How do applicant tracking systems work?

Corporations, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that utilize an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) often appreciate the ability to streamline the onboarding process. Applicants enter their information online, creating their initial employee/applicant file. This allows the company or organization to perform many human resources functions, including sometimes, ordering the employee background check.

Unfortunately, applicants often make careless input errors when entering their information, which is particularly exacerbated when they do so on mobile devices. Criminals also tend to intentionally input incorrect data, especially with their name and date of birth, as they are attempting to avoid having their criminal records found on their employee background check.

Criminal records typically have no Social Security Number (SSN). Criminal records are generally uncovered by matching exact legal name, including middle name, and date of birth. In fact, both the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have guidelines requiring the use of middle names when reporting criminal records with “common names,” but neither regulatory body defines what a common name is. But alas, the problem with many Applicant Tracking Systems is that they do not require or capture the middle name, making compliant and accurate employee criminal background searches either more difficult or impossible to perform.

Even with ATS’s that allow the capture of the middle name, the problem still exists regarding the overall accuracy of the data that the applicant enters. Many individuals prefer to use a nickname, such as Rudy instead of Rudolph. However criminal records are normally created using the exact legal name as it appears on the Government ID/Driver License. ATS’s, in general, are not  verifying the exact legal name and date of birth against the Government ID, causing as the adage states, ”garbage in, garbage out,” meaning the employee or volunteer background check can be compromised.

Further ATS’s tend to restrict your choice in background screening companies. Usually, they allow only a select one or a few background screening companies to integrate with them, from which these ATS’s are also typically extracting ongoing payments from the background screening company to the ATS.  So, in addition to companies paying the ATS for their software, they often get the undesired consequence of not being able to choose the background screening partner that best serves the company’s needs – not the coffers of the ATS.

In spite of the intended savings in company time and personnel, using an ATS can compromise your employee or volunteer background check.  If you use an ATS, insist that your company or organization has their choice of background screening partners, and also that the ATS captures middle names. Further, ensure that you are using a reliable background screening company that will validate applicant input against the uploaded Government ID, as not all background screening companies check applicant input against the Government ID.

Posted by: Rudy Troisi, L.P.I., President and CEO, Reliable Background Screening