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What’s in a name?

March 6, 2017

By Susan Chance, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

“That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is a beautifully poetic line uttered by Juliet to Romeo in Shakespeare’s famous play. It is a romantic notion that a person’s name is of no importance, and in the romance department perhaps that is true.  But not with with background checks.

What’s in a name is very important, especially when it comes to background checks. In this fast paced world we are living in, we want information as quickly as possible, and having complete and correct information when it comes to applicant names is critical to getting timely and accurate background reports, and more importantly, to staying out of legal hot water.

When you are gathering information from your applicant, make sure they provide their full legal name, including their middle name as well as any aliases they have used (maiden name, legal name change, etc.). While it helps if a middle initial is provided, the best practice for the most accurate report is to list the full middle name.

Previous legal names, such as a maiden name, are often not listed in the information provided for background checks by the applicant, but are typically required for education verifications. This in turn delays the verification, and the report comes back as not verified for education.

For criminal checks a middle name may be the difference between a clean report and one that has a long list of legal infractions. ASE recently completed a report where a middle name was not provided. A total of 36 potential records came up on the search. Without the applicant’s middle name, it took several days to identify the correct record. The good news is that the person’s record was actually clear; the bad news was that the completion of the report was delayed due to the long list of items that had to be verified.

Running criminal checks for all aliases helps to ensure you have a complete check. If you have an applicant who is a Rose by another name, Rose Smith aka Rosie Jones, or Rosie is living in Michigan, but Rose lived in California and was not such an upstanding citizen, you could miss the records even if you request a national check because the names are different.

Omitting a person’s middle name from a background check may also be a negligent violation of the FCRA according to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (Smith v. LexisNexis Screen Solutions, Inc., Nos. 15-2329/2330 (6th Cir. September 13, 2016).  If hiring is delayed, or if a person is not hired at all due to errors in reporting because a middle name was not included in the search, this is a violation.

Delayed or bad hires cost companies money. Think of the projects that get delayed, training that may have to be repeated, and the number of schedules that have to be changed when an applicant’s start date is delayed. The time it takes to go back and forth with an applicant to obtain additional information costs your company time and money.

When we remember what’s in a name and provide the complete and accurate information up front, the background check process runs smoother and is completed in a timely manner.

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