Why Do Incomplete Background Checks Cause Problems?

By Michael Klazema on 8/26/2020

Most American employers conduct background checks as part of their hiring approach. According to a survey from, 96 percent of employers conduct at least one type of pre-employment background check. While this figure makes it seem as if background checks are universal, the caveat is in the wording: “at least one type of background check.” While most employers are running a background check, many still have a problem with incomplete background checks.

How can a background check be incomplete? To understand the answer, realize that the phrase “employment background check” is often misleading.

Because wording such as “hiring is contingent upon the successful completion of a background check” is so common, there is a misconception that a pre-employment background check is self-contained and comprehensive. In truth, most employers conduct multiple different background checks for each employee, spanning an array of different categories.

An employer can honestly say that they are conducting background checks on all hires if they run one criminal history search on every person they hire. However, this check could be an incomplete background check due to the amount of potential red flags it overlooks in its limited scope.

The survey breaks down the statistics for specific background checks. By a significant margin, criminal history checks were the most common:

Also common were:

Verification checks proved less popular:

An employer is not guilty of having an incomplete background check policy just because they are not conducting all these checks. Credit history checks aren’t relevant to all jobs, and neither are professional licenses or certifications. However, employers should be as thorough as possible with their background checks within a scope that is relevant for the position at hand.

Running multiple background checks instead of one reduces the risk of an employer overlooking a serious red flag that might impact a person’s ability to perform a job. Verifying education, employment, or professional licensing can uncover resume lies and sometimes reveal that a candidate who looks good on paper is completely unqualified. Including Social Security Number checks in your screening can reveal candidates who are using false names, which can affect the accuracy of all other background checks.

An incomplete background check is a problem for employers because it increases the likelihood of a bad hire. Even when they don’t put the safety of others at risk or embezzle from their employers, these hires can affect the performance, efficiency, work quality, and company culture of your workplace. Bad hiring decisions can also lead to quick turnover—which, especially in the time of COVID-19, is an issue. Many employers are having trouble finding workers right now, and even those who aren’t are dealing with new challenges for recruiting, interviewing, onboarding, and training their new hires.

Make life easier for yourself and your organization by running a more thorough background check the first time. At, we are here to help you put together an effective protocol for pre-employment screening. Contact us today to get started.

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