Do I Need to Use a Fingerprint or Name-Based Background Check? 27 Jun 2018


The problem: you don’t know which type of background check to use. You may have heard that fingerprint-based background checks are best because they can’t be faked as easily as a name. Or you may have heard that name-based background checks are best because you can learn more information about the job applicant.

So, which is better, name-based or fingerprint-based? Let’s look at what each type consists of and how they can help you screen your potential hires.

What Is a Fingerprint-Based Background Check?

A fingerprint-based background check compares the applicant’s fingerprints against the federal and state fingerprint databases. It looks for crimes and arrests that are in the database under that set of fingerprints. Because fingerprints are distinct to the individual, the results of this kind of background check cannot be hindered by false information, such as a fake name, from the job applicant.

One thing to keep in mind is it only looks for things of a criminal nature. It will not look at education records or professional certification records. Also, you may not be able to consider arrest records when using background checks for hiring purposes as it’s not under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidelines. Fingerprint-based checks can also take longer to complete, usually taking at least a couple of weeks to receive the results.

Fingerprint databases don’t always contain the most up-to-date information. For example, a 2015 GAO report shows that in 2012 only 20 states’ arrest records contained final dispositions. Since it’s required that you use accurate data when deciding whether or not to hire someone, it’s a best practice to run a more complete check in addition to the fingerprint-based background check.

What Is a Name-Based Background Check?

A name-based background check compares the applicant’s personal identity information to available criminal records to see if they’ve committed a crime. This report will use their name, birth date, social security number, and other personal identifiers to search federal, state, and county criminal records.

This information can also be used to verify a prospective hire’s education, professional certification, driving record, and past employment history. It almost always takes less time to complete than a fingerprint-based background check. The name-based background check is ideal for checking a job applicant because it can provide you with all the information you may be required to collect before making a decision. It is also compliant with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidelines.

What’s The Difference Between a Fingerprint-Based Background Check and a Name-Based Background Check?

Certain industries are legally required to perform a fingerprint-based background check on prospective hires. Why? Because fingerprints are unique to the individual, which means that there are no false positives. This is usually required in industries where security is a high-priority.

Another important distinction is that, although a fingerprint-based background check may be legally required, the fingerprint databases are not designed to be used as employment screenings. Since they’re based on arrest records they may not include whether the person was convicted of a crime.

Name-based background checks review criminal charges from arrests to the final disposition, revealing whether the charges resulted in a conviction or were dismissed. They also provide information such as driving records and past employment giving you a complete picture of your job applicant’s background.

Name-based background checks can sometimes fall victim to spelling mistakes. This may make it seem that a person has not committed a crime when they have, because their name was spelled incorrectly on the conviction. But a reputable background check company will go to great lengths to make sure this doesn’t happen.

Which Background Check Is Better for My Company?

With these differences in mind, how can you decide which is best for your needs? It’s important to know whether your industry legally requires you to run a fingerprint background check. You also have to figure out what you want from your background check. Do you want to know the person’s education or only their criminal record? Do you need to check their driving record or previous employment?

Answering these questions can help you decide which check best fits your needs. You can also use both methods if you want to cover all your bases. But keep in mind that some states don’t allow fingerprint-based checks for all employers, and only permit it for those in certain regulated industries.

Generally speaking, a name-based background check is best for checking job applicants because it can give you the full picture of the applicant’s criminal, educational, and employment background.

What Company Should I Use for My Background Checks?

Are you looking for one company to take care of all your background checks? At Trusted Employees, we offer multiple background checks to suit your needs. We understand that your company is unique and may need a different set of background checks. That’s why we personalize our background check packages to include what your company needs to hire the right person.