Top 4 Applicant Lies




Applicants providing false personal information is nothing new to our industry.  Those applicants entering the background check phase of the hiring process, who know that they have a history that may lead to the denial of employment, often provide false personal information that is meant to be sent to the background check company working with their prospective employer.  The majority of the time, this is done by simply providing an incorrect social security number, date of birth or residential history.  Often times, employers don’t or cannot double check this information against physical personal identification and therefore the information gets submitted to a background check company as is.  Bad information used in this process often equates to bad data results, depending on how the background screener operates.  Some of the most common types of data distortion we see are below.

  • Wrong day, month or year of birth
  • Incorrect social security number (often numbers are intentionally transposed)
  • Incorrect middle name or middle initial
  • Not reporting a full residential history or leaving off cities/states they have lived in

How does an incorrect date of birth affect a background check?   Applicants providing a false date of birth, whether it is off by a day, a month, a year or completely incorrect are counting on a background screening company not taking that information and verifying it prior to conducting criminal record searches.  We have also seen that an incorrect date of birth on a background authorization form may not be verifiable with any other applicant information, as most employers are not in the habit of asking for dates of birth on other application material due to EEOC concerns.  Given that the only place an applicant’s date of birth is likely to be given is on the background authorization form, there is often no secondary location that an employer can use to compare data.  When done without prior verification, records that are found on your John Doe applicant are compared by date of birth, with those records not matching what was provided being discarded as not applying to the applicant at hand.  This is especially concerning when working with applicants who have more common names, as the only way to discern if a record applies to an applicant is to narrow the search down based on the month, day and year of birth as there may be numerous records found based on name alone, many applying to different individuals.

An incorrect social security number may be given for a few reasons.  Sometimes applicants simply do not have a legal right to work in the United States and when asked, provide either a made up social security number or one that is known to them to belong to someone else.  The most common searches affected by an improper social security number are; credit check, E-Verify (I-9 Eligibility), residential history and prior employment verification.  Often trying to muddy the water, applicants believe that if their background check doesn’t return information, the lack of verification may work in their favor rather than a screening company finding negative information.  As for an applicant’s residential history, which is often searched by using their social security number, applicant’s are usually trying to hide someplace they previously resided where records may exist; records that could deny them an employment opportunity.   Credit history searches without a proper social security number can result in a “no credit information found”, which the applicant can then explain as them not having a credit history for any number of reasons.  This is far better then what is likely their negative credit history that could include multiple creditors, bankruptcies, liens, judgments and collection issues.

A middle name is really that important?  The answer can often be yes.  This is especially true when working with applicants with common surnames.  Record results are often returned on first and last name with middle name or middle initials being an optional field that an investigator would later use to sort data to determine which records may apply or require additional research.  Applicants with such common names, who also have records in their background that may result in negative job determinations, will often provide different middle names or middle initials in an attempt to camouflage their records within the many that are likely to be found based on first and last name alone.  Imagine conducting a criminal records search on John Smith in a major metropolitan area.  The resulting records (depending on the municipality) could be sorted by year of birth, full date of birth, middle name or age of the records themselves.  As investigators, we utilize whatever other pieces of information we have available regarding an applicant, which frequently includes the applicant’s middle name.  Having a false middle name may cause an investigator to miss records that should be included for ultimate dissemination.

How complete of a residential history should be included?  Typically, we ask for applicants and employers to provide a full ten-year residential history for comparison.  The reason for this is that in most cases, we are asked to conduct ten year record searches and/or that is a reasonable retention timeframe for many municipalities.  What applicants will do, is to conveniently skip over cities, counties and even states that they have lived in, knowing that there is negative information to be found there.  Residential history often goes hand in hand with an applicant’s social security number, as those addresses are often uniquely tied to an applicant’s SSN and can be verified as such.  This piece of information is even more important in those states/cities that do not have universal linked data sources.  In these scenarios, investigators must search individual municipalities for records, based on an applicant’s residential history.

The issues of prospective employees misrepresenting and distorting their personal information is common and in no way new to our industry.  Thankfully, responsible background check companies can go beyond simply imputing the exact data they receive from an employer/applicant.  Information can be pre-verified, allowing a screening company to alert an employer client of any differences in what data was provided and what was ultimately found out about an applicant, giving the employer the opportunity to either dismiss the applicant from the process immediately or give the applicant a chance to correct any issues.  By verifying all personal information beforehand, a background check can be conducted with the utmost confidence that the correct data input information is being used, ensuring the most accurate data searches possible.  Offering this verification service is the best way for a background check company to provide the optimal service experience to their clients,  while discouraging applicants from distorting their personal information for the purpose of hiding negative background information.