The Importance in Accuracy in Background Screening

May 21, 2019 | Shannon Shoemaker

As laws governing background checks constantly change, regulatory oversight expands and the ranks of applicants misrepresenting themselves grows, selecting a vendor to conduct background checks on candidates is more important than ever, not to mention that legal compliance has also become more challenging. Companies must consider both Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines for collecting, using, and disposing of background check information. Add the laws that vary by state, and most companies require a dedicated team just to maintain the most basic standards for compliance.


Why Thorough & Accurate Background Screening Matters for Employers

Digitizing data like court records has made background checks significantly cheaper and faster, but regulation hasn’t exactly kept pace. Some jurisdictions that have passed “ban the box” legislation, which forbids employers from requiring potential hires to indicate on job applications whether they’ve been convicted of a crime, still allow criminal history checks later in the application process. This means companies must be able to prevent adverse actions based on criminal history from becoming legal liabilities.

Considering the potential liability of hiring a candidate with a criminal record, combined with the speed and omnipresence of media, one bad hire could be a PR and financial nightmare for a company of any size.

On the other hand, consider not hiring a candidate because of a faulty or inaccurate background screen—or the liability for running a background check on a candidate but neglecting to inform them. The latter is more common than you’d think, as even large companies could overlook a small omission in the hiring process. Companies are required to inform their job applicants that they’ll be running background checks. This disclosure is required under a federal law known as the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The company must notify the job applicant in writing that a background check will be run and the notice can’t be hidden in the employment application. It must be separate from all other paperwork.

There are so many reasons an inaccurate background screen could open your company up to a class action lawsuit, the websites and online ads that proliferate the digital space can hardly keep up. A background screen could turn up data on a person with a similar name, neglect to compare the data to social security number, report old or expunged charges, or errors in cases of identity theft if a background screen doesn’t verify the negative information. Acting on an inaccurate background check could keep your legal team busy for literal years dealing with the repercussions of a class action or individual lawsuit.

Related: 5 Background Check Standards You Need to Know in 2019


How do HR leaders evaluate and choose a background screening vendor?

The selection process should begin by verifying that a screening provider is accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). That seal of approval ensures that a provider has been independently audited to confirm it adheres to best practices across the breadth of its operating procedures and policies. And it’s also an indicator on the growing importance of thorough and accurate background screening for companies and corporations. Eight out of 10 employers use it for full-time hires and the expansion has occurred rapidly with improvements in the completeness of the screenings, the speed in which they are performed and their affordability, according to NAPBS. The 15-year-old organization’s membership grew by more than 110 members in 2018 and now boasts slightly more than 930 screening companies.

Your evaluation should include how a background screening vendor handles the following:

  • FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) compliance and how your provider will notify your company of any changes in the FCRA.
  • Data privacy and if the screening is performed in the U.S. or offshore. If offshored, the provider should explain how data privacy will be protected in accordance with Safe Harbor, GDPR, and requirements for screening applicants from EU countries.
  • The data acquisition process. Most companies are looking for a vendor on the lower cost end of the spectrum, but it’s important to understand whether or not a vendor that is significantly cheaper is also taking shortcuts with how it sources data. While screening firms access similar information, the methods and supply chains they use to source records can differ.
  • How a vendor ensures accurate and actionable criminal reports and protects your company from any liability.
  • How a vendor ensures a positive candidate experience throughout the screening process. The vendor you choose reflects on your employer brand through candidate experience.
  • The ability of a vendor to integrate your ATS or other recruiting technology. This integration creates workflow efficiencies that make the process easier for HR and job applicants.
  • If the vendor has the ability to allow applicants to enter personal information or provide consent for checks via self-service portals and mobile devices, not just by fax or desktop computers.
  • What services a vendor offers and if you have the flexibility to change selected services based on employment category or line of business. For example, you may only need a criminal background, education and employment verification, and drug screen for a new hire. Depending on the job description, you might also need a Motor Vehicle Records check, fingerprinting, and verification of license or certification.
  • How long a typical background check takes (and what the vendor considers “typical” for a background check).


As a best-in-class vendor partner for background screening, Cisive fields a lot of questions from companies about the background check process. Take a look at our post, 5 Commonly Asked Questions About Background Screening for HR and Recruiting Leaders, for answers to what Cisive is most frequently asked, as well as a list of services that are included with Cisive’s background checks.


Choose Your Background Check Company Wisely

Hiring employees with criminal records or who falsify employment or educational histories can have lasting fallout for your company. That makes choosing the best background-screening provider among the more important decisions that HR leaders will make. Connect with Cisive today and talk with a member of our team to not only answer your questions but serve as a trusted partner who is focused on quality, accuracy, and fanatical customer service.

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