Things About Fingerprint Screening Every Employer Must Know

Most of the employers these days use some kind of background screening in order to ensure a better hire. While some employ a criminal search, others use several screening reports, like drug screening, and assessment testing to make better hire decisions. Fingerprint screening is a similar form of background checks option that helps employers to have additional information about their prospective candidates on their backgrounds or their past behavior.

Some industries are regulated and are required by state or federal governments to screen fingerprints of job candidates before hiring. Banking and Healthcare are two of them, but there are others that can vary by state. If your business also falls under the regulations of the state, then it is important to choose a reliable fingerprint assessment service provider. However, there are a couple of things that an employer needs to be aware of while using fingerprinting for background screening, we will be discussing those things in the following part of the article.

There is a common misconception among both the employers and employees that fingerprint for background screening uncovers everything about a job seeker. This is, however, not the truth by any means. The information provided by fingerprinting checks can come with discrepancies and if an employer makes a hire based only on fingerprint results then he could miss important information which could cause them to land up in hiring unqualified or dangerous candidates!

A bad hire will eventually lead to all sorts of issues, including potentially costly litigation. The solution to this issue is to conduct other searches like criminal records searches and employment and education verifications. All together, the combination of these searches will provide a clear, reliable picture of the candidate.

But what should an employer look for in a fingerprint screening service provider? We have prepared a list which includes the necessary elements:

Turn-around times

Fingerprinting for background screening is often the factor that holds up the entire hiring process. While as an employer you do not have control over when the candidate chooses to be fingerprinted, you can ask your vendor how long it takes them to return results. Request documented turn times so you can work them into your decision making process.

Technology considerations

Communicating electronically through platforms the employer already uses is key to a seamless, trouble-free system. Ask how results are returned, and whether or not the fingerprinting provider is able to integrate with current systems. The easier it is to contact the candidate, move progress along, and receive results, the less stressful and more effective the process will be.

Fingerprinting credentials

Fingerprinting for background screening demands accuracy and reliability. Ask the vendor where their information comes from, and make certain they are approved in the states you do business, and are an FBI channeled, if applicable. Knowing the returned information is true and accurate is crucial for fingerprinting specifically, and background screening in hiring decisions in general.

Federal Laws for Fingerprint Screening

Fingerprint background checks use fingerprint data to match a person to a criminal record. Employers that run these checks require candidates to provide their fingerprints at the time of application or after being selected as a job finalist. Usually, the candidate then needs to go to a local police department or somewhere similar to have their fingerprints electronically scanned by a special kind of kiosk. The fingerprints are then checked against a database, which returns matching criminal records if any are found.

Employers and lawmakers alike often assume fingerprint data ensures more thorough background checks. The thought is that fingerprint data can cut down on false positives in background checks, simply because no two people have the same fingerprints, while many people have the same name.

While fingerprints do provide a level of verification, there are weaknesses to these checks and the biggest drawback is: fingerprints are not always filed with criminal records. The Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), the go-to fingerprint database maintained by the FBI, includes 70 million records. The database includes people who have been fingerprinted in connection with criminal activity. Anyone who has legally purchased a gun or applied for a job where fingerprinting is mandated by law (a category that often includes education or healthcare among other industries) will also be in this system.

While 70 million looks like a big number on paper, it isn’t. In fact, the US One SEARCH database maintained by spans 550 million criminal records from all 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Washington DC.

Another drawback is fingerprints are linked to arrest records, but those records don’t include details about the outcome of the case. Employers would have to do more research to determine whether an arrest led to a conviction. As a result, a fingerprint background checks might pull arrests that didn’t lead to convictions. It might miss records for crimes where fingerprints weren’t taken. Or it might pull up records relevant to the candidate.

Because the system was designed for law enforcement and criminal investigations, not for employers, it sometimes fails to provide thorough findings. That’s not to say fingerprint background checks have no value, but they are not necessarily the gold standard in background checks, and unless required by your industry, they are not inherently better than name-based criminal screenings.


With more employers hiring this year than in the recent past, it’s important they maximize the chances of choosing the best, most qualified employees for their open positions. Whether you are in an industry that requires you to fingerprint job candidates, or are simply choosing to add this solution to your overall screening process, taking these points into consideration helps you choose a vendor that will enhance the accuracy and efficiency of your screening process, and assist in painting a clear, thorough picture of the job candidate.


cFIRST Think Tank
cFIRST Think Tank is the team that researches and produces content for cFirst. This team comprises of seasoned content and digital design professionals and background screening industry veterans. Together we produce insightful blogs, infographics and reports meant for HR and background screening professionals.