The Dos and Don’ts of Employee Background Screening Part I
Employment background checks are an essential part of the recruiting process for all new job candidates and an effective way to keep your workplace safe. Here are some tips to help ensure your employee background screening solution is an effective and reliable tool:
Do not use a national criminal database search as the primary criminal records check on an applicant.
Because a national search casts a wide net, it can be a valuable tool, but only when used in conjunction with a comprehensive county specific criminal search. National criminal searches are compiled from a variety of online sources, including some county criminal data, available (but not all) statewide repository information, sex offender records, department of corrections records, and other proprietary databases.
The title “national” can be deceiving, as database searches have limited coverage area and may not include all updated records. For example, California has 58 counties, but the majority of those counties do not have online data and are not included in the nationwide searches.
In addition, records contained in database searches may not include the most up-to-date court activity. Court clerks may take months to report new records to online databases. Online databases may also have incomplete information that only report arrest information for some jurisdictions and no final disposition information.
Perform a complete search for criminal records in all counties in which an applicant has lived, over the last 7 years.
Most crimes are committed in cities and towns where people spend their time on a regular basis. The records of these crimes can be located in county courthouses. A Good Employee conducts county criminal searches by sending an independent contractor called a court runner or a court searcher to a courthouse to retrieve the most up-to-date information from a court clerk.
Should your employee commit a crime, you could be held responsible if you did not perform your due diligence in a background search. In many court cases these hands-on searches have been considered reasonable due diligence. [Section 613 of the FCRA sates public record information for employment purposes should be complete and up to date.]
Use caution when ordering a federal criminal search.
A federal criminal search is another tool that can be deceiving. Federal is often mistaken for a type of national search; however it has to be ordered by district. (There are 89 districts in the 50 states.) Approximately only 5% of the criminal records in the U.S. are records of federal offenses. Federal offenses include financial fraud, drug trafficking, and interstate crimes. In addition, most federal court cases are name matches only. Identifiers like date of birth or social security number are no longer allowed to be viewed on the record information. While a federal criminal search can identify serious crimes committed, the limitations of the search should be fully understood and countywide criminal searches should be relied upon to find the vast majority of criminal records.
Allow enough time for the background check to be completed accurately.
While many of the reports are returned instantly, delays can and do present themselves along the way and should be accounted for in the hiring timeline. At times weather conditions can impede a court searcher from going to the courthouse each day. In addition, court clerks must perform their primary functions first and foremost, so background checks aren’t always their priority. Common names can generate multiple criminal record hits, which must be sorted through manually to corroborate the date of birth on each record. Lastly, many employers and educational facilities take time to return verification requests.
While A Good Employee strives to produce reports in 48 hours or less, allowing adequate time for background checks to be completed will help ensure that you are delivered accurate and reliable results consistently, enabling you to make the most informed decisions.