What Are Inadequate Background Checks?

By Michael Klazema on 8/15/2019

Many employers recognize the potential value in using background checks to look into a job applicant's criminal history, and many businesses are under a legal obligation to carry out such checks for the safety of the public. However, having a background check policy is not a guarantee of safe, satisfactory hiring outcomes. In many instances, throughout the world of business and beyond, such policies have proven inadequate despite their intended purposes.  

It is not employee background checks which prove inadequate—rather, it is a failure at the institutional level. Even major multinational companies can face these pitfalls. Consider Citigroup Global Markets, a giant in finance with billions in annual revenue, which received a punitive fine from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority over inadequate background checks. Incomplete work during the vetting and hiring stage allowed three convicted criminals into the company—individuals whose convictions should have barred them from those positions. JP Morgan received fines for a similar lack of thoroughness during thousands of the company’s background checks. 

Inadequacy can stem from a lack of oversight during the vetting process. In Newark, New Jersey, authorities discovered and arrested several city employees for running a drug ring who had never received background checks but were hired, anyway. The city required fingerprint background checks but left scheduling to the applicants. Poor oversight allowed the applicants onto the job with no background checks in place.  

Slow and cumbersome background checks can also prove detrimental to the process. At the start of a recent school year in New Orleans, the city had only vetted half the number of bus drivers required to reach expected staffing levels. Its intensive procedures, designed to combat previous concerns about inadequate background checks, introduced new delays that frustrated district officials and parents alike.  

For organizations in practically every industry, addressing these background checking inadequacies is a vital step. To be successful, vetting must be thorough, timely, and covered by proper oversight. 

There are several useful ways to prevent inadequacies from developing within your own vetting process. First, consider creating a well-defined checklist to follow for each new hire. With the ability to go down the list ticking boxes for necessary considerations at each stage, your staff will find it easier to reduce the chances that something will slip through the cracks. Next, exercise diligence in following up on any concerns that crop up during vetting and monitor the status of the process. Finally, ensure that you've equipped yourself with the tools necessary to execute thorough, reliable, and fully compliant criminal history checks. provides instant access to hundreds of millions of criminal records across many jurisdictions through the US OneSEARCH. Used in concert with other efforts, such as credit checks and drug screenings, your business’s background checks will help to protect the entire organization’s best interests. 

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