IF YOU’VE EVER applied for a job, chances are someone has run a criminal background check on you. But what exactly does that mean?

“There’s often a misconception that you can order a one-stop shop of information on a person, but that doesn’t exist,” says Melissa Sorenson, the executive director of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners.

Instead, a background check typically involves pulling records from multiple places, such as state and county courts. In many cases, these records can be checked online, but some counties haven’t digitized their records or made them available online, meaning a person needs to visit a government office to search the records.