Background Checks Guide: What Is A Background Check?

Why run one and what's included

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Not sure what's included in a background check? You've come to the right place!

The background on background checks

Background checks are searches through databases, registries and other public and private sources.   While they aren't always 100% accurate or complete, they can be very helpful when making a hiring decision, because they can uncover potential warning signs about candidates. Whether you're looking for a babysitter, senior care provider or a dog walker, a background check can help reveal things like criminal conduct or driving infractions. For more, see "Preliminary background checks" and "Preferred background checks" below.

The importance of background checks

Requesting background checks is a key step in finding quality care. In fact, almost 50% of our Premium Members request a background check because it can reveal information that wouldn't come up during in-depth interviews or reference checking. When you're close to making a hiring decision - or even before you invite someone to your home for an interview - you should request a background check. offers two types of background checks: Preliminary and Preferred. What's the difference?

Preliminary background checks

Preliminary Background CheckPremium members can request unlimited free preliminary caregiver background checks through  Preliminary background checks typically take about one day after a caregiver accepts your request and grants you access to view the results. Background checks are performed based on information the caregiver provides on and includes the following:

  • Social Security Number verification
  • National criminal database search
  • State sex offender registries search (all 50 states)

Individual states and counties decide what information is included in a background check. For instance, Massachusetts only reports registered sex offender information. Click here to see what records your state and county reports.

To learn more about unlimited preliminary background checks, visit our background check FAQs.

Preferred background checks

Preferred Background CheckPreferred background checks are more comprehensive. They involve verifying county and federal courthouse records of all addresses on record of the perspective hire, either in-person or via an online database (depending on local requirements). There is a $59 fee to run these more thorough checks. It typically takes 1 to 3 days to run a preliminary background check after a caregiver accepts your request. Then we make the results available to you promptly once the caregiver gives us permission to do so. 

Here's what you get with a Preferred background check:

  • Everything included in a Preliminary background check
  • In-person or online search of federal courthouse arrest and conviction records
  • In-person or online search of county (or state) courthouse arrest and conviction records

Because of the additional searches included in preferred background checks, these checks can uncover criminal records in jurisdictions that do not provide information to the national criminal records database.

Tip: You're only charged for a Preferred Background Check once you have access to the results. If a caregiver does not accept your request or allow you to access the check after it is run, you do not have to pay the fee.

Comprehensive Background Checks: Side by Side

Background Check Comparison

Want simple step-by-step instructions on how to request a background check? Continue reading!


Next: How Do I Request A Background Check »
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