Background Check Blindspots? The Power of Screening with Aliases

Karen Axelton
January 18, 2024
4 min read

Do you include a candidate’s aliases when conducting background checks? If not, you could be missing information to consider when making hiring decisions. Without incorporating aliases into background screening, searches may return less information, which could impact your organization depending on your risk and compliance needs. Here’s how aliases can affect your background screenings and why using aliases may be essential to get the full picture of a candidate’s background. 

What is an alias?

While the term “alias” may convey the cloak-and-dagger aura of a spy movie, aliases aren’t confined to the world of espionage. Plenty of people have aliases—including many of your prospective candidates. An alias (sometimes called “also known as,” or “aka”) is any variation of a candidate's current legal name or a different name that is associated with the candidate, such as nicknames. In fact, nearly 1 in 4 Americans (23%) go by a nickname.

Other common aliases are maiden names, hyphenated names, suffixes, or shortened names. For example:

  • A candidate named Maria Wong who has gone by the nickname Mia since she was a child may use Mia Wong when applying for a job.
  • Stephen Richards Jr. may also be known as Steve Richards or Stephen Richards. 
  • Susan Watanabe-Fox may appear in records as Susan Watanabe, Susan Fox, or Susan Watanabefox, depending on how various databases handle hyphenation.

How do different names impact background check results?

Using aliases can help background checks to return additional results. When an individual is convicted of a crime, the name they are processed under is usually what is reflected in the Public Record Index. Court records typically do not include all the names an individual has used throughout their lifetime, nor do most courts update records retroactively if someone changes their name after being convicted of a crime.

For example, the candidate named Mia Jones who has gone by the nickname Mia since she was a child may list Mia Jones as her name when providing consent and her personally identifying information for a background check. When the background check company uses the provided name of Mia Jones to search for criminal records, however, it likely will not return records associated with the candidate’s legal name of Maria Jones. Therefore, if she was convicted of a crime and the court records reflect Maria Jones, the background check may not return such results.

It’s a common myth that screening providers search aliases by default. The standard practice for background check companies, when aliases are not used, is to search the individual’s provided or current name. However, if a candidate provides a nickname or a name that was recently changed (for example, a married name), it’s possible that no records associated with an alias will be returned.

In addition, some courts require exact name matching for a record to be returned. In this case, using the first letter of a candidate’s first name and their last name to conduct a background check would not return a record. Using Maria Jones (who goes by the nickname Mia) as an example, searching “M” as the first name plus Jones would not return records for Mia Jones or for Maria Jones.

Benefits of including aliases in background searches

Including aliases in your background screening process helps to provide a more comprehensive background check, which can mitigate risk and enhance the trust and safety of employees and customers. Aliases can inform many searches for more comprehensive results, such as federal, national, state, and county criminal records searches; civil court records searches; global watchlist searches; and searches of sex offender registries.

Including aliases in your background checks is especially beneficial in highly specialized or regulated industries, such as healthcare, finance, or real estate. When employers need to verify professional licenses, education, training, and other qualifications, having comprehensive checks can help mitigate the risk of regulatory sanctions, fines and penalties, or legal liability. 

For example, if a candidate for a nursing job doesn’t provide their full legal name, healthcare sanctions checks may not reveal that they have been sanctioned by a disciplinary authority. Of equal importance is when running rechecks on employees. If the individual has recently changed their name (such as a maiden name), but you do not include aliases, their name may not be listed in the sanctions database. Not utilizing comprehensive information could put patients at risk and cost your organization eligibility for state and federal funding.  

Hiring previous seasonal retail employees poses two main benefits:

How to add aliases to your screening program

Checkr makes it simple to include aliases when you conduct background checks. Simply reach out to Support to enable this on your account. 

You can request aliases directly from the candidate by asking for previous names or name variations on job applications or when obtaining consent for background checks. Aliases may also be found using an SSN Trace, motor vehicle records, and previous names from background check reports that Checkr has provided for the candidate in the past.

Most of Checkr’s criminal background screening packages include an SSN Trace, which reports other names associated with an individual’s Social Security number. This makes it easy to inform further searches should they be necessary.

Get comprehensive background checks with Checkr

Adding aliases to your background screening process is simple when you partner with Checkr. Mitigate risk and request comprehensive results by utilizing aliases to conduct a thorough screening under other names a candidate may have used. Checkr provides complete, accurate results without negatively impacting turnaround time, helping you hire efficiently and confidently.

Are you a Checkr customer? Get the most comprehensive reports by adding aliases now

New to Checkr? Get started.

Disclaimer

The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

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About the author

Karen Axelton writes about business topics and best practices. She has written hundreds of articles on business subjects, including background screening, hiring and employment trends, human resource management, and the use of technology in the workplace. Her work includes educational articles, e-books, white papers, and case studies.

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