5 Common Misconceptions of Background Checks

11 Jan, 2024

Recently, we highlighted our partner, Commercial Investigation (read the highlight here). We asked the team to share some of their knowledge about background checks and they came back with these 5 common misconceptions of background checks.

Knowing the facts…

Myth: A national database search will have all criminal history nationwide in the US.

Truth: National database searches are a good jumping-off place. Think of it as the mile-wide, inch-deep view. Many counties and states do not update their data often enough for the information within to be up to date. Other counties and states have stopped submitting data altogether. Some never made information available to begin with. So, it is extremely incomplete. Hence, the name is very misleading. We use Multijurisdictional Criminal inquiry so as not to imply it is a complete nationwide criminal database. You may be thinking, why run it? It is a great starting point. It also leads to finding ‘vacation criminal’ records, aka criminal records outside of the jurisdictions the subject lived within. We believe you should use all legal and ethical means to find out about your candidates. Lastly, a multijurisdictional criminal inquiry is usually extremely cost-effective and a very good value.

Myth: My local police department can run a comprehensive search.

Truth: Local police departments are not background check professionals. The information available to law enforcement such as a rap sheet, which contains arrests and prosecutions, generally cannot be made available to a third party for decision making on hiring, it is for law enforcement purposes only. Also, local law enforcement may only have access to their county or state records. What happens when the subject has lived outside of their current county and state? When running background screening through local police, who is responsible for FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) and state law compliance? Are the local police making sure your organization is in compliance, does that responsibility fall on the hiring agency? Lastly, local law enforcement does not exist to perform background checks for employment and volunteer purposes and is not staffed to do it in a timely manner.

Myth: Isn’t the FBI database the gold standard for background checks?
Truth: The FBI criminal history database is incomplete with significant gaps, contrary to popular belief that it is the “gold standard.” For example, not all jurisdictions provide information to the database (PBSA). Also, a lot of records in the FBI criminal history database are incomplete and do not contain conviction information. The EEOC advises against using non-conviction criminal data in hiring decisions. Also concerning about the FBI database is that subjects cannot challenge the results. Again, it is most applicable for law enforcement and not employment hiring decisions.

Myth: A criminal background check is all we need to run.
Truth: While a subject may have a clean criminal record it is important to run additional inquiries too, especially based upon the position for which the subject is being considered. There are over 100 different types of information that can be incorporated into a background investigation. Some of which are industry-specific. Most popular options included education verification, employment verification, reference verification, professional license verification, driving record abstract, credit report, sex offender registry, sanctions, anti-terrorists, and much, much more. Organizations should use all legal and ethical means and information available to make the best decisions.

Myth: Thorough background checks are too expensive.
Truth: The average background investigation costs less than the first day’s pay for the subject. Many industries require that employees have certain credentials. Job descriptions require certain levels of education and even professional licenses. Failing to confirm that your new hires have these credentials can be very costly!

Just remember, not everything you hear or read about background checks is true! We hope this helps! If you found this interesting, please share it with a friend!

And before you leave, check out Commercial Investigations’ website to learn more about the services offered.

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