Accuracy in background screening is critical to your hiring process. Without it, you’re wasting valuable time and financial resources, and you’re increasing hiring risk. 

An accurate background check provides you with the assurance you’ve taken extra steps to understand the people you hire and protect your customers, patients, and workforce. However, selecting just any background screening provider doesn’t guarantee accuracy. In fact, it may even result in hiring decisions based on erroneous or incomplete background information.

Signs You’re Not Getting Accurate Background Checks 

In the 2021 Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) and employer background screening survey, respondents named quality and accuracy the most important factors when considering a background screening provider. However, some employers find quality and accuracy difficult to achieve, especially when working with a screening provider who lacks processes for delivering consistent quality assurance.

A lack of accuracy in background screening is often easy to spot, because it usually takes the form of errors and incomplete information in background check results. Unfortunately, these errors can lead you to make risky hiring decisions and possibly incur non-compliance penalties related to laws such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

Here are some of the common signs your background checks are not as accurate as you need them to be for a compliant and well-run hiring process:

  • You’ve received results for the wrong person, for example, John Smith vs. Jon Smythe.
  • After hiring a candidate, you discovered the background check failed to uncover past criminal behavior.
  • A background check report listed prohibited information, such as criminal actions from sealed or expunged records.
  • You receive background check results within hours, but with very little detail provided.
  • Your background check reports yield a high rate of candidate disputes.
  • You receive educational and employment verifications labeled “incomplete.”

How to Increase the Chances of Accurate Background Checks

Despite the FCRA requirement for background screening companies to “follow reasonable procedures to assure accuracy,” each company has varying methods for achieving this goal. As a result, background check accuracy isn’t automatic or guaranteed. However, when you take the following steps and work with a screening provider with a proven commitment to quality and accuracy, it can be a regular part of your organization’s background screening program.

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1. Design a comprehensive screening policy to guide all screening activities.

A policy covering all of your background check processes provides guidance to both internal HR and recruiting stakeholders as well as your screening company. More than a formality or an internal requirement, a background screening policy helps you avoid the common pitfalls of poor background screening and create consistency across all hiring locations.

At a minimum, the elements you should include in your background screening policy include the following:

  • Which positions in your organization require background checks and drug screening
  • The background elements included in each background check
  • Your internal processes for conducting FCRA-compliant corrective action reviews

2. Expect transparency from your screening partner.

Your background check provider must do more than promise accuracy. It should also have quality assurance and compliance processes to deliver that accuracy. By building a relationship with your screening provider based on frequent communication and transparency, you can understand what goes into each background check and how your screening provider helps you to protect your organization and workforce. 

Here are just a few of the benefits you should expect your background check provider to deliver in support of quality and accurate background checks for your organization:

  • Time-stamped action histories and audit trails to help you track activity related to each background check
  • Straightforward pricing for the screening services you receive, so you know exactly what you’re receiving for your investment
  • Updates about new and changing laws impacting your background screening program
  • Customizable technology to help you lower costs and achieve more accurate background checks

3. Look for opportunities to integrate existing systems.

It’s easier to achieve accurate background checks when you have integrated systems in place to support the screening and hiring process. For example, by integrating background screening technology with your applicant tracking system (ATS), you limit the double-entry of details such as candidate addresses and education history, and you increase the chances of beginning the screening process with more complete candidate information. As an added benefit, integration helps you avoid asking candidates for the same information multiple times, which supports a positive candidate experience.

4. Conduct regular reviews of your screening program.

Federal and state laws impacting background screening are constantly evolving, which makes regular reviews of your program essential. Moreover, expanded technology features and new trends in background screening introduce varied opportunities to incorporate best practices into your screening program. For example, innovations in continuous monitoring and self-sovereign identity verification (SSID) present fresh ways to improve the accuracy and quality of background checks.

To keep pace with the latest developments in background screening and take advantage of opportunities to improve the accuracy and quality of candidate background checks, work with a provider who regularly communicates new trends and offers quarterly reviews as part of their overall services to customers.

5. Ask how your screening provider confirms individual identity.

It’s impossible to conduct an accurate background check if you’re not searching the background of the right person. And given the combination of similar names in existence, it’s possible to check the wrong candidate without the right processes in place. 

For this reason, it’s critical to work with a provider who conducts a thorough social security number (SSN) trace with every background check. The SSN trace identifies the known names and addresses associated with each candidate’s social security number. 

However, simply performing an SSN trace is not enough. You should make sure your screening provider also performs a check of every name and address yielded by the SSN trace. This action increases the chances of sourcing all relevant background data for a candidate and improving the overall accuracy of the background check.

6. Understand your screening provider’s compliance record.

The pursuit of accuracy in background screening must also be balanced with a commitment to compliance with applicable laws. However, not all background check companies have processes in place to achieve this delicate balance. 

One way to determine if your provider has the capability to deliver both accuracy and compliance is to check if the provider is accredited by the PBSA. PBSA accreditation is an important sign of the provider’s commitment to accuracy and its ability to maintain full compliance with applicable federal and state laws.

Get Consistently Accurate Background Checks

Given the complexities of background screening, you can’t assume every provider delivers accurate background checks. However, to be assured the background check results you receive are accurate, you can work with a provider who has reliable policies and procedures for collecting and verifying the most accurate and up-to-date background data available. 

By asking the right questions of your background check provider and taking advantage of opportunities to make improvements in support of better accuracy, it’s possible to strengthen your background screening program, and therefore, make better hiring decisions. 

To identify which areas of your background screening program may be ready for improvement, take our interactive background check assessment. Your responses will generate a personalized report with fresh ideas for taking your background screening program to the next level.