From an article by Neal Custer:
Poorly-executed background checks pose a significant problem for both businesses and employees. The entire purpose behind a background check is establishing trust between two parties; a business risks their own integrity by hiring somebody they know nothing about.
Likewise, they risk ruining the reputation of perfectly good employees by reacting to a false positive - that is, information that appears during a background check that is actually incorrect.
So, what is the solution to this problem?
Should we just throw out background checks altogether like yesterday's bathwater? Of course not. Businesses still need to know that their employees are who they claim to be, and background checks are the only way to accomplish this goal.
The problem is not in the concept of a background check itself.
The issue arises from the way the information about a given individual is obtained and used. Simply typing a person's name into an online database can potentially yield hundreds of false positives, and yet this is the extent of what many employers consider a background check.
Why is Wikipedia disallowed as a valid source for students writing academic papers?
Put simply, the information on the website is not reviewed by an authority. While there is some degree of editorial control, virtually anybody can post what they want to the website. These online "background check" services operate in a very similar way; they simply compile information automatically without verifying it.
There is no human being who actually reads through the data and puts it in the right categories; it is simply a formless blob of information online that may or may not be true.
Even if these databases say nothing about an employee's dark criminal past, there is still the possibility of dangerous information not showing up on these databases.
Employers owe it to themselves and their employees to hold themselves to higher standards for background checks.
By following these four simple tips, you minimise the risk of encountering a false positive:
1. Consult Better Sources
Almost all of the online "background check" websites are out to make a quick buck. State and county sources, on the other hand, exist to genuinely provide a public service.
At a minimum, employers should look into both state and federal court records. Federal crimes do not show up in state court repositories, and vice-versa. Likewise, employers should do a sex offender check for this reason; the individual may have engaged in criminal activity in another state, and this won't show up in local records.
2. Ask Better Questions
As a general rule, employers should obtain as much identifiable information about an individual as they can. An ideal background check would require a person's full name, list of previous addresses, and date of birth. Each of these details can be used to filter through the hundreds of false records online.
Many employers are afraid to ask for these details due to EEOC laws, but this is important for identity verification. Always include a disclaimer on the application that the information is simply used for the purposes of an accurate background check and not for discriminatory purposes.
3. Introduce the Human Element
Running a search through a questionable database does not constitute a reliable background check. Businesses should consider using a trained private investigator or other background check professional for these purposes. These individuals are very familiar with differentiating between legitimate and dubious sources of information, and they know how to use that information properly.
An investigator adds the human element that an automated search lacks - they personally verify personal information, use multiple sources, and sometimes discover new details altogether.
4. Give an Opportunity to Respond
What happens after the background check is over? Most employers simply terminate engagement if suspicious information is found. Put simply, this is the wrong approach. Instead, employers need to give the individual an opportunity to explain the circumstances of the suspicious event. Identity theft is rampant, and past instances of identity theft can ruin an individual's future forever. By simply giving them a chance to elaborate on the situation, you minimise the risk of dismissing a perfectly good employee.
There is no one-click solution for conducting a background check. A truly accurate and reliable background check is only possible by consulting valid sources, employing trained investigators, and getting the right kind of information from the employee.
Learn more about Barringtons Background Checking Services here.
Blayne Webb, Director, Barringtons