Coronavirus (COVID-19), Recruiting

How COVID-19 Court Closures Impact Your Background Checks

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted office closures and work-from-home mandates everywhere, including in government offices and county courthouses. When the courts are closed or operating on limited schedules, parole hearings and divorce proceedings are not the only activities impacted. Court closures can also throw a wrench in your hiring process.

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According to the most recent U.S. jobs report, the country added 4.8 million jobs in June, the second month of increases after massive job losses at the start of the pandemic. Whether your organization has continued to hire during the pandemic or you’ve just lifted your finger from the hiring pause button, you need quality background checks to help you make well-informed hiring decisions.

Background screening helps you reduce hiring risk and gives you more certainty about the suitability of the candidates you’ve selected. However, state and county court closures can slow down criminal records searches, which comprise a critical component of background checks.

Despite COVID-19 court closures, you can still meet your hiring goals. Take the following actions to make sure you get high-quality background checks and maintain efficiency in your hiring process during these challenging times.

Understand the Role of Courts in Background Checks

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires background screening companies to use the most accurate, up-to-date information available when conducting background checks. Courts are the most accurate and up-to-date sources for criminal records because court system records are primary data sources. Other criminal databases and lists are often based on data from court records.

Background checks include criminal record searches at the federal, state, and county levels. However, COVID-19-related court closures can make some or all of a court’s records inaccessible. As a result, these delays can slow down the process of completing a background check.

Some alternative data sources can provide criminal history information, but those sources must be as accurate and reliable as court system records. If your background check company doesn’t have experience with or knowledge of reliable alternative data sources, you could make risky hiring decisions based on incomplete background check results. You could also end up losing candidates because of persistent delays.

Balance Background Turnaround Times with Quality

You expect optimal background check turnaround times so you can manage time-to-hire metrics and keep candidates engaged. But speed of delivery is not the only indication of value in background screening, and it shouldn’t be prioritized over quality.

When the courts are closed and time is of the essence, the company conducting your background checks can mean the difference between waiting too long for results and finding reliable data sources to keep the background screening process moving. Not all screening companies use the same sources for background data, so it’s important to look for more than fast background checks.

You can and should expect your background check provider to have industry-leading turnaround times, as well as the capability to deliver thorough and accurate background checks. To make sure you’re striking the optimal balance of turnaround time and quality, you can ask your background screening company the following questions:

  • How do you approach court closures and delays?
  • Do you use data sources other than court records? If so, how do you know they are accurate?
  • What metrics do you use to determine background check quality?

Recognize the Inevitability of Delays

At the start of the pandemic, the headlines were full of stories about court closures across the nation. Since then, many courts have begun to reopen, but that doesn’t mean there are no delays in accessing court data.

In many counties, the only way to access original court records is through the courthouse. A courthouse can be open for business but closed to the public for court searches. Some courts promote an online index of case records, but those sites may not always be up to date. They don’t always provide information on dismissed or pending cases and may not report all convictions for an individual.

COVID-19 delays of court searches are inevitable, and you shouldn’t be fooled by a background check company that tells you there are no delays. How your background screening provider handles court closures is critical. Make sure your background check provider has the resources to do the following:

  • Identify ways to access court system data, including physical court searches and online records.
  • Utilize a team of local court researchers with experience requesting court data and working with court clerks.
  • Know what to look for when searching online court case indexes, and follow a process for identifying missing information.

Work with a Trusted Background Check Partner

After you’ve made a conditional job offer, you want your background check process to run smoothly and quickly. Though court closures cause delays in obtaining background data, you don’t want to lose a candidate or make an uninformed hiring decision.

For an efficient hiring process and a positive candidate experience, seek a background check partner who speaks the truth—one who keeps you in the know about court delays affecting background checks and who has the processes and people to deliver accuracy and quality.

At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has put additional pressure on talent management policies and practices, you need to keep your talent acquisition activities moving along efficiently. Court closures can present an unwelcome obstacle in your background check process. By working with the right partners and understanding the realities of the court system during the pandemic, you can rely on quality background checks to help you hire with confidence.

A 30-year veteran of the investigative industry, Greg Dubecky is President of Corporate Screening in Cleveland, Ohio. Dubecky is a frequent speaker on background screening-related topics.

Todd Feher is Vice President of Production with Corporate Screening and has extensive background screening experience, ranging from workers’ compensation, personal injury surveillance, and investigations to preemployment checks and business background investigations. Dubecky and Feher are members of the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA).

Corporate Screening was founded in 1987 as an investigative firm and has evolved over the years to provide a comprehensive background check solution, emphasizing both innovative technology and uncompromising human effort. A trusted resource for Human Resources teams across the nation, Corporate Screening’s investigative legacy is central to its products and services.

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