Top 4 Employment Background Screening Myths

Employment background checks, the term to the unfamiliar conjures up a variety of preconceived misconceptions that just do not accurately reflect the industry as a whole. Many are under the belief that there is an all-encompassing national database that houses the entire country’s criminal record history. Some believe that these databases can be accessed without a monetary cost. While others believe that a single criminal conviction in an applicant’s past should disqualify them from any consideration of employment. These are what many of us in the industry refer to as myths.

These notions simply aren’t based in reality and anyone claiming that these ‘myths’ are true are either wildly misinformed or are trying to do the absolute minimum while endangering their clients with massive class action lawsuits. This is why employers must understand just what the background screening industry is and how it performs its essential duties. This is especially true in 2014, the year with a record breaking 27 nationwide FCRA class action lawsuits started this year.

Identifying these myths and then being able to dispel them is critical as an employer. Below you’ll find the four most prevalent myths about the background screening industry.

1. Free Background Checks

Free background checks are an impossibility, plain and simple. An employer that utilizes a website advertising free background checks in an employment decision will face severe legal consequences if the results are used to dismiss an applicant. These “free background check” websites utilize open to the public country criminal record search databases. The problem is these databases are not a completely reliable source of information.

Simply, these websites are not a priority for most counties so many contain inaccuracies and a lack of updated information reflecting recent court decisions. When we at HireSafe utilize online databases, the information discovered is always backed by physical records, which are pulled by our own researchers within county courthouses across the country. In essence, to have reliable information requires a cost, making free and compliant background checks impossible. 

2. National Criminal Databases Exist

Many people believe that all criminal records within the United States are accessible through a national online database, well this is what we in the industry refer to as a myth. While there are databases at the county and state levels, the national level would be as a whole too convoluted and cumbersome for an all-encompassing database to exist. 

3. Any Criminal History Should Disqualify an Applicant

There is a belief that any sort of criminal history should discredit an applicant for consideration of employment. This shouldn’t be the case, beyond the time passed between offenses, which also should be taken into account, the type of offense is important. For instance, if an applicant applying for a financial position had a charge for writing fraudulent checks in the past, of course they are not suitable for the position. While if that applicant was applying for a position where there were no financial responsibilities the individual may be applicable for consideration.

Ultimately, it is always up to the employer’s discretion if a criminal history can disqualify an applicant from employment.  

4. All Background Checks are the Same

Many people believe the term ‘background check’ to be a very specific and narrowly focused type of search, in fact nothing could be further from the truth. A background check utilizes hundreds of different searches that range from scope to areas of focus. From criminal histories to employment histories to credit histories and everything in between and beyond, no one background check is the same. 

These ‘myths’ represent some of the most common misconceptions within the background screening industry. It is absolutely important to understand what is true and what isn’t before utilizing any background screening service. Doing a little research can be the difference between a wholly compliant background report and a lawsuit. As always, HireSafe is more than willing to help in understanding how to approach developing a background screening procedure. 

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