Ask the Screener: August 2010


Here at EmployeeScreenIQ, we answer hundreds of questions every day for HR professionals regarding a variety of topics: criminal records, verifications, drug testing, court research, I-9 verifications, etc. What we find is that many of our clients, whether Fortune 100 organizations or small family owned businesses, have many of the same questions when it comes to conducting background checks and making hiring decisions. Therefore, we thought that we would address some of the questions we see on a regular basis so that all of our clients may benefit. These might be cases here where you say “Oh, I already knew that!” or there may be situations where you think “Hmm…I never thought of that!” Either way, our hope is that this column will demonstrate how we are here to help.

1. My candidate indicated on his application that he had not been convicted of either a felony or misdemeanor crime in the last seven years. I have since found out that isn’t the case. The record isn’t necessarily the type that would be grounds for me not to hire him. Should I still hire him?

A great question – but unfortunately one that I cannot provide a definitive answer for. When making this decision, employers must revert to their company policy. While the crime in question may not be serious enough to disqualify this candidate from employment with your company, you may have to exclude him on the basis of falsifying his application. For some employers, it may not matter that the applicant was a little less than truthful about what he or she indicated on their application – if the crime doesn’t meet the “no hire” criteria, a job offer may still be extended. If, however, your company has a very stringent policy regarding falsifying an employment application (which is a legal document), even though the crime was trivial, that candidate would automatically be deemed ineligible for a position with your company. Lying on an application is a huge red flag to many employers.

One important item to keep in mind though is the wording of the question on the application. If the question is a straightforward “Have you ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor in the last seven years?” and you find during the course of the background check that the case found is an Infraction or Petty Offense, technically your applicant was not lying. There are criminal case types that are considered lower than misdemeanors. Same goes for the question if only asking about felonies – if you find a misdemeanor case during the course of the background check, the question was answered truthfully. Weighing the language used on your company’s employment application and your company’s policies regarding fabricating employment application information, employers should come to a decision that is right for them.

2. What is the source of the information that appears on a Social Security Number Trace?

Contrary to popular belief, the name and address history presented on a Social Security Number Trace is not furnished by the Social Security Administration. The history comes from financial institutions who voluntarily report this information to one or more of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Banks, loan and credit card companies typically report the status of your accounts to the credit bureaus, including the name and billing address on the account. The Social Security Number Trace pulls the name and address information out of the credit report presenting a history which employment screeners like us use to find which counties your applicant has lived, worked and/or went to school in for the past 7 to 10 years. It also allows us to see if your applicant has used any other names in conjunction with their social security number for financial purposes. We then run a criminal records search under those names in those counties to determine if your applicant has been charged and/or convicted of any crimes you, as the potential employer, need to know about.

There’s no guarantee that the Social Security Number Trace will contain every place your applicant has lived, worked or attended school in the past seven years for a couple of different reasons. As stated, the name and address information is voluntarily reported by the financial institutions. So, if they don’t tell the credit bureaus, the credit bureaus can’t tell us. Another reason could be that your applicant was living at an address they didn’t use to apply for a loan, credit card etc. The social security number trace may not be 100% full proof, but it is the best source available for determining where to conduct a criminal records search.

For a more detailed explanation of the Social Security Number Trace, check out Social Security Number Trace: The Misunderstood Path to Success

3. What is the benefit of running an OIG/GSA search on medical personnel I am looking to hire?

The OIG/GSA search crosschecks your applicant’s name against a list of personnel that the Department of Health and Human Services regards as ineligible to receive payment from federally funded health care programs. The reason for the exclusion could be due to convictions related to the Medicare or Medicaid programs (among others), patient abuse or actions taken by a state licensing board. Any services rendered to a patient participating in a federally funded health care program by a person or entity included on this list will not be reimbursed by the government. When looking to hire medical personnel that will be working with patients fitting these criteria, it’s definitely important to make sure that your company will be paid for the services he or she provides.

If you would like to submit a question to “Ask the Screener”, please send an email to All names and companies will be kept confidential.