Name or Fingerprint Background Checks: What Is the Difference?

Background checks are becoming part of the fabric of our nation. More and more a background check is something that everyone who ranges in age from their early 20’s through at least late middle age will undergo a background check for one reason or another.

Not only are background checks part of the process for hiring many different positions, from driving a school bus, to working for banks, but they may also be required to rent an apartment. Most people who apply for a new job with even a modicum of responsibility understand that undergoing a background check is part of the process in order to get a job.

Groups, businesses or landlords who feel obligated, or the law has obligated them to conduct background checks may wonder whether they should conduct a name background check, or whether they should conduct a fingerprint background check. Both types of checks can give information regarding whether a person is suitable for a job or to rent property and each kind of background check has advantages and disadvantages.

Name Background Check

There can be variables in the findings of a name background check. A thorough and more time intensive background check can, often within just a few days, find where someone has lived since they left home and every job a person has held. The information found will also include the education a person has completed, or not completed. Most people who follow the news can think of examples when this kind of background information can be very important prior to hiring a job candidate. People in nearly every walk of life have lied about former jobs, education, or military experience.

It seems that during every political cycle there is someone who sees their political aspirations dashed because they were dishonest at some time or another about their work, their education, or their military history. One senate candidate lost votes if not the election because he filed a lawsuit against a neighbor because of chicken problems. This was information gained when his opponent ran a background check on him. Periodically an executive makes the news because he or she claimed to have a more involved or more heroic military career than reality proved to be the case. A background check by employers can help prevent these sorts of embarrassments from happening.

In addition to finding fibs or outright lies that candidates might make about their past, a name background check can also point out a job or college attendance that the candidate left out of their political record. If a bank was hiring and a candidate did not list a job that would be pertinent to the position they are applying for, it could be because the candidate was fired for embezzlement or a less egregious problem that none the less would make that person a poor fit for a job in finance.

A person who served in the military but did not include that experience in their application might be hiding a less than honorable discharge. A particular college experience could be left out because of an expulsion, or because they had faced a charge on campus but left so they would not have to deal with the legal ramifications. A good and thorough name background check can discover these issues and prevent problems later.

Why Use a Fingerprint Background Check?

When a candidate has their fingerprints checked, they will in essence be providing their hoped for employer with their date of birth, their legal name, where they have lived, employment, and any arrests and dispositions of cases. Often fingerprint databases can also inform about whether a person has been in automobile accidents or if the person has been sued or has sued someone else.

Fingerprint background checks do not automatically find out if a person was fired because he or she embezzled and the company let them leave without pressing charges. A fingerprint background check also does not necessarily tell you if a person actually graduated from the college or university they claim to have graduated from. A fingerprint check can tell an employer or a landlord that a person should be eliminated from a position because of a past action, or they can tell the entity that requires the check that the person is clean legally, and then more information can be gathered to answer other questions or concerns.

Most background checks through state and county agencies only go back seven years. When necessary, more intensive background checks can be conducted. The question for the prospective employer is how important going deeper into a person’s history is. If finding out someone lied or forged a diploma would be embarrassing, then a more thorough background check makes sense.

When you need to ensure that you are hiring the right person for the job, go to and let us run the background check that makes the most sense for you. We have experts who will speak with you to help determine the best way to find the information you need. For more information, call us at 610-355-2331.

Kristina Taylor
In 1989, Kristina began her career as a customer service representative at the newly formed American Tenant Screen, Inc. Ten years later, she pioneered tenant background screening on the Internet. As a long-standing member of the National Multifamily Resident Information Council (formerly the National Association of Screening Agencies) Kristina gains insight into the trends of the tenant screening industry to better understand the current and future needs of their clients.

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