Debunking Background Screening Misconceptions and Myths: Survey Says . . .

Nick Fishman



Let’s face it.  The economy is still a mess and people aren’t finding jobs fast enough.  Given this fact, there are a lot of people looking to place the blame for these developments.  And has been the case for the last several years, many are focusing on employment screening and background checks.  I won’t say that all who oppose background check are flat out wrong in every instance, but all too frequently they rely on myths, misconceptions and urban legends to support their arguments.

Here is my list of the most commonly held misconceptions about employment background checks:

  • Background Checks Are the Reason Unemployment Rates Are High- We’ll remove all politics from this one and simply state that a large contributor to unemployment besides a slow economic recovery is that employers are having a difficult time finding qualified people for the jobs that are available.
  • Employers Use Background Checks As An Excuse Not to Hire Someone- As Bob Barker might say, “The Price is wrong.”  Remember, company’s spend an awful lot of time, money and effort to find the right candidate for the job.  Why would they go out of their way not to hire the people they have invested these efforts in?
  • Anyone with a Criminal Record Will Never Be Hired- As Alex Trebek might say, “Oh sorry!”.   There are over 65 million people with criminal records in this country.  If all of those people were out of work, unemployment rates would be 6 times higher than they are now. According to our 2012 Background Screening Trends study, less than 10% of applicants with criminal records are denied employment.
  • Most Employers Pull All Applicant’s Reports– As Richard Dawson would say, “Survey says . . . buzzzz!”.  See SHRM study which reveals that only 13% of employers indicated they run credit on all applicants.
  • Employers Use Credit Score to Determine Employment Eligibility- As Pat Sajak would say, “‘Lose a Turn”‘ You were so close.”  Employers use what is referred to as an “Employment Credit Report” which does not include a credit score or account numbers.
  • Poor Credit Will Immediately Disqualify a Candidate– As Regis Philbin would say, “Is that your final answer?” If employers only hired people with good credit, they’d hardly be able to hire anyone
  • Applicants Aren’t Give a Chance to Dispute Findings- As Simon Cowell would say, “Seriously, that was awful.” By law, employers must provide a consumer with a free copy of their background check and allow them up to 30 days to dispute the results.
  • Employers Demand Passwords to Candidates’ Social Networking Sites– As Burt Convy would say, “The password is ‘Incorrect'”. While this has been in the news as of late, you will be hard pressed to find anyone doing this.  And the backlash to employers that do this, is enough to discourage them for considering it.  Check out a story we posted about the city of Bozeman, MT
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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  • Dr Marty Shoemaker

    The issue here isn’t that some have misconceptions of background checking but that it is misused by companies who buy these services. Checking is for eliminating people rather than for predicting performance. Certainly there is merit in finding a bad apple but for many applicants there is a prejudicial bias when credit and criminal records are used point blank to eliminate certain candidates. The EEOC recently slapped your wrists on this practice and now you need to validate your methods.

  • Nick Fishman

    The idea of a background check is not to eliminate candidates. It’s to make sure you know everything you need to know about a perspective hire before making a decision. It is just one piece of the puzzle. Under your argument, you’d also have to say that reviewing resumes, interviewing candidates, assessments, etc. are also used to eliminate people.

    While I acknowledge the fact that some employers misuse background checks, in my experience they are the exception, not the rule. Our recent survey points directly to this issue when we asked employers what was more important, a candidate’s qualifications or the absence of a criminal record. 72% said that qualifications were more important. And while 28% is nothing to sneeze at, a number of those respondent are in highly regulated industries.

  • Name Kristen Thomas

    If your background screening provider is of quality, they will only provide the employers with what can be used, which is convictions. Bad apples are what employers are looking for. Background screening is not to keep people from finding gainful employement, it’s to make sure the right people get the right jobs. If you have 3 DUI’s, maybe you should apply to be a school bus driver. If you are a sex offender, you probably shouldn’t work in a nursing home or school.