You know the basics. I don’t need to tell you that screening is important, to protect your brand, your people, your customers. You may even know that rules vary from state to state—sometimes even by city. However, do you really know what’s in your background check? Are you sure you are getting the information you need to make a good hiring decision? There are six flags I want to make sure you are on the lookout for.
Why the Basics Are Not Enough
First, though, it’s important to understand why Background Screening 101 is not enough. As you get comfortable with the basics of background screening, it is easy to fall into the trap of assuming what you already know is all there is to know. That technology can simplify all the complexity of our industry without compromising quality or compliance. That is a mistake.
The raw materials of the background check business are messy. Seven-year-old arrest records from county courthouses, motor vehicle history, endless varieties of drug tests and health screens… and imagine the chaos from an arrest record with a typo. There is a lot of opportunity for error.
People are messy too. One person may be known by many different names during their life, often for the most unobjectionable of reasons. Americans move back and forth across the country, and spend time in jurisdictions that aren’t necessarily their official residences. Many people have the exact same name, or names that are awfully similar.
For all of these reasons, it is too easy to find yourself checking a box without really checking—and opening yourself, your team, and your customers up to risk. Here are some warning signals to heed on your way to a screening program you can trust.
Six Background Screening Flags
Don’t get me wrong. Multi-jurisdictional criminal databases serve an important purpose. They are often a logical starting point for a search, as they can help expand the footprint of the search beyond just address history. However, a conscientious screening provider will supplement a database search by going straight to the source to verify the information. The courts remain the most authoritative source of criminal records. Do not rely on a “national criminal database” search alone.
And it seems old-school analog, but to review questionable results… you need real live human beings. Machine learning models can make mistakes that humans have a hard time anticipating.
Criminal records data is at the heart of our industry, and the supply chain for this data is the cornerstone of quality, speed, and reliability. Stripe does not outsource API management to a third party. Starbucks does not outsource its coffee roasting. CRAs like Sterling limit reliance on third-party data as much as possible for criminal background checks.
That said, a strong partner network is beneficial for specialized screening tasks that require focused expertise built over time. These could include building address history from an SSN trace, searching motor vehicle records, or performing electronic ID verification. Depth of knowledge matters here and I recommend a provider partnering with subject matter experts rather than a single provider spreading themselves too thin through vertical integration, which can cause quality and innovation to suffer.
A “background check” means different things to different people.—many of the checks out there are superficial at best. To develop a program you feel confident in, keep an eye out for the flags above. Look for background checks that use primary source data and aren’t just lobbed over the wall at you with no support or expert guidance. And for goodness’ sake, use one that is trusted by and integrated with Fountain—that will make your organization vastly more efficient and keep candidates happy along the way.
To learn more about how Sterling can improve your background screening program or to connect with the author, drop us a line and one of our subject matter experts will be in touch with you.
About the author
David Bloom is the General Manager of Sterling’s Gig, Volunteer, and Consumer groups, where he is responsible for P&L, strategy, sales, marketing, product development, and team member success. Sterling, a global leader in background screening and identity services, has partnered with Fountain to provide a seamless and integrated solution.
Previously, David was Head of Product at Wirecutter, an acquisition of The New York Times. He also served as Vice President of Product Strategy at Dow Jones, and founded his own API startup. David was included in Entrepreneur’s “Brilliant 100” list, and was on Business Insider’s list of the 100 most interesting people in the NYC tech scene.
David holds a BA degree from Bates College and an MBA from Cornell University.
Please note that Sterling is not a law firm. The material available in this publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We encourage you to consult with your legal counsel to obtain a legal opinion specific to your needs.
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