You know what you know… but do you know what you don’t know? - August 5th, 2014

Attention Background Check Program Manager:

After a background check is completed, what don’t you know? What you know is based upon the services that you have requested in a background check. With over 40,000 different sources of public record information in the US, it’s logistically and fiscally impractical to obtain information from every possible source. There are federal courts, state repositories, county courts and municipal courts for criminal record information. There are state registries for sex offender, violent offenders, elderly abusers and child abusers. There are other databases that have debarment lists, malpractice claims and fraud histories. There are DMVs for motor vehicle records. Add in information from credit bureaus, educational institutions and previous employers and you have a seemingly endless number of sources for information.

For background check program managers to evaluate their programs, it’s important to understand not just what you receive in a background check, but what you do not receive. For information that is not requested, there may be a level of risk that program managers should understand and evaluate.

As an example, a company that orders a county criminal history check based on the applicant’s address history can effectively discover any records of criminal activity in counties in which the applicant has lived. This is an effective record check as most criminal activity does occur in close proximity to where the perpetrator has lived. If this is the extent of the background check, then let’s review some of the known risks from the services that are available, but were not included in the background check:

  • A crime may have occurred outside of a county of residence. To mitigate this risk, the program manager may want to add an Enhanced Nationwide Criminal Record Check which would search data from hundreds of information sources from throughout the country to identify additional jurisdictions that may have criminal record information.
  • The individual may have a federal criminal record. Federal criminal records (for crimes such as identity theft, kidnapping, bomb threats, bank robbery and drug trafficking) are found in the federal court system, not the state court system (county courts). To mitigate this risk, the program manager should request a federal criminal record check.
  • The individual may be a sex offender. While many criminal record checks may reveal the underlying crime, it can be the case that the crime took place outside of the criminal record search jurisdictions or in a state in which the underlying crime is no longer reportable due to state reporting restrictions. To mitigate this risk, you will want to add a DOJ Sex Offender Registry search to all background checks.
  • The individual may have a suspended driver’s license. If the position that the individual has applied for includes driving as a job responsibility, you should include a Motor Vehicle Record.
  • The individual may have lied on their job application. If you are concerned about honesty and the experience needed for a particular job, then the program manager should request employment and education verifications.

As a program manager, you know what you know…but do you know what you don’t know?