This morning, The Today Show ran a Rossen Report segment about how background screening companies have made reporting mistakes that caused candidates to unfortunately lose out on job opportunities. Specifically, the report followed several job seekers who were mistaken for criminals with the same or similar names, thus ruining their chances for getting hired.

Contrary to popular belief, there are no foolproof background searches or “national database” searches that cover the entire country. As a matter of fact, many states don’t submit criminal records to national databases and those that do only submit incarceration records. With the absence of a true national database, the best search option available is hands-on research at the primary source: the county courthouses. However, with over 3,000 counties throughout the U.S. and over 10,000 courthouses housing criminal records, it would be an onerous and costly task to search a person’s criminal history in every courthouse.

This is why a comprehensive background search begins with an address and social security verification. This search verifies the applicant’s social security number and reveals aliases and addresses from the past seven to ten years. With this information, criminal courthouse searches are only conducted in the counties the applicant has lived during that period.

State repository and/or database searches can also be a valuable supplement to county courthouse searches. These supplemental searches allow you to broaden your investigation and possibly identify an applicant’s criminal past in an area outside of his/her counties of residence.

Keep in mind, however, that information in these searches is sometimes outdated or incomplete. Consequently, when databases reveal a record, a county criminal search should be conducted in an effort to verify the information. Remember, a good search is a thorough search!

Federal criminal searches are also recommended as they search for violations of Federal law that are recorded in US District Courts rather than local county courthouses. Federal crimes usually involve serious offenses such as embezzlement, robbery, drug trafficking, mail fraud, racketeering and kidnapping. Unfortunately, the searchable index for Federal District Courts have very little identifying information, so confirming a record match can be time consuming.

Your employment screening company should tailor a search that best suits your company’s needs, so depending on the position applied for, additional recommendations may include terrorist watch lists and verifications of education, employment and professional licenses. Credit reports, driving records and drug testing are also valuable screening tools.

It’s important to note both federal and local governments have regulations that must be adhered to when screening applicants. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) applies to companies utilizing a third party vendor to obtain background reports. The FCRA requires an employer to provide written disclosure regarding the investigation, and must receive authorization from the applicant before initiating the search.

If an employer chooses not to hire an applicant whether in whole or in part due to the applicant’s screening report additional rules must be followed. They include a two-step process of providing the applicant with a pre-adverse action letter followed by an adverse action letter.

The pre-adverse action letter will include a copy of the background screening report along with the summary of the FCRA’s consumer rights. After a sufficient waiting period, usually five to ten days, the notice of adverse action should be provided along with other information as proscribed by the FCRA.

An employer making the decision not to hire an applicant with a negative background screening report should also address Title VII considerations, as well as specific state rules. Although your background screening company will provide you with current procedures to follow, an employment attorney should be consulted to ensure compliance with all federal and local regulations.

Employment screening can be vital to your company’s overall success. Ignoring it or performing cheap, substandard searches can cost your company a lot more than the price of a comprehensive screening process. Your company should engage a reputable background screening company that specializes in employment screening.

With an accuracy rate of 99.99%, Hire Image is proud of its search process.

Click here to view the Rossen Report segment.

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