Earlier this week we found out that convicted felons and other dangerous people passed background checks and ended up driving for Uber - but that's just the tip of the iceberg. 

We've run thousands of deep background checks (known as Trust and Safety Checks) and we're not surprised. Here's 5 ways that background checks are broken - and how they are failing to flag dangerous people in the hiring process:
  1. They Don’t Check the Right Databases: If a person has lived in multiple states over the years this may cause some problems when running a background check. Some background checks only look into the candidate’s current state of residence. It’s important to know if the background check company or service that is used offers a national service or just state.
  2. They Don’t Give Enough Context: Since a background check is fairly black and white in nature, it’s easy for an company to pass on a good candidate because of a record that appears as ambiguous on a background check.
  3. They Provide Incomplete Information: Background checks will only tell you what has been put in public record. Character is hard to assess based off of a background check alone. Full, in-depth interviews can help determine a person’s demeanor and character.
  4. They Return False Positives and False Negatives: Things like common names or misspelled names can create issues when performing background checks. Even experienced programs and services still have trouble with the John Smiths or Jennifer Jacksons of the world, leading to a subject with convictions getting the all-clear, and subjects with no criminal records getting flagged. A study has shown that up to half of FBI background checks include incomplete or false information. “Up to 600,000 Americans are wrongfully denied a job every year simply because the information on their background check is wrong,” Minnesota Democratic congressman Keith Ellison told Mint Press News.
  5. They’re an Unreliable Predictor of Future Behavior: Some people have the saying that “people never change.” Is that always true when it comes to hiring someone for a position? Criminal records (or the absence thereof) is not enough to determine whether someone is trustworthy.

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A background check may show that a person committed a crime in the past. Will they commit one in the future? It’s hard to say. Criminal convictions stay on record indefinitely — someone’s mistake 20 years ago may not reflect their character today.

A bankruptcy filing may raise some red flags as well but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will file again. In 2012, about 1.1 million people filed for bankruptcies — only 30% of people were repeat filers.  

Using the information provided on a background check is extremely useful but it’s important to be cautious when making hard judgements about a person. Using an adjudication matrix can be a helpful tool for companies to use when viewing the results of a background check.

When a company receives negative information on a background check — they are then put in a situation which makes them decide if this candidate is unqualified or disqualified for the job. An adjudication matrix is a tool to help decide whether or not this information is “bad enough” to rule the candidate out.

For example, a front desk clerk with a DUI conviction may still be hired for the job as the position does not require any driving of commercial vehicles. The same DUI conviction for a truck driver applicant can easily disqualify them for the position.

A properly set up matrix, adhering to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidelines (EEOC), can help companies make these decisions when the information may be a bit blurry.


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