Conducting background screening and having a practical screening program are not the same thing. Whether you are new to screening or want to move from “screening” to “sensible screening,” it is important to understand four fundamentals of employment screening.
- Not all information is available instantly.
Despite online offerings to the contrary, a quality background check will generally take one to three business days to complete and, in some cases, longer. The U.S. Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
requires a screening company to “follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy.” This means searches must often be conducted at the source, such as a school, courthouse, state licensing bureau or a previous employer.
- National criminal databases are not definitive sources.
Commercial (non-governmental) databases are often advertised as “national,” but this is a misnomer. These databases are developed by purchasing criminal records from numerous sources and using techniques like screen scraping and web harvesting to capture records. These massive databases often contain up to a half billion records. They do not contain all criminal records in the U.S., because some sources will not sell a copy of records or allow records to be captured. Additionally, records within the database may be incomplete or not reflect the current record status
- The subject of the background check is part of the process.
Per the FCRA
, the subject of the background check must know about and authorize the background check before it is requested from the screening company. The subject has the right to a copy of the report and must have an opportunity to dispute inaccurate information in the report before an employment decision is made.
- Employment screening is heavily regulated.
Federal, state and even local law govern the preparation and use of background reports when prepared by a third party, like an employment screening company. These laws and regulations are applicable even if the background report contains only public record information, such as criminal records.