Busting the Myths of Fingerprinting During the Hiring Process

By Stewart Gott

Smart Human Resource professionals and hiring managers know they can’t take today’s applicants at face value. There may be unsavory and illegal behavior hiding behind that bright smile and polished resume. That’s why the majority of employers use some degree of background screening to make their hiring decisions. Some employ a criminal search, while others use several screening reports, drug screening, and assessment testing to help reach their decisions. 

Fingerprinting is another screening option that helps employers gain additional information on the job candidates background and past behavior. A person’s fingerprints are unique to them, so this process can offer employers information about the job candidate that they may not be able to uncover any other way.

What is fingerprinting?

This process typically involves job candidates making an appointment with an on-site facility, and physically driving there and submitting their fingerprints into a system. They are run through a database search, and the results are sent back to the employer. The information gleaned from fingerprinting can be used, along with the results of the other background screening reports, to determine a job seeker’s fit or lack thereof with the company.

Just like with any background screening tool, there are some thoughtful considerations employers should make before adding fingerprinting into the mix. Here are a couple of points you need to be aware of when thinking about using fingerprinting for background screening. 

Fingerprinting May Be Required

Some industries are regulated and are required by state or federal governments to fingerprint job candidates before hiring. Banking and Healthcare are two of them, but there are others. These can vary by state. If your company falls under this regulation, it’s important to choose a reliable fingerprinting company with a robust number of available locations.

Other Background Screening Products Should Still Be Used

It’s a common misconception that fingerprinting for background screening uncovers everything an employer needs to know about a job seeker. This is not the case. There may be holes in the information fingerprinting returns. A few of these are:

Outcomes of arrests. Getting arrested doesn’t automatically mean the person gets convicted. According to the EEOC guidance, Employers can’t deny employment due to an arrest record alone.

Incomplete or outdated information. The FBI doesn’t receive all convictions. Although a state database may have information related to a criminal conviction, they may not report immediately nor be required to report at all to the FBI. This can affect job seekers unfairly.

Arrests don’t always include fingerprints. Certain states and municipalities may choose to not to fingerprint. Other states or counties may fail to report records to the FBI. In these cases, fingerprinting a job applicant won’t turn up anything, which could leave employers making decisions on incomplete information

Employers cannot access the FBI database unless authorized by a federal, state or local law. – This limitation means that most employers must rely on commercial background check companies for accurate data.

Employers who take action on fingerprinting results alone could be missing important information which could cause them to hire unqualified or dangerous candidates! This can cause all sorts of issues, from workplace violence, lack of proper customer support, to embarrassing press and even potentially costly litigation. The solution to this issue is to make certain when you fingerprint job candidates, you also conduct other searches like criminal records searches and employment and education verifications. When used together as an entire screening process, the combination of these searches will provide a clear, reliable picture of the candidate. 

If employers need to use fingerprinting for background screening, what should they look for in a provider? 

1: Number of locations. Think about it: If you have an applicant who needs to get fingerprinted, do they want to have to drive an hour to the fingerprinting location? NO! Long driving requirements may end up weeding out great candidates, or holding up your hiring process because the candidate keeps procrastinating on going. Make it as easy as possible to fingerprint job candidates. Choose a company with a variety of centrally-located places that are open many hours a day. If the potential vendor can’t tell you how many fingerprinting locations they offer, look somewhere else. 

2: Turn times. Fingerprinting for background screening is often the factor that holds up the entire hiring process! While you don’t have control over when the candidate chooses to be fingerprinted, you can ask your vendor how long it takes them to return results. Request documented turn times so you can work them into your decision-making process. 

3: Technology considerations. Communicating electronically through platforms the employer already uses is key to a seamless, trouble-free system. Ask how results are returned, and whether or not the fingerprinting provider is able to integrate with current systems. The easier it is to contact the candidate, move progress along, and receive results, the less stressful and more effective the process will be. 

4: Fingerprinting credentials. Fingerprinting for background screening demands accuracy and reliability. Ask the vendor where their information comes from, and make certain they are approved in the states you do business, and are an FBI channeler, if applicable. Knowing the returned information is true and accurate is crucial for fingerprinting specifically, and background screening in hiring decisions in general. 

With more employers hiring this year than in the recent past, it’s important they maximize the chances of choosing the best, most qualified employees for their open positions, and extend an offer as fast as possible or risk losing the job seeker to another position. Whether you are in an industry that requires you to fingerprint job candidates, or are simply choosing to add this solution to your overall screening process, take these points into consideration when implementing fingerprinting into a complete employment screening procedure. Be sure you choose a vendor partner that will enhance the accuracy and efficiency of your screening process, and assist in painting a clear, thorough picture of the job candidate.

Stewart Gott
National Account Executive