Five percent of job applicants have a criminal record within the last seven years. Most business owners and recruiters know they should perform background checks on applicants before offering them a job; however, few people can actually define what background checks actually entail.

The laws governing background checks are complicated, contradictory, and always changing, so the lack of knowledge is understandable. Despite the confusion, most employers perform a basic database background check online before hiring a new employee.

What these employers do not know is that they are actually better off doing nothing rather than performing one of these basic background checks, which search databases that are often out-of-date and can contain mistakes. If you perform one of these database searches, miss something, and your new employee gets into trouble, you are more liable for not doing your due diligence in your original search than if you had not performed a background check because attorneys can prove the incident was based on your negligence.

Lois Capps’s recent mistake in this area is on a lot of people’s minds. Congressmember Capps separated herself from Raymond Morua — who had two former hit-and-runs, a DUI, and embezzlement on his record but continued to represent the congressmember — after he allegedly killed Mallory Rae Dies in December. Capps could have separated herself from Morua much earlier if her office had completed a full background check and taken his record seriously.

To protect your company, you need to perform full due diligence before hiring your next employee. This means checking records from every home town and county of residence, looking at credit reports, pulling up leasing contracts, checking federal crimes, going through the national criminal database, and more.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act prohibits excluding someone from employment solely based on database searches because, as mentioned earlier, between records being expunged and/or not updated frequently, databases are only about 60 percent accurate.

A good background check provider will send a researcher to any county where there might be a “hit” to verify the record with the county clerk. This is full due diligence. This better protects your business legally.

Some records won’t even show a “hit” because they cannot even be found in an online database. I have lived in Santa Barbara my entire life. If I hijacked a car in Ventura, the record would not show up in the Santa Barbara County records, and you wouldn’t know to check Ventura County records because I have never lived there. That is why you always check the national criminal database. This database is brilliant at finding crimes outside the person’s county of residence.

In addition to the national criminal database, federal crimes — such as smuggling drugs across state lines, embezzlement, bank robbery, carjacking, and kidnapping — are also not listed on basic database searches.

Yes, these searches cost more, but it is much worse to do a non-comprehensive background check than to be overly concerned with cost. The cost of advertising, training, and retaining an employee versus the cost of potential harm to your company’s image and reputation is minimal. When you see background checks as a commodity and try to buy one for the lowest price, you can put yourself in a precarious situation.

Rather than being viewed as an add-on commodity, background checks should be viewed as a protective process. The question of any recruiter, human resource manager, or business owner should not be “What is the cost?” but “What does the background check entail?” and “How is it protecting my company and my employees?”

Background checks, done properly, keep companies large and small safe and protected.

Todd Malesky, president at Falcon Vision, specializes in providing background checks. He started Falcon Vision after working as a recruiter and becoming frustrated and confused by the background check process. For more information, call (805) 755-4717 or visit


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