Who are you hiring? How do you really know? Identity has become a slippery slope, with more ways to fake social security numbers and personal data than ever before. Thorough background checks — from criminal searches to drug screens to general and skill-specific assessments — certainly help uncover this kind of fraud. But there’s one mark of identity that can’t be changed: your fingerprint. Fingerprinting is the most effective method for verifying identity, and can lead employers to other information as well. And, now that it’s gone electronic, with Live Scan enabling far swifter processing, it has become an even more powerful way to verify identity during the hiring process.

Some states and industries actually require fingerprinting, some don’t. There are complex legal issues, a maze of regulatory statutes, and only about a dozen firms that are authorized to work directly with the FBI — the central repository of the country’s fingerprint database. Which means it’s critical to be as informed as possible when considering fingerprinting and evaluating providers.

This is one arena you don’t want to misjudge. So, here are some key factors to consider regarding fingerprinting; you could say we’re putting our fingerprint on the pulse of the latest best practices:

Check the requirements for your field. Depending on industry and state, you may be required to fingerprint your new hires. This includes a number of licenses, public, and private agencies.

For instance, fingerprints are required for those working with pari-mutuel betting and racing. Indian tribal governments may require fingerprinting for anyone who is going to have regular contact or control over Indian children. Private security officers, criminal transporters, adoption or foster-parent evaluators, and school employees may all be subject to fingerprinting. (Fingerprints are processed for a reduced fee for a number of organizations or firms whose employees will work with children.) Other common industries that may require fingerprinting include healthcare, insurance and financial services. Other dependencies include whether or not applicants are located in or out of state.

Don’t expect fingerprinting to do all the heavy lifting. If you think one fingerprint can magically produce everything you need to know about an applicant, think again. For example, a fingerprint may disclose an arrest record, but not a conviction. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it’s ill-advised to deny someone a position solely on the grounds of an arrest record. A summary of the EEOC’s guidance with regard to conviction record screening policies is provided in HireRight’s white paper, Checking in on Employment Background Checks: Are You in Compliance with the EEOC, FCRA, Federal and Local Requirements?

Keep in mind, the FBI database may not receive a record of all outcomes of all arrests, and in some cases, a state may have chosen not to fingerprint. Certain issues may not even appear on the database, which could cause problems later — including possible litigation.

Use fingerprinting to confirm the identity of your hire. Fingerprinting is the best way to confirm identity. It’s been called the gold standard of identity confirmation — and for a background check, this is the straight line between your potential hire and the FBI database. In terms of employee experience, there are plenty of complications involved in the hiring process already. You can eliminate one by making sure your new hires understand the purpose of fingerprinting. Now that identity confirmation is becoming a new normal, and technologies like biometrics are commonplace, you may be pleasantly surprised by younger generations who are comfortable with fingerprinting — many already protect their smartphones with their fingerprints, for example.

Make sure the service provider you use is reputable. Since employers need to be authorized by law (federal, state or local) to access the FBI database, they depend on companies that are authorized to conduct background checks. You need to make sure, however, that the data the company produces is accurate and reliable.

There are a number of questions to ask and key among them is what the turnaround time may be. A common sentiment is that background checks are notorious for holding up the hiring process which can generate unintentional ill will in the applicant. But, if the provider uses up-to-date technology, they can process and communicate electronically, speeding up the process. A clear best practice: Work with a provider who is approved and holds the required credentials, and as such, is able to work with the FBI or FINRA (for financial services). The provider should also use current systems to help deliver fast results, enabling you to communicate with your candidates quickly.

Don’t guess: depend on experts regarding regulations. There are enough opportunities for mistakes and misunderstandings throughout the hiring process as it is. There is also a wide range of regulations involving how fingerprinting is done, and who can do it. And then there are laws governing who can actually see the fingerprint data when it’s complete. Given this legal maze, you want a background check provider that has the expertise you need so you don’t overlook anything that might jeopardize the hire.

Do opt for the new industry standard. Electronic fingerprinting, or Live Scan, has changed the game, in many cases reducing the process to a matter of hours. This is a huge assist in the quest for faster onboarding — you don’t want to lose out on a premier candidate due to a drawn-out process.

Live Scan is inkless, available at multiple locations — often a postal or shipping establishment — and makes a formerly cumbersome step both quick and easy. The results are just as accurate, if not more so: if a fingerprint doesn’t scan correctly, the machine will immediately prompt a redo, a fact which nearly renders the old smudged “hard cards” obsolete. The process can also be customized to the requirements of the job, from individual prints to a whole hand impression.

Again, fingerprinting is certainly only part of the equation, and it doesn’t eliminate the need to conduct a thorough background check. While John or Jane Doe may possess a false social security number, they can’t change their fingerprint. It’s good to know there are still some things that just can’t be altered. And as far as improving the hiring experience, electronic fingerprinting offers both ease of use and transparency — an improvement for everyone involved in the hiring process.

This article was sponsored by HireRight. All opinions are that of TalentCulture and Meghan M. Biro.

Photo Credit: rulke Flickr via Compfight cc

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