On December 15, 2012, The Plain Dealer ran an article titled “Errors in background checks cost job seekers.” The original subject of the story interviewed for a job, believed he would be hired after his background check was complete, then received a letter from the background screening company that a report came back that he was a convicted pedophile. The man spent a year correcting this erroneous information, and is currently preparing to sue the company that performed the background check. He did not land the job.

This is just one of a number of stories that have been published in recent months in various news publications. Several shared themes in these articles include the following:

1. The victims often have common names, which increases the likelihood that they may be matched with another person with a similar name who has a criminal record;
2. The likelihood of an inaccurate match often stems from automated criminal background checks that are not verified by reviewing records; and
3. Accuracy of reporting is becoming increasingly enforced by regulators, and hefty settlements, such as $2.5 million one made by HireRight Solutions in August 2012, make this a hot topic in the background screening industry.

Each year millions of people undergo background screening as part of the employment process, for school or in order to volunteer in various capacities. This is done so that employers can provide a safe, secure environment for their employees and customers. The number of inaccurate reports out of all of these is relatively small, but the issue is large, since these mistakes can have big consequences.

The FTC and CFPB regulate background screening through the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), and various states and industries also have regulating legislation and restrictions. But background screening is a growing industry and there are many small to large organizations that claim to perform background checks. A lot offer cheap services and fast turnaround times, which sound appealing on the surface. But employers should bear in mind that a speedy turnaround time can come at the expense of accuracy, and you typically get what you pay for in background screening.

Corporate Screening takes pride in our high standards and the accuracy of our reports. As an NAPBS accredited organization, we aren’t satisfied with just meeting high standards in the industry – we want to set them. Our organization doesn’t just take the information from a database and report on it, we take the time to verify that the information pertains to the applicant and it is true and up-to-date. Employers should also be concerned about the accuracy of the information they receive, because it’s not just the background screening firms that are being scrutinized. The EEOC has also significantly increased its focus on employers that use background checks in the hiring process.

All of the steps taken to ensure that the information contained in a background check is true may take additional time and manpower, but when an applicant’s future rests on the veracity of a background report, we think that employers should make their decisions based on sound information. Remember, a poorly designed background screening program based solely on cost and turnaround time can open employers up to risk. The very thing employers seek to avoid by conducting backgrounds in the first place.