Common Mistakes Companies Make Conducting Their Own Background Checks

We may be biased, but it boggles our mind when we speak to HR professionals or hiring managers and they say they don’t perform background checks on their candidates. It is an absolutely essential (and easy) step to take in every hiring process. Some companies opt to try to use the web for their own screening process in an effort to save a few dollars. But what they don’t realize is the mistakes that are made can be extremely costly, and can land you either in legal trouble and/or ultimately having to use an outside firm to perform the screenings. Let’s take a look at some of the more common mistakes companies make when they attempt the DIY route:

1) Failing to Obtain Written Consent to Perform a Screening

Not only is this a mistake, it’s ILLEGAL! According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, “A consumer reporting agency may not give out information about you to your employer, or a potential employer, without your written consent given to the employer.” Organizations can put themselves at a huge risk without having a proper applicant authorization form.

2) Opting to Only Use Database Searches

The most accurate sources of information will always be the primary ones, such as county and local court records. Databases can work well as a wrap-around tool to find additional records, but there are no perfect ones out there and a lot tends to fall through the cracks. An extensive search investigates previous addresses, aliases, and surrounding areas to find which specific primary sources to research. Take a look here at some other steps to a comprehensive background check.

3) Skipping Verifications

We speak to many organizations who do not verify prior employment or education. Some of these are specialized positions! How can you possibly expect to know someone’s true qualifications without verifying what they’ve written down in their application? Leveraging technology solutions such as SkillSurvey’s reference checking platform can be especially helpful and ensure consistent results.

4) Only Screening Direct Hires

Many organizations will find themselves bringing on an outside consultant or an independent contractor to assist in certain areas of their business. If any of these individuals will have access to privileged information it is imperative that you screen them first. It doesn’t even matter if this is a temp agency’s hire, as we saw in a recent case where a temp agency failed to screen a registered sex offender and sent him to be an easter bunny at a mall!

5) Not Considering Outside Help

Some organizations do make the decision to perform screenings on their own. They add up the numbers and decide that it will cost less, give them control over the information searched, and maybe get the results faster. But what they don’t realize is that taking this route can open the door up for a lot of risk. For one, many online screening services do not comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and even have disclaimers that say they are not to be used for pre-employment purposes. For another, the cost savings only come in the short run. These websites are largely inaccurate as they cast a giant net (imagine searching through every John Smith in the US for example) and may or may not zero in on the person you are actually looking to find information on. For example, here in the state of South Carolina, some records attach previous addresses, some attach dates of birth, some only attach years of birth. It takes a lot of searching and deductive reasoning using identifiers to figure out if a specific record actually belongs to the applicant in question. These organizations regularly end up having to hire out for a more thorough assessment from a firm like InfoQuest anyway.


Some of these mistakes are easily avoidable, and others are more tricky. Bringing on a vendor who specializes in these types of searches can save you time, money, and a ton of headaches by reducing the margin for error and ensuring compliance across your pre-hire process.

Info Quest, Incorporated

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Surfside Beach, SC 29575
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