Recently, TruView presented “The Seven Myths of Background Screening” at a national Client’s annual leadership conference. The presentation was well-attended and well-received. Here are two of the most common background screening myths. If you would like to participate in a discussion of TruView’s popular “Seven Myths,” we would be delighted to present them at your next conference!

Myth: The “National Criminal Database” is my one-stop shop for criminal records nationwide.

Fact: There is no such thing as a complete national criminal record repository. The so-called “National Criminal Database” and others like it (at least seven, by our count) are databases compiled by third parties from a wide variety of sources, and they may not provide a complete assessment of an individual’s criminal record due to geographical gaps, infrequent updates, time gaps, and, in general, a lack of accuracy and completeness. Some states do not make county court/conviction records available to national criminal database compilers; and sometimes only convictions that resulted in sentences to a state correctional facility are reported.

In short, the national criminal database searches by themselves are unreliable. As a best practice, they should be used only as an investigative supplement to an official, statewide database or a county-level court search. TruView suggests using a multi-jurisdictional database compiled from state and county criminal record databases  as a supplement, not as a stand-alone, to on-site criminal and civil court document searches (including applicable regulatory sites and records directly from court and state sources); this is only way to achieve the most up-to-date, accurate, and legal criminal history screen.

Myth: A comprehensive background screen will tell you everything about your candidate, as far back as records are kept.

Fact: The federal Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA) and numerous state laws place specific limitations on what can be reported, either through time frame or type of record. The “show me everything” approach risks an employer’s running afoul of the FCRA and state reporting laws, or judging applicants differently based on where they live (and which laws apply).

That is not to say this approach cannot be used as it may prove beneficial for certain industries requiring more extensive searches, as well as in maximizing research on applicants to executive positions or in mergers and acquisitions. However, as a best practice, TruView recommends following the most restrictive reporting regulations, in most cases. When more extensive searches are required, separate screening policies and search packages are necessary, within state and federal guidelines.