Are We There Yet? Court Delays Slow Background Screening for Employers

Nick Fishman

Employment Background Check Delays

Everyone’s favorite employment background checks are the ones which sail through the process with no hitches. No criminal records or any other adverse information to verify. And for the majority of employee background checks, that continues to be the norm.

However, we’ve noticed a trend as of late when it comes to criminal background checks that contain records and even worse, “possible records”: It is taking longer and longer to verify this information. This in turn, slows down the employer’s hiring process.

Here’s how it plays out.

When conducting a county criminal background check, the researcher determines the best method for obtaining court information. In most cases, that means visiting the court house(s) where a person has lived, worked or attended school. Depending on the court, this could mean anything from using a public access terminal which queries court records to a physical search of the court’s paper records.

Let’s walk through four scenarios for how this plays out:

1. No Record Found- Our favorite outcome of a search.  The researcher determines that there is no records and the results are reported to the client.  Lightning Fast Turnaround = Happy Employer
2. Conviction with Complete Information- These will slow down the process a bit, but no real biggie when it comes to turn around time.  First, the researcher needs to confirm that the record actually belongs to the candidate and then they need to make sure that the information is accurate and up to date.  After that information is reviewed for compliance, it can be sent out to the client.  Quick Resolution = Happy Employer
3. Conviction with Incomplete Information- Here’s where things start to slow down.  At this point, the researcher needs to investigate further.  Often times, this means seeking clarification from a court employee.  And because the courts are understaffed, just having this conversation can be delayed.  If we’re lucky, the court employee can clarify the information the researcher has found on the spot.  However, if they need to do further research, guess what happens?  Delayed Search = Frustrated Employer but Hey, You Got the Info
4. Possible Records Found- What? Huh? A possible record is one where the researcher can’t determine off the bat if there is really a record or not and the only way to confirm it is to contact a court employee.  Doh!  And this one can really frustrate employers, because while the court takes its own sweet time in responding, we might find out in the end that there wasn’t a record to begin with.  Delayed Search with No Actual Record to Report = This Makes for an Unhappy Employer

Scenarios three and four can be very frustrating to recruiters and their human resource departments. Their goal is to get the right people hired as quickly as possible. So why is this happening?

Unfortunately, the answer to that question varies by the location you are referring to but we’re starting to categorize these delays based on both fact and hypothesis.

Here’s a breakdown of what we know and what we think we know.

1. Courts Are Understaffed- This is a well-known fact.  Unfortunately, the recession and myriad hiring freezes have hit our states as hard as anyone.  As a result, the courts aren’t properly staffed to accommodate the demand.
2. Summer Hiring is In Full Swing- Seasonal hiring creates more volume in the courts.  More volume leads to more searches that fall into our Scenarios Three and Four.  Couple this with court under-staffing, and you’ve got delays.
3. Employment Continues to Improve- In general, our country is slowly pulling itself out of the worst recession seen since the Great Depression.  As a result, more jobs are being created than have been in the last several years.  As with the Summer hiring season, court under-staffing isn’t helping anyone.
4. Lawsuits Are On the Rise- Neither employers nor background screening companies can afford to make mistakes, so they need to take extra care to ensure that results are accurate.  If true, this is a positive development for employers and job candidates.

So what’s an employer to do?

  • Make sure to build some extra time into the process.  The majority of your applicants will sail through the process as usual, so hopefully, you aren’t running into these delays on a regular basis.
  • Be wary of who claims to be immune to the issues depicted above.  If you take a best practices approach to conducting employment background checks, you are going to run into these delays from time to time.
  • When these delays arise, continue to communicate with your candidate.  No one likes dead air and hopefully whatever information is found will not preclude you from hiring this person.

Nick Fishman
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Nick Fishman

Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
Nick Fishman
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