differentiators that will help CRAs of all shapes and sizes compete — and win — in today’s employment environment:

  • Coverage
  • Transparency
  • Data Cleanliness
  • Customizability
  • Cost Efficiency
  • Ease of Integration
1. Transparency

There are no mysteries about where we get our data. Our complete source list containing over 2 billion records is available to users so that you can judge the information’s trustworthiness and usefulness for yourself — no more wasted hours chasing meaningless data. We have elegant coverage maps in InformData Connect which offer on-demand access to our coverage areas.

2. Ease of integration

Our simplified developer-friendly API allows effortless plug-and-play integration with your platform whether you use a third-party solution or have your own proprietary system. 

3. Flexibility

Unlike other providers, InformData believes you — the CRA — get to choose which data matters to you and your end-users. Our national criminal database solution features expansive filtering and reporting options to accommodate the most stringent of client requirements.

Do you only want to see records that include a full name and date of birth? Are you only interested in felonies? Our filtering options let you zero in on the parameters you and your end-users need while eliminating anything else that can cause distractions and delays.

4. Coverage

Here’s something you won’t get from any other data provider. InformData’s national criminal data solution contains over 2 billion unique criminal records derived from over 2,000 municipalities at the county, state, and federal levels across the United States. 

With over 90% of the population covered, our national criminal coverage is the largest electronically available criminal records source in the nation. 

5. Cost-Efficiency

Vendor consolidation is generally recognized as a significant cost-saving strategy in the modern business world. If you’re already partnering with InformData for county-level criminal background data, employment verification, and other services, our national criminal database solution lets you bring another essential function under our trusted umbrella.

Imagine the simplicity of being able to manage your entire criminal background check search in one place. You’ll like the price, but you’ll love the reduction in labor, streamlined workflow, and consolidated supply chain efficiencies.

It’s time to get excited about national criminal data

There are two ways for a CRA to win from a profitability standpoint: spending less money and increasing efficiency. InformData’s national criminal database solution helps you on both fronts.

Our national criminal database product is priced to sell. And we’ve included features (which are nowhere to be seen in other market offerings) that will help you reduce the overhead and time associated with processing search results.

But all these efficiency improvements wouldn’t be worth much if you couldn’t trust our data.

We’ve tested our solution against the leading databases in the marketplace and found that our expansive data — enhanced with — is a cut above the rest. It’s more comprehensive, it’s more accurate, and our filtering and customization options let you consume the data the way you want it.

Give InformData’s national criminal database solution a try. We think you’ll come to the same conclusion.