Less Records Are Now More Valuable: The Ins & Outs of the National Database Search

Kevin Bachman

Comprehensive Criminal Background Check

Ten years ago, it was hard to find reputable background screening companies that enthusiastically endorsed the use of commercial criminal databases with “millions and millions of records” as an effective screening tool. Quality was poor, holes were huge, information was incomplete, and prices were sky high.

Five years ago, background screening companies became, more or less, ambivalent. Results weren’t as bad and the cost dropped, but it still didn’t give enough bang for the buck. Technically called a multi-jurisdictional database search, the lingo used by the industry and employers, National Database, suggested a level of completeness and accuracy that wasn’t there in reality.

Fast forward to today. EmployeeScreenIQ, along with other background screening companies, proudly turn that paradigm on its head. In our experience, we believe that a multi-jurisdictional database search should be part of every comprehensive criminal background check. Not because of what it finds. But because of what it doesn’t.

Now why on earth would a background screening company accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) endorse a product because of what it doesn’t find? This is my explanation: At its core, the National Database is just a compilation of data assembled from jurisdictions nationwide.

There is no uniformity regarding the completeness, accuracy, or timeliness of the information. Some counties, towns, and states participate, while others do not. Some provide all of their records. Some don’t. Some provide data quickly…you get the point. In sum, it’s a data dump. It hits our system looking nothing like what our clients see on a final report.

What it’s not: An easy-to-read report, with 8-10 lines, clearly indicating felony or misdemeanor, guilty or not guilty, the date of the offense.

What it is: Pages of criminal cases and hundreds of lines of raw, often contradictory data. At that point, we have three tasks as the background screening provider:

  1. We filter through to determine whether the information is or isn’t your candidate.
  2. If it is, we fill in the missing details. Knowing whether it’s your candidate means little if you don’t know what the conviction is. But it’s still a database search with many holes.
  3. Our third job is to verify and corroborate in conjunction with a traditional county court search, which meets the accuracy, thoroughness and up to date standard set forth by the FCRA…and lets our clients sleep well at night.

The problem was, this process cost more, took longer, and at the end of the day, almost always wasn’t the client’s candidate. When a candidate had records, we previously found on average, 13 of them, 89% of which were false positives (not your candidate after all). We didn’t report this information on the final report, but boy did it take a lot of time to filter it out. Using new methods, the false positive rate has dropped by 71%, and the number of records our team filters through has dropped 63%. These internal enhancements mean our clients can realize faster turnaround time, without compromising accuracy or quality.

It is crucial to point out that conducting this search does not guarantee every record that could be found will be found. Significant holes still exist. Any client that uses this tool as their primary background check strategy and in lieu of county court searches will miss many, many records. This product remains simply a tool to cast a wider net.

However, since the quality of the data has improved, and the percentage of false positives has dropped, and it has now become cost efficient, this database is sufficient for use in a criminal background check, at least in part. We consider it a strong complementary tool and look forward to working with our clients who want to expand the quality of their programs.

Kevin Bachman
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Kevin Bachman

Senior Vice President of Operations at EmployeeScreenIQ
Kevin is responsible for creating strategy and setting long term goals to manage and optimize organizational workflow. Kevin ensures the company exceeds performance benchmarks by designing and implementing a robust set of analytics and metrics. As a member of the executive committee, he helps shape corporate strategy and sets the direction of key client initiatives. With 13 years industry experience, Kevin is a member of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), previously serving on the best practices committee and co-chairing the Litigation Avoidance sub-committee.
Kevin Bachman
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  • Name

    How did it improve when more and more states do not sell their records? It seems as though NAPBS does not stand for quality background screening, just cheap worthless background companies who justify the use of the “multi jurisdictional” crap.

    • Nick Fishman

      Hey Ann. I totally get where you are coming from on this, but before you paint all screening companies with a broad brush, I hope you’ll allow for the fact that not all of us use a National Criminal database as the sole means to conduct a background check. In fact, companies like ours (and many of our colleagues) use these databases in a responsible manner (i.e. never reporting a hit on a national without following up in the county where the potential record occurred). Unfortunately, there are some companies out there that don’t operate in this manner, but that doesn’t mean that the entire industry or our association as a whole embraces the less than comprehensive and accurate practices.

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