Christine Lagendyk | 26 April, 2021

For employers or prospective candidates, accurate online background checks are an integral part of the pre-employment screening process. An employer conducts a background check on a candidate to ensure they’re hiring the best person for the job—someone who would have a positive impact on their employees, clients, and business. On the other hand, a prospective candidate may conduct a background check on themselves to verify if past offenses will surface or if anyone with their same name comes up in the results.

But, for a background check to have any value, it has to be accurate. 

Why Is Accuracy So Important?

An inaccurate or incomplete background check can result in hiring an unqualified or high-risk employee, possibly putting existing employees, customers, and a business in harm's way. Errors in reporting might also prevent a qualified employee from being hired, potentially leaving an employer vulnerable to a lawsuit. Either one of these scenarios could have devastating effects on a business.

While many online background checks are spot-on, there are many variables that can contribute to incorrect background checks. If you want results you can rely on, you have to vet the background check provider. In this article, we’ll tell you exactly what to look for in a service provider so you can reasonably predict the accuracy of your next employment screening results.

5 Reasons Screening Results May Not Be Accurate

If you’re about to make an important decision about your next hire or your next career move, you need the most accurate screening results to base your decision on. 

Here are 5 reasons why free background checks may not be accurate:

  1.  They don’t use multiple up-to-date sources

    Free background check providers typically only search records that are accessible digitally, specifically, public information. How current those records are depends wholly on the efficiency of the governing body responsible for those records, and how frequently they upload their data. Providers of free background checks don’t search non-digital records because they typically don’t have the staff to do manual searches. 

  2.  They don’t check for accuracy

    Free online background checks typically use computer algorithms that search through public databases then compile reports. The algorithms aren’t sophisticated enough to detect subtleties such as individuals with very similar names. This can lead to criminal records being reported on the wrong person. Checking for accuracy requires manpower that free background check providers typically don’t have. 
  3.  They don’t stand behind their product

    Most free online background check providers return results along with a disclaimer that waives them of any liability in the event of inaccurate reporting. This isn’t an indication that all their reports are inaccurate.

    It is an indication, however, that the individual who orders the background check assumes the risk and will be held accountable in the event the applicant disputes the results.
  4.  They don’t request written consent

    You have to get written authorization to run a background check on someone under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Many free screening companies run background checks without asking for proof that the candidate has provided written consent. And very few warn their customers that doing so without written authorization has legal implications. In addition, you can’t legally use a background check for pre-employment screening if the provider isn’t compliant with the FCRA and the EEOC.
  5.  They are not accredited by the NAPBS

    Free online background check providers are not usually accredited members of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) because they don’t comply with the association’s strict guidelines. 

5 Ways to Know You’re Getting Accurate Results

You’ve made the decision to avoid free background check services but how do you choose from the many paid-for services available? You have a lot riding on the background check so the results have to be accurate. 

Here are 5 reasons why you can be confident these background checks will be accurate:

  1. They use multiple up-to-date sources

    Information is collected from various federal, state, and county sources, including information that is not accessible through public searches, so you have complete results.

  2. They check the information they provide is accurate

    The background check provider checks unconfirmed results in person to ensure your results are accurate.

  3. They verify disputed results

    Trained professionals verify disputed results so corrections can be made promptly.

  4. They follow federal and state laws and comply with FCRA and EEOC guidelines

    Stays up-to-date on frequently changing rules and regulations so you can make hiring decisions that are compliant on all fronts.

  5. They are accredited by the NAPBS

    Meets the high professional standards required for NAPBS accreditation so you have peace of mind knowing you’re working with an ethical business.

Read the Fine Print & Ask Questions

Free online background checks appear to offer advantages such as quick turnaround times and cost savings, but this won’t help you if the results you get are incomplete or inaccurate. Making poor hiring or career decisions based on unreliable reports could end up costing you much more in the long run. 

When weighing your options, do your due diligence. Read websites carefully (including the small print!), note the benefits, read their reviews, check their credentials, and, if you still have questions, reach out to the company and ask. A reputable online background check provider will always be happy to speak to you and answer all your questions.

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