Errors in background checks: how to avoid them

While not a common occurrence, it is certainly not unheard of for errors in the background checks process to result in unfair consequences for innocent individuals. There was the recent case of mistaken identity, where John Shelby is filing a lawsuit for being mistaken for a criminal who used the same alias and therefore losing job opportunities as a result. This wasn’t a one off mistake, it went on for 13 years. On this blog we have also run the story regarding Kevin Hutchinson, who was fired after a background check incorrectly stated he had a criminal record and, even after proving his innocence, he was still unable to get his job back. Due to the fact that background checks are processed by individuals, there is plenty of room for human error. It is this that is one of the most significant problems regarding background screening and therefore a problem we should all be looking to solve. But how? A primary measure would be to ensure that adequate information is requested from the individual to ascertain who they are – some companies only request names and dates of birth, which will clearly lead to problems if there are two individuals with the same name on the same day. Why not ask for a social security number as well? Some suggest that providing too much information would be an invasion of privacy but, under such significant circumstances, I feel this is an acceptable request to make – -particularly if it saves the candidate from the problems suffered by the John Shelby and Kevin Hutchinson. The second change that could be made regards to reversibility. In both the examples mentioned, even when the individuals involved proved their innocence, they were still victims of the preliminary mistake. In one case, an individuals character was permanently tainted; in the other, the mistake had spread too far across too many databases to be completely rectified. A process needs to be put in place whereby these errors can be corrected with ease, and these innocent people can be properly cleared of the incorrect allegations. This is a problem that can affect any of us, and can irrevocably damage someones life. But this goes beyond me saying it, or other background screening companies saying it – this is something that needs to be recognized at the top level. Spread the word – a solution to this problem would be far-reaching and impact positively on not just everyone in the background screening industry, but also on the 9% of Americans currently unemployed and the hundreds of millions of others who will face a background check in the future.]]>

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