When we get the question from our clients of “Why is the report taking long to turnaround?” we understand their frustration. In fact, in a recent survey conducted by HR.com for the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) “Human resource professionals highlighted the need for accuracy in their screening, with 98 percent responding they believe it is “very important” to their organization that the screens are “accurate.” At the same time, nearly two in three (62 percent) stated that the length of time to get results is the most significant challenge facing their organization when conducting background screens.”
So therein lies the conflict i.e. getting timely AND accurate results at the same time. Very often, both goals cannot be achieved. So why can’t results be turned around quickly and accurately? There are a number of reasons.
Much of the delay is caused by the method used to store criminal conviction information and the ease of retrieval of that information. For purposes of information in this blog, we will deal with criminal conviction information processes here in the United States. International criminal conviction processes are not addressed in this article.
The criminal justice system does not record social security numbers in their records. What we have to identify a person is their name, address and date of birth. You might ask why not use fingerprints. Reviewing information in that repository is limited to those firms granted access by either federal or state law. Consumer reporting agencies cannot access that repository without the individual firm being granted legal access. So many firms are not allowed to access to fingerprint records. And, while you might think that the fingerprint record is gold standard, we have a blog post here that challenges that assumption.
The primary factors that can delay a background check include:
- The need to perform due diligence to assure that the person you are interviewing for employment is not the same person with a criminal conviction in a jurisdiction. In a country with almost 250 million adults, it is very likely there are more than one person with the same name, date of birth and jurisdictional address as other people. And those other people may have a criminal conviction. The due diligence may require an examination of court records to gain clarifying information. This then requires a request to the county clerk. These county clerks may or may not be responsive as quickly as we would like. Accuracy is of course of paramount importance. You wouldn’t want us to report a clear if there is in fact a criminal conviction in that person’s background. And, vice versa you would not want us to report a criminal conviction record if in fact there are none.
- The access to criminal conviction records varies by state. Some states have a timely and accurate statewide repository of criminal conviction information. Research in those states can turnaround quickly and accurately. Other states have no statewide repository e.g. West Virginia and California. In states such as these, only a county criminal conviction record can be conducted. And, researchers at the mercy of the county clerks. These county clerks may decide to only help research a limited number each day. In this case, you have to wait till the person you want researched comes up in queue.
- If there is missing or inaccurate identifiers, the research process can be delayed. What do we mean? As mentioned earlier we have name, address and date of birth. If any of this information is incorrect, the turnaround process will be delayed. Also, people change their names. So, if a search is being done on Mary Jones and this individual changed her name two years ago from Mary Smith most likely a criminal conviction will miss a criminal conviction when her name was Mary Smith. Middle names are very important to have when conducting a criminal conviction search. It helps to more accurately identify a person when you have more than just the first and last name.
- Weather delays can be a factor. Courts can be closed for several days if inclement weather causes a closure of offices for several days. Winter storms, hurricanes, and even sever power outages are some examples of this type of delay.