Top 4 Employer Difficulties When Conducting Background Checks.

Top 4 Employer Problems Conducting Background Checks

We are providing a list of four employer problems conducting background checks that their background screening vendor may not have explained up front.

Almost every employer is now conducting some form of screening on new hires to ensure suitability, safety, and profitability in the workplace.

Once your organization is set up to perform background checks, you must understand that not all background checks are created equal.

Many factors cause delays and frustration when reviewing, receiving, and making decisions based on the screening results reports.

County Level Criminal Search Delays

The most accurate form of a criminal background check performed is a county level criminal search. This search will consist of a felony and misdemeanor search in the county or counties where the applicant has resided within the last seven years. Traditionally, a qualified “court researcher” would physically enter county courthouses and search for criminal records based on the new hire’s full name and date of birth.

From there, they would return results such as no records found, or details of records associated with the subject of the report. Usually, these searches are requested by the court researcher through the county clerk. With the evolution of technology, the majority of county courthouses now have public access terminals where court researchers can conduct their own searches without the assistance of the county clerk.

The transition to a more automated search feature has greatly improved turnaround times in completing screening reports. Not all counties in the United States, however, are equipped with automated search terminals. Some counties still handle records requests through the county clerk, and are identified as “clerk assisted” county searches.

Due to this antiquated process, court researchers are unfortunately at the liberty of the county clerk to return their public records request in a timely manner. Furthermore, due to budget cuts imposed by certain counties, county clerks are being laid off and left with completing an influx in record requests with very minimal staff. Turnaround times in completing searches will be delayed up to two weeks on average in some jurisdictions. Based on this fact, employers are encouraged to have an open line of communication with their clients as county level criminal search delays are one of the biggest employer problems conducting background checks.

Different Names Appearing on the Social Security Address Trace

The most crucial search next to a criminal records search is the social security address trace. The social trace will not only reveal previous residential addresses based on the applicant’s social security number (SSN), but will also provide any and all names used by the applicant. The social trace is developed from “credit headers,” which are the non-confidential top portion of an individual’s credit history.

When consumers apply for credit, they complete an application that asks for name, social security number, etc. Online databases capture this information and develop an information trail including address history and name variations. Employer problems conducting background checks include times when errors are made by consumers putting the wrong social security number, or bureaus transposing the wrong number.

Consumers should review their most recent credit report to ensure there is no fraudulent activity. Upon accurate completion of the social security number trace, the employer will then have an idea of which counties they would like to search for criminal activity in. When reviewing the social security number trace, the employer should pay close attention to the reporting dates of each county. Employers are not allowed to search in a county that was reported older than seven years.

Nationwide Criminal Database Search Limitations

In a perfect world, there would be a nationwide criminal search that would capture “real time” criminal record information from each county nationwide to ensure the applicant is clear of any criminal convictions throughout the country. Even with the advent of technology and automation of public records, however, no such search exists. Employers must be educated on what they are actually receiving when conducting a nationwide criminal database search.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has identified two limitations with these database searches such as being not update to date and not having 100% coverage. If an employer has an applicant residing in the state of New York, “no records” will be returned from the nationwide search because counties in the state do not contribute public record information. The details provided in the nationwide criminal search is very limited; therefore, background screening companies have a duty to ensure “maximum possible accuracy” when reporting any adverse information.

This requires including at least two identifiers unique to the applicant such as full name and date of birth, along with case details that must include disposition date, disposition, type of crime, and any sentencing information listed.

For the most part, nationwide criminal records will only provide partial case details, making it one of many employer problems conducting background checks. This is why it is crucial for employers to ensure that their background screening organization is researching any possible hits on the nationwide search in the county that provided the public record information.

Employer Problems Conducting Background Checks Required by Federal and/or State Contracts

Employers that rely on contract work must be aware of the requirements when performing services under the contract, specifically with respect to the background screening requirement. We have clients that are constantly conducting business with the federal government, educational institutions, financial sector, etc. These industries have strict requirements when it comes to screening contractors.

 The majority of the time, the scope of work within the contract will explain what type of searches are required to fulfill the contract. Employers must comply with the requirements set forth and engage their background screening vendor to make sure the searches they are providing are in alignment with the contract requirements.

Employers Choice Screening always asks to see the background screening requirement within the request for proposal in order to provide specific searches required. This will save the organization time and money knowing the background screening reports provided conform with the entity’s scope of work. Employers that receive adverse information that would prohibit the employee from working on the contract must follow the FCRA when disqualifying them from employment. 

If they are a current employee and no background check was done upon hiring, the employer will be held liable for terminating their employment entirely.

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