How to Spot a Bad Background Check

A bad background check can be one you’ve done yourself or one you’ve commissioned a third party to run for you. If you’ve attempted to do your own “background check,” that could mean you’ve called references, you’ve checked a public sex offender registry, you’ve scanned their social media accounts, or worse still, you’ve gone with your gut. Any and all of these “verifications” are faulty if done alone or in the wrong way and if a bad background check comes back to bite you in the end, the least of your problems will be an employee with a punctuality problem.

Bad background checks can cost you in the form of lawsuits too, in the event that you’re found to be in non-compliance with the Fair Credit Report Act or Equal Employment Opportunity laws. So while it might seem tempting to do your own form of screening, or to hire out a third party without doing your research on them, investing in good background checks (i.e. comprehensive and FCRA and EEO compliant) is an investment in the security and longevity of your organization.

The following examples of bad background checks illustrate specific red flags that you must be aware of, so that you know what to look for when you do your research on a background check vendor (we recommend that you opt for third party instead of screening potential employees all on your own).

  1. A home care aide was discovered to have prior drug conviction, several prison terms, and a court issued restraining order on her criminal record. This would have been great information to uncover during the hiring process, but despite the fact that the home care agency ran a form of employee background check, her criminal history was only discovered after she had swindled a 92-year-old woman out of thirty grand. Red Flag: Lack of THOROUGH criminal background check. This means checking state as well as federal criminal records. Make sure that your vendor does this.
  2. In another example of a failed background check, a Texas Pastor was found after the fact to have been charged with capital murder, kidnapping, and armed robbery. Red Flag: Superficial criminal background check.
  3. A minister in Los Alamos was discovered to have been a convicted sex offender. Again, a type of background check had been run on him, but the same red flag was still there. Red Flag: Lack of thorough investigation into multi-state and federal records.
  4. The Charlotte PD hired a new police officer despite the fact that he had a protective order against him, levied by a former girlfriend for domestic violence. Red Flag: Even law enforcement can fail to run thorough investigations into criminal history.
  5. The Cook County state office had a close call when they nearly hired a man who had been sued by a former employer for theft and was under investigation by the FBI for fraud, in addition to other deviances, all of which had slipped under the radar during another faulty background check. Red Flag: Reliance on single-issue or non-comprehensive background checks.

When investigating vendors, the main thing to verify is their process and methodology for running criminal background checks. Do they utilize multiple resources or stick to a single registry? Background checks are only as good as the questions asked and the places searched. Make sure you don’t make the same mistakes as the employers above.