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Background Check & Fingerprint Check: The Difference

Pawan Kumar is a Digital and Content Marketer at Springworks. He has been featured on many reputed publications and online magazines!


When discussing background checks for employment screening, one question that often pops up is the benefit of fingerprint background checks vis-a-vis civil or regular background checks. The answer to the question- What is the difference between a background check and a fingerprint check will help companies make well-informed hiring decisions. It will help them choose the best primary source of information.

Unfortunately, while fingerprint checks are fast becoming common as a safety check, their lacunas make them a misfit for employment screening. In this article, we break down the differences between the two.

What Shows Up On A Fingerprint Background Check?

When an employer runs a fingerprint background check, the process compares the applicant’s fingerprints against federal and state fingerprint databases. It is significant to note that this fingerprint background check only shows reported crimes and prior arrests in the database.

The benefit of running this check is that they are unimpeded by false information like false or fake names, etc. This is because every person has a fingerprint unique to him in the world. Therefore, there can be no two persons with the same fingerprint.

How To Pass A Fingerprint Background Check?

It is essential to understand that all fingerprint background checks are created equal. As mentioned above, every person is born with a unique fingerprint. Thus, if the person has a criminal record in the database, it will appear as soon as this check is run. There is no escaping fingerprint background check. Trying to use a fake name or identity cannot dupe the process.

Fingerprinting And Background Checks

When we talk about fingerprinting and background checks, note that a name-based background check is a process that compares the applicant’s information like birth date, name, social security number, etc., with other personal identifiers with prior criminal records. It helps verify the information submitted in the application, such as education, professional certifications, driving record, employment history, etc. Conversely, fingerprinting is commonly used by law enforcement agencies. Thus, most of the time, the fingerprint database available to the public is outdated. For this reason, many companies and employers consider fingerprint checks mostly a waste of time and money.

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Employers are trying to mitigate hiring risks by mainly relying on name-based background checks provided by an accredited screener who can give accurate results.

What Does A Live Scan Fingerprint Check Reveal?

A Live Scan fingerprint check reveals the criminal background and history of a person. It encompasses a lot of information, including federal records that show criminal arrests, dispositions, charges, dismissals, convictions, diversions, etc. These checks go as far back as seven years.

Is Fingerprinting The Same As A Background Check?

No, fingerprinting and background checks are not entirely the same. Where fingerprinting involves the comparison of the fingerprints of a candidate with the federal and state fingerprinting database, a background check carries out a more comprehensive check. For example, it verifies the applicant’s education, educational certifications, employment history, etc. Many employers use both checks before hiring an applicant.

Fingerprint Background Check for Employment

Many employers have started using fingerprint background checks of potential applicants before selecting them or hiring them in their company. It ensures no surprises like criminal records, arrests, etc., after a person has been hired for the job. Fingerprinting has become a gold standard of criminal background checks or screenings.

There is no way to dupe the system as no two persons are born with the same set of fingerprints. It is a foolproof way to verify the candidature of a person.

Background Check Without Fingerprints

If a background check is done without fingerprinting, in simple words, it means that the biometric data hasn’t verified the criminal record of the individual. It can be a simple name-based check where the records submitted by the applicant are verified. However, if the person has a criminal record, it cannot be known through a background check without fingerprints.

Fingerprint Check for Employment

More and more employers opt for fingerprint checks on new applicants because the process helps confirm that the applicant has no prior conviction or criminal record. In addition, running this check becomes very important if they are being hired to take care of children or senior citizens. The same goes for many industries where security is of prime importance.

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