FAQ: Should our Background Checks include Federal Records?

Every time we get a phone call from a customer claiming we missed a record, my heart stops.

It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it’s an all-hands-on-deck effort to find and fix a potential problem. We take great pride in the accuracy of our background checks.

Take for instance this recent call:

‘The employee we hired 30 days ago just went to jail, but his background check report was clear!’

As I hear these words, my heart freezes, fingers flying across the keyboard. A clear report from 35 days ago pops up on my screen.

The first thing I check is where we didn’t look: Federal records.

The customer didn’t order federal records searches because of cost. Many of our customers don’t. The reality is that if a person is convicted in federal court, the only way we find out is by searching Federal court records.

All background check orders are a risk vs. cost decision. There are 96 district courts in the United States, and they try about 1 million cases a year.

Compare that to the 30 million cases tried in county courts, and it’s obvious that most criminal records come out of county courts. But if you choose to save the money and not search federal records, please know that you eventually might miss one, and that one could be a big deal.

In this case, the $12 federal record search would have revealed a recent conviction for fraud. Our customer could have saved the hiring costs, a month’s salary for the employee, and a month of someone else’s salary who was training the new hire. The cost of that one hiring mistake could have paid for federal records searches on all of their employees and applicants for a couple of years.

Call us or send us an e-mail if you want us to look over your screening criteria and make recommendations. Or if you have any questions about background checks at all. We’re HR people who started a background check company, so we’ve been in your shoes!

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