Response to the “Today Show” Segment on Background Checks


Last week the Today Show ran a segment that criticized background screening firms for making outrageous errors and costing people potential jobs.

As a professional background screener, I take my work seriously. I understand that ratings and page hits bring in ad-revenue, but I feel that the information discussed during this segment was borderline irresponsible.

This segment portrays background screening companies as out of control; false hits are reported recklessly, the adverse-action process is ignored and job applicants are left in the dark, feeling helpless. I do not feel this is an accurate portrayal of most background screening firms.

Our industry is far from perfect but the work we do is important. Not a week goes by where at least one news headline reminds me of the importance of proper background screening.

Workplace Shooting. Hostile termination Turns Violent. Jerry Sandusky and Eight Mile. The Boy Scouts of America.

The authors and mouth-pieces of this segment are failing to recognize that the FCRA was specifically put in place to protect consumers from inaccurate reporting of information, especially in background checks. Furthermore, give them the opportunity to dispute any inaccurate information (Pre-Adverse/Adverse Action).

The rough economy has made it difficult for many to find a job. When one is found, there are often many candidates competing for a single position. Unfortunately, individuals with checkered pasts are often the first individuals removed from the list of prospective candidates. What is being done to help those who have turned their lives around but can’t avoid skeletons in their closets?

Well, several states have enacted laws that do not allow employers to consider criminal convictions or even ask applicants if they have ever been convicted. The EEOC recently released new guidelines taking this specific issue into account. The federal government has overhauled the system and created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which will assume the Federal Trade Commission responsibilities effect January 1, 2013 (more news on this to follow).

During her rebuttal, Ms. Miller failed to accurately explain that in each “horror story” mentioned, a “database” search was utilized. As I explain to every client, in most instances database searches rely on a name match only, and provide no final disposition information (conviction or dismissal).

Any “hit” reported on a nationwide database search MUST be researched in the county of record for further identification (Quality Assurance). Background checks primarily exist to protect a company’s employees and assets. If background checks are eliminated from the hiring process all together, be prepared for more cases like Penn State, the Boy Scouts of America and the endless cases we have seen involving workplace violence.

Read the full segment.