March 14th, 2019 | Joy Henry, General Manager, Financial and Professional Services

Busting the Top 10 Myths of Background Checks

Some potential employees look so great on paper that hiring managers mistakenly think that all they need to do to screen them is check their references and job history. However, to avoid hiring mistakes that can not only be costly, but also put an organization’s entire reputation at stake, it’s imperative to expend further scrutiny to every candidate by conducting background checks.

Despite their value to your business, myths circulating about the process of background checks may have prompted you to shy away from them. The following are some of the myths you may have heard about background checks followed by myth busters that highlight why these beliefs are untrue.

Myth 1: Background checks take too long to complete.
Myth Buster 1: Time is of the essence when it comes to hiring desirable candidates, so you may be concerned that conducting a background check will significantly slow down the process and cause the person you want to hire to go elsewhere. The truth is, it doesn’t take weeks to conduct a background check. In fact, with Sterling checks can be done in as few as 24 hours in most cases and in about three days for other cases depending on the industry and the number of checks. With direct, automated access to more than 2,300 county, state and federal U.S. courts, Sterling can search over 75% of all criminal records in just minutes. In case of criminal history searches, 66% of our searches close in under one hour.

Myth 2: Background checks are too expensive.
Myth Buster 2: The cost of a background check varies depending on the company you use and the type of information you’re looking for. At first blush, it may sound like an unnecessary added expense, however, the price you pay for a bad hire is much, much more. According to a CareerBuilder survey, the average cost of hiring the wrong person can be nearly $15,000!

Myth 3: Internet background checks are all you need.
Myth Buster 3: Although there are numerous sites online where you can order a background check, they aren’t necessarily dependable enough to help you make an informed decision about a candidate. The information you get from these sites may be incomplete or inaccurate—and in some cases, you may end up with information about the wrong person entirely. By hiring a company that specializes in background checks, you can hire with confidence knowing that the information you’ve paid for has been verified thoroughly.

Myth 4: Background checks only include criminal records.
Myth Buster 4: Criminal records are a part of what you get from a background check, however, you can also be given information on credit history, education, civil and criminal lawsuits, job history, and driving records. This allows you to get a well-rounded picture of job candidates.

Myth 5: Background checks are only for large companies.
Myth Buster 5: Large companies are not the only types of organizations that can benefit from background checks. Whether you are a small business, a non-profit organization, or using an on-demand gig economy worker, a background check can help you protect your interests. For example, organizations that work with vulnerable populations including children, disabled persons, or the elderly should definitely do background checks on their prospective workers to protect the people they serve. Also, anyone tasked with handling sensitive information should be carefully and thoroughly scrutinized during the hiring process.

Myth 6: If a background check unearths a criminal record, you can immediately disqualify a candidate you’re considering.
Myth Buster 6: Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you’re expected to comply with adverse action requirements by giving a job candidate the opportunity to dispute the information you received in a background check. In addition, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) advises employers to only consider a potential hire’s criminal record if the nature of the offense is relevant to the position they’re applying for. Stay updated with the latest updates from our in-house subject matter experts through our FCRA quarterly webinars.

Myth 7: All background checks include the same information.
Myth Buster 7: Screening firms get their information from different sources, so not every background check will be the same. Criminal and driving histories, for example, may come from a range of city, county, and state sources in addition to federal ones, so one background check may differ from the next.

Myth 8: Background check providers are all the same.
Myth Buster 8: Just as you want to make an informed decision about the people you hire, you should also be careful about the screening company you work with. Choosing the wrong one can also cause problems for your organization: according to a CareerBuilder survey, 29 percent of employers chose a bad candidate because of incorrect information they received from a background check, and 15 percent have actually been sued because they didn’t hire someone based on what was reported in a background check. To help you avoid these issues, you should choose a company that has been accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS).

Myth 9: A check box on an application is enough to alert candidates that they will undergo a background check.
Myth Buster 9: The FCRA requires that an organization’s request for a background check be “clear and conspicuous,” so a disclosure should be separate from the rest of the application. Failure to do this can result in a lawsuit against your organization. FCRA violations are becoming more common with multi-million-dollar class action settlements following suit. Sterling uses built-in technology to simplify hiring compliance workflows. Click here for top tips to minimize your compliance risk.

Myth 10: Background checks are only done for pre-employment screening.
Myth Buster 10: In order to ensure the safety of your organization, background checks should not be one-and-done. Facts don’t lie. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that after four years of employment, 10% of employees will have been arrested twice! Ongoing screening and workforce monitoring are key to protecting your brand reputation.

Want to learn more? Click here to read a recent blog on Sterling’s people-centric values that foster growth for your business through background checks and monitoring. Or reach out to someone from our team.


Sterling is not a law firm. This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.