W2 Issues/Concerns


Check out our weekly blog posts and see the latest news and discussions happening in the HR world of business.

Background checks are time-consuming but effective

File this one under “necessary evil,” but it seems that in order for a background check to truly let you know who you’re adding to your staff, you’re really going to need to invest a little time. However, there are things that you can do to expedite the process.

But let’s look first at exactly what causes the hold up in the first place. According to Chris Cassimus Sr., product management director at Seattle-based screening company Sterling Talent Solutions, things as simple as requesting a background check ahead of a holiday can cause a few days to be tacked on to the process and even the time difference between east and west coasts can make a difference.

Turning to the criminal background check process, meanwhile, Cassimus warns that there are “over 3,300 county, state, federal criminal record databases” to be checked. Deepesh Saini, Sterling’s vice president for automation and fulfillment systems, notes that while some courts have information available electronically, others only offer limited or no data, meaning that a researcher has to be drafted in to perform the search themselves and, should something arise that needs verification, a “runner” must then be used to go to a court’s physical location to retrieve criminal record data that then must be verified.

As would be expected, Saini notes that hits that indicate someone has a criminal record typically take longer to research than “clears” because in order to “make a complete record, you have to visit the courthouse to get it.” Further, the line of inquiry might even be a dud if it doesn’t actually pertain to the job candidate, an issue that arises often with candidates with common names in the absence of additional information from companies, such as a middle name or maiden name.

Additional issues that can slow the criminal record background check include if a job seeker has moved states or counties frequently, if the company requests a seven-year background check over a shorter check period, and if they want to check additional residences versus just the current residence. And, on the courts end, missing key data – such as final disposition or sentencing information or any other mismatched information – can also significantly delay the process as it requires engagement of that researcher again.

Further, checking a job candidate’s education and employment can take a long time because “there is just a lot greater reliance on a human than for criminal record searches,” according to Cassimus. Once again, it becomes the job of that researcher to pick up the phone or write an email to uncover the necessary information. The process becomes further complicated if someone has been educated or worked outside of the United States for any period of time.

So what can you do to save time? Cassimus and Saini suggest the following strategies for employers

  • provide each candidate’s middle name;
  • make sure the date of birth is correct;
  • provide all necessary consent forms at the time of submission;
  • provide detailed employment and education information, including the applicant’s name at the time of employment or when the diploma or degree was awarded; and
  • allow sufficient time for screening, especially if international checks are required.

What is your background check process like? Will you be able to save time with these tips?

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