Employers, and subsequently Human Resources personnel, are constantly seeking to recruit and hire the best applicants available. With a large applicant pool it can be difficult to differentiate one qualified applicant from another. Effective pre-employment assessments can certainly identify the skill set of each applicant to help narrow the field but there is more to be considered.
Every employer wants to build from a base of trust with each employee and verifying the information that an applicant provides is essential to a solid relationship. Beyond the trust factor is the duty of an employer to provide a safe environment for employees and ultimately the market that they serve.
Without a sufficient background check the employer runs the risk of being held negligent for any problems that the employee causes in the performance of their duties. Due diligence in the form of a pre-employment background check can identify a foreseeable risk that can mean the difference between a valuable resource or a liability for the employer.
Components of the Background Check
- Social Security Number Check and Validation: A Social Security Number is unique to each individual. The Social Security Number Check provides information about the names and addresses associated with a given Social Security Number. In addition to providing name and address information for comparison against what is provided on the application, a Social Security Number Check is used to derive addresses in order to conduct the personal history information search. Social Security Number Validation does not tie the Social Security Number to the applicant. It only provides an indication that the number may be accurate.
- Criminal Court Record History: There are two entirely separate court systems in the United States – federal courts and county courts – and a search of one system does not include a search of the other. Each system operates under its own set of rules and has its own courthouses, clerks’ offices, indexes, and judges. As such, criminal history records are contained as follows:
- Local/County Court: Also, known as a “court record search,” this search requires a direct examination of the digital records of a county courthouse to determine if the applicant has a record at that court. Most often a court record search requires physical access to obtain information or simply to obtain copies of dispositions for review.
- Statewide Criminal History Information: There are two varieties of statewide information. The first is a state repository managed by a division of state law enforcement. The second is actual court data from a statewide case management system. Even when available both types of sources have limitations and advantages. The advantages are a single point of access for an entire state with one search. If that state has many courts with statutory access fees, a single access fee may be less expensive than a search of indicated counties separately. A disadvantage, with respect to a case management system, is that not all counties may have become activated on the system at the same time and there may be inconsistencies in how the system is used from county to county. Many law enforcement repositories have been shown to lack current case updates or dispositions. Both types may suffer from delays in entering information, high access fees, or very long turnaround times for results. Additionally, it may not be clear what data is included and what is not.
The site may provide conviction records only or may provide non-conviction records as well. In response to increased use and heightened privacy concerns, many records will not be publicly available if mandated internal documentation is missing, and useful identifiers, such as a date of birth, a driver’s license number, and a Social Security number, are often redacted rendering the data useful only as an initial index search. The most accurate, current, and reliable criminal history information is found at the court of origin, not in any repository.
Nevertheless, statewide criminal history information may have a place in an employer’s background program. (Florida, for example, provides an employer a measure of protection against negligent hiring lawsuits if that employer specifically included a check of the state repository as one element of a background screen.) As with all aspects of pre-employment background screening, the decision to use statewide criminal history information should be considered in the context of an employer’s complete pre-employment background screening program and the advice of counsel.
- Federal Court (District, Nationwide): This is a search for a record of a federal offense in one or more of 94 U.S. federal district courts. Federal offenses include crimes committed on federal property (government office, national park, etc.) and violations of the US Federal Criminal Statutes. It is imperative the user obtain additional identifiers on the result prior to making any decision. Additional identifiers are found on a Judgment and Conviction page. If the federal offense did not result in a conviction, there will be no identifiers, and the result should not be used.
- Propriety databases: These databases are offered and run by specific Consumer Reporting Agencies and contain negative history information about subjects. Data may include State Sex Offender registries, corrections records and assorted criminal records. The sites may not have complete identifiers and caution should be taken to verify the match with the applicant. In addition, although these services are marketed as “National Criminal Files” they are not comprehensive in any state and should not be used as a standalone for criminal research.
Criminal History and identity verification should be considered as basic elements of your background check. The level of research should be determined by the risk associated with the given position. To avoid complications with equal employment opportunity, the same level of background check should be applied to all candidates for the same position.
Additionally, if the position requires handling cash, or goods that are easily convertible to cash, a Credit Report is advisable.
Similarly, if the position requires driving a company car, or the applicant’s own car on company business, a state Motor Vehicle Report is recommended.
There are still more options for creating a thorough pre-employment screening. Some of those include: A Prior Employment Verification, an Education / Degree Verification, a Professional License Certification, a Character Reference and a Drug Screening.
At SELECTiON.COM® we offer a la carte pricing on more than 25 different reports and bundled packages created by client specifically meeting the needs for the industry or the position being filled.
Contact us today to see how SELECTiON.COM® can take your employment background check process to the next level.
NOTE: The contents of this article are not legal advice for your particular situation. You should neither act nor rely upon anything stated in this article without first consulting your own legal counsel.
Brian has been in the background screening industry for over 16 years, helping thousands of companies hire qualified applicants through background checks.