Response to Harsh Article on the Background Screening Industry

Nick Fishman

Last month, the AP published an article titled, “When Your Criminal Past Isn’t Yours”, which ruffled the feathers of many in the background screening industry because they questioned the practices of the entire industry rather than the few that caused this issue they highlighted. And while the industry as a whole should not be cast in a negative light, the practices of a few continue to drag many of us down.

That said, I sent an email to both authors acknowledging that while the practices of some screening companies have led to events such as these, that the industry is not to blame, but rather the few who operate recklessly.  Below, is a copy of that email sent to authors Michael Liedtke from the Associated Press and Jordan Robertson, now from Bloomberg News.

Dear Michael/Jordan,

I appreciated your recent article, “When Your Criminal Past Isn’t Yours,” and I wanted to offer some additional information for your consideration.  Your article was very thorough and I largely agree with you — except in one respect: all background screening companies are not the same. There are companies committed to accountability and performing to the highest standards of professionalism.

Your article calls out a few background check companies for reporting  incorrect, and unverified information to employers, who then may use these inaccurate reports to deny people jobs, hurting innocent  people simply looking for work.  This is a problem.  There are companies that are careless and quick to pass along outdated or inaccurate information, that use only databases and don’t research actual court records and that simply scrape data off of court websites without checking it for accuracy. It’s these companies that give us all a bad name, pushing the idea that screening is a commodity.

There are reasons for this.  Conducting background checks is a complicated business. Employers are generally unaware of the nuances of local, county, state, and federal laws, their processes, problems or regulations. And that’s not their fault; it’s not their business.  But without this knowledge, and with all companies claiming to do the same thing, it’s easy to discount claims of service and accuracy and simply look at price and whiz-bang technology systems.  On the other side, these screening companies know this and their use of terms like “criminal search,” “instant,” and “national background check,” combined with a bells and whistles software allows them to perpetuate a higher degree of accuracy than their processes actually provide.

There is no doubt that both individuals and employers are harmed by careless background checks and companies that operate either on the fringe or outside the parameters of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

It’s because of all this that EmployeeScreenIQ takes a “no shortcuts” approach to screening.  It is the foundation for how we operate our business and is employed at every level of our organization in order to advance informed hiring decisions. One of the worst things one can do in the background screening process is to make a hiring decision based on inaccurate data. Rather than just reporting raw, unconfirmed information, EmployeeScreenIQ takes the necessary steps to ensure the results are reliable, accurate and up to date.

Before reporting criminal records, our Public Records department actually confirms that the information we’ve found belongs to the applicant. They also actually consult our 50 state compliance guide to ensure that the record is legally reportable. The same methods apply to verifying other pieces of adverse information such as employment and education verifications. We are willing to point out our dispute rate — only .017% of all county criminal checks we complete are disputed.

EmployeeScreenIQ has successfully achieved compliance with the National Association of Professional Background Screeners accreditation program and is formally recognized as Background Screening Credentialing Council Accredited.  This recognition affirms our commitment to excellence, accountability, high professional standards and continued institutional improvement. Less than 2% of employment screening companies have earned this distinction and we are pleased to share such a small stage.

Accreditation is an important seal of approval that all companies should look for when choosing a provider as it is the only program in our field that proves their procedures are compliant with industry best practices. It also affirms security protocols, industry knowledge and expertise.

I would be happy to discuss any of this with you at your convenience, answer any questions you may have and be a resource to you for future stories. Thank you again for keeping this issue in the public eye and I look forward to reading more of your work.

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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