Help Me! What is a Background Check?

what is a background check resized 600I read an article recently about a youth pastor who was arrested for sexual misconduct with a child after he convinced the 13 year old girl in his youth group to send him topless photos of herself from her mobile phone.  What caught my attention was the senior pastor said they had conducted a background check. Hmm, I thought. What does that mean?  How does he define what is a background check?

I am 99.9% sure that means they called some references supplied by the youth pastor.  Suffice it to say that a little background checking on my part confirmed they did not conduct a criminal background check.

So the question I have is whether the senior pastor is intentionally trying to mislead his flock?  If so, that is frightening.

Legally, he is not lying.  A background check does not have a standard definition and can be so many different things.  Reference checks or a driving record check would qualify as a legal definition of a background check.

However, if the pastor understands that most people believe that a background check is synonymous with a criminal record check then we have a moral issue.  He is not being truthful.

Have I mentioned how strongly I believe in honesty and transparency?  Being real?

What is unfortunate is the background screening industry has done little to help define what is a background check.

Many background screening firms define a cheap database search as a “national background check” for volunteers.  No it’s not.  A cheap and incomplete database search is still a cheap and incomplete database search no matter if you are screening an employee, volunteer or vendor.

What the background screening industry has done is conform to what the market wants (cheap and instant) instead of educating and defining what a quality background check consists of.  Cheap and instant never equal a quality background check.

Let me tell you how we define a background check.  At a minimum a background check should contain:

  • Social Security Verification
  • National Criminal Database Search
  • National Sex Offender Search
  • County Criminal Search

That is the minimum.  If you are being offered anything less than that, you need to keep searching.

Download our FREE 10 Things to Know Before Hiring a Background Screening Firm.  This will help your organization understand what is a quality background check.