Top 3 Reasons Background Checks Fail Employers

Top 3 Reasons Background Checks Fail EmployersAs an employer or HR Representative, this has to be one of your biggest fears.  Hiring an employee, having them clear the background check process, and starting them in their new job, only to later find out awful things about them that you, in good faith, believed should have been identified prior to them being hired.  Worse yet, the new hire causes harm to your company or employees.  We get calls all the time; “how come our current background check company didn’t find out that our employee had (fill in the disqualifying background issue here) in his or her background?  The information they are upset to hear which was not found during their background check can range from frightening criminal records, a bad driving report, multiple prior terminations, bad credit history, multiple evictions, you name it.  These problems persist because of what we have identified as three main areas.


  1. The background screening company didn’t properly or thoroughly conduct the searches or used a third-party database to do so.
  2. The applicant intentionally provided bad personally identifying information that misleads the background check company.
  3. The applicant had these issues outside of the jurisdictions where the searches were conducted, or the scope of the investigation was too limited.


Improper Searches, Lack of Human Oversight and Third-Party Databases

Here is an easy question to ask your background check provider.  Do you use third-party databases for records or do you search directly with the governmental source of the information?  In almost all cases, the direct governmental source is going to have the very most up to date and complete information available.  This is where records should be searched.  The downside of this process can – in some cases – be turnaround time.  Working with state, county and city government entities can take slightly more time, but wouldn’t you rather wait an extra day for your results to be sure that you have the very best, most complete and up to date information available?  Companies will often sacrifice this accuracy for speed and cost.  The other side to this failure involves the lack human oversight and often times goes hand in hand with third-party database searches.  Companies have found ways to automate much, if not all of the background check process.  This makes for quick turnaround times and exceptionally low pricing.  The reality is that this automation relies heavily on third-party databases and free online searches, using no human oversight to identify records, problems, or weed out false positives.  People with common names can also be affected by this automation with the inclusion of “possible records”.  Imagine if your name is John Smith and you happen to live in a populated area.  Automation may present a number possible records in your name without verifying these records by other identifying personal information.


Applicants Providing Bad Information

Thankfully this one is highly preventable, and any reputable background check company will have ways to initially confirm an applicant’s identity as they provide it to their employer (or to the background screening company directly).  Utilizing a number of investigative databases, an applicant’s provided information can be checked against factual data available to licensed Investigators.  Applicants are known to slightly alter their date of birth, social security number or prior address history.  These databases immediately identify these inconsistencies and an investigator can notify the employer of the issue and/or continue the background investigation with the real data.  Bad input equals bad output, so preventing an investigator from utilizing the false information provided by an applicant is why we use such databases.  Often times employers can weed these people out of the process without continuing the entirety of the background check.  Think of it this way, if the company does nothing to pre-screen the data they are using to autonomously enter into sources of background information (direct or third-party), the results will only be as good as the data that was entered.  Second names, hyphenated names, and aliases also fall into this category.  A human eye using the best data available is always the best bet to ensure that each person’s identifying information is searched every way possible.


The Scope of the Investigator Was Too Limited

Most companies won’t tell you that searching the entire country is not feasible for most pre-employment background checks.  Don’t be fooled by “Nationwide Criminal History Searches”.  The FBI handles this, and you, as an employer, don’t have access to these files.  Neither does your CRA.  What this means is that searches have to be done at the state, county and city level to create the most thorough scenario available.  Failures happen when background check companies, using automation, will search only where an applicant currently lives or a combination of where they currently live and most recently lived.  Remember that bad input equals bad output.  If an applicant claims to have only lived in one place, most companies will simply search that jurisdiction and call it a day.  Effective background checks are more fluid and the same process used to verify an applicant’s personal information is used to identify where they have lived, even if they didn’t report those locations to the employer.  Knowing each jurisdiction that an applicant and has lived in, and worked in can provide an investigator a better insight into the different areas that should be searched.  The idea is that a proper background check company should provide insight and suggestions on where else the background check should go, including automatically searching jurisdictions that make sense to provide better coverage.  “Investigative Scope” also includes selecting the right level of coverage for your company.  Potential clients often call and ask for a “background check”, which we know means many things to different people.  When we dig deeper, we found out that the client’s real intention is to find any and all criminal convictions.  Do they care about driving records, misdemeanor conviction or just felonies?  Any reputable company can help a buyer sort these issues out and come up with a customized search package that matches exactly what a client is looking for; nothing more and nothing less. This includes the identity verification and continued suggestions for maximum coverage.


Thankfully, a reputable company can help solve these issues and prevent businesses from hiring people who would otherwise fail their background checks.  Background Check Central prides itself in knowing how to get to the bottom of what our clients really want in their background checks.  We provide excellent service by making our clients aware of any identity issues, additional jurisdictions that should be searched, and providing a full explanation of what sources of data were searched during the background check process.  You should feel at ease when your reports are returned to you, not nervous about whether or not the background check was done properly.  If you or anyone you know has any questions on how to properly setup a background check process that is best for your organization, we encourage you to contact our office and speak with one of our licensed professional investigators.