“Good Enough” is Not Good Enough for Background Screening Programs

Employment Application VerificationHire the Best Candidates and Mitigate Risk for Your Company

In pre-employment background screening, companies may misconstrue a minimal background screening policy as “good enough”.  Human Resources professionals and business owners should question if they want to hire employees who are good enough or if they want to hire employees who are the best.

Negligent hiring, employee theft, and employee retention are ever-present concerns for employers. Thorough, comprehensive backgrounds checks may mitigate the risks of bad hires, negligent hiring lawsuits, and unreliable employees. If an employer skimps on its background screening policy, the company may be subject to risk from under-informed hiring decisions including:

  • costly litigation and  claim settlements
  • potential security risks
  • significant loss of production and profits
  • higher costs of recruiting and training
  • possible damage to a company’s brand and public image

Employment Background Screening Enhancements Lead to Intelligent Hiring Decisions 

  • Standard Employment Verification vs. Extended Employment Verification

Standard employment verification confirms an applicant’s previous job title, place of employment, and the dates he/she worked.  This does not provide any insight into what a supervisor thought of the employee’s work performance.   And this does not provide information regarding the applicant’s job attitude, teamwork capability, and/or his job attendance. Upgrading from standard employment verification to extended employment verification, complete with supervisor extended questions that delve into an applicant’s work performance, is an easy way to reduce bad hires. While an applicant may be telling the truth about when and where he worked, he may not be disclosing that he is often sick on Mondays, or exhibits poor manners when interacting with customers.

  • Using a SSN Trace to Capture Areas of Residence to Search for Criminal Records

Applicants may not include all areas in which they have lived on their employment applications, especially if they are hiding past criminal activity or negative information that could be uncovered on a comprehensive background check. Also, not all job applications ask for an applicant’s entire address history.

A thorough background screening program will include a SSN Trace Report to capture additional areas where an applicant has lived. This is critical information that a background screening company can use to search for criminal record hits in all areas of residence that were found on the applicant’s SSN Trace.  For example, an applicant may list that he has lived in Baltimore County, Maryland his entire life, but that may not be true.  If only that single county in Maryland is searched for criminal records on the applicant, the employer runs the high-stakes risk that its applicant’s felony conviction in New Jersey, for example, will go undiscovered.

This minimalist background screening policy of only having a single county and/or single state of residence searched for an applicant may be difficult to defend in a negligent hiring lawsuit as opposed to utilizing more comprehensive technology in running criminal record searches based on SSN Trace Report results.  Ensuring the safety of employees and consumers is invaluable - making a thorough criminal history check more preferable, safer, and more defensible, than a whimsical policy of “pick and choose”.

  • Searching Aliases as Opposed to Just One Name

Searching alias names is an often-overlooked component of a comprehensive background screening program. It is often presumed that if an individual has a criminal record history, a university degree, and/or a professional license, that these can all be searched and verified using a single name. A thorough Criminal Background Check should always be conducted using any additional/alias names uncovered from the SSN Trace to mitigate adverse action, which may include:

  • If an applicant provides multiple names, and/or aliases on a job application, and an employer’s background screening program only searches for one name, the hiring company may be missing out on valuable information.
  • If an applicant has a sexual assault conviction under an alias, and this conviction went undiscovered during the pre-employment background check because an employer had only decided to order criminal searches on the applicant’s current name, the company has potentially opened itself, its other employees, and its consumers to immeasurable vulnerabilities.
  • Furthermore, even if the defendant (the employer) in a negligent hiring case based on not running aliases were able to “win” the case, there would still be immense damage inflicted upon the employer’s reputation, and therefore upon its business as well.
  • The Importance of a National Record Database Search

Even if a company is already running criminal record searches on applicants utilizing a SSN Trace, as well as running searches on applicant aliases, there is still room for improvement and enhanced due diligence.

A National Criminal Record Database Search (NCRD) is a solid (and necessary) complement to background screening programs. The National Criminal Record Database Search is a nationwide search that will locate criminal record hits across the United States, regardless of where the applicant has lived. For example, if an applicant has lived all of his life in Illinois, and his SSN Trace Report only shows Illinois counties of residence, then the theft conviction he had in Indiana while on vacation may go undiscovered because only areas of residence were searched based on the SSN Trace Report. The National Criminal Record Database Search should be viewed as a supplementary search, and should not be the only tool an employer uses to search criminal records; however, it should instead be used to fill in the gaps for a complete criminal records search.  A comprehensive criminal background check should include a search in all areas where a candidate has lived, worked, or even attended school along with a NCRD to complete the search. 

Employment Background Investigations, Inc. (EBI) is a single-source, premier provider of background screening, drug testing and occupational healthcare solutions. EBI specializes in the development and implementation of employment, contractor and volunteer screening programs. EBI offers a wide array of global and domestic screening initiatives that can be specifically tailored to securely meet each client’s screening objectives.  Through our investigative solutions, we provide due diligence and risk mitigation tools to help minimize negligent hiring, workplace violence and other risk factors associated with the hiring process.  Thousands of companies with national and international presence, including many Fortune recognized companies, trust EBI’s services to make better, safer and more cost-effective hiring decisions. 

EBI is committed to providing employers with valuable education and resources on changing legislation and cutting-edge and compliant solutions to meet federal, state, local and international legal requirements.  All content provided by EBI is published for the convenience of its readers and should never be deemed as legal guidance or advice.  Always consult your legal counsel for specific advice on local laws and industry regulations.