Industry Insights

HR 101: The Difference Between Instant and Comprehensive Background Checks

This is the first in our new series of blog posts aimed at helping the HR Professional navigate the ever-changing employee screening industry. With new laws being implemented every day, staying up to date on industry best practices is more crucial than ever! Sign up for our newsletter to receive each of these HR 101 posts as they’re released.

Background checks are vital to ensuring a safe hire every time, but with so many options available on the market, it’s difficult for employers to determine which one is the right choice for their business. Understanding the difference in background check procedures and products is important for employers to get the results they need to maintain a safe workplace. 

Many customers wonder why a background check takes so long, and often try to opt for a quicker solution they come across online. Not all background checks are the same and those quicker, cheaper screenings you come across online won’t offer the same in-depth research for an applicant.

Instant Background Checks

There are a variety of background checks available for employers, but not all options are equal. Instant background checks, also known as “national criminal database searches” provide general information pulled from a commercially available database. These searches aren’t corroborated against any official county court record. Although they are quick, they can often return with error-filled information, since it’s not derived from a verified source. Most instant background checks will also include a fine print stating that the information enclosed may not be 100% accurate. National criminal database searches aren’t an all-encompassing background check, which is why DISA does not run them by themselves. Instead, DISA uses the information derived from a database search to source jurisdictions where applicants may have a history, then pairs that information with other products and/or services to verify the data. DISA’s SafetyNet searches are compiled from a variety of sources, including local law enforcement, statewide criminal record repositories, departments of corrections, state parole and probation records, local public records sources, etc.


The Risks of Instant Background Checks

Employers who choose instant background checks over comprehensive ones will face risks of fines and possible lawsuits. There are strict guidelines employers must follow under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), and if not followed precisely a lawsuit may result. The FCRA requires that an employer meet the following when conducting a background search:

  • Permissible Purpose: An approved reason under the FCRA to conduct a background investigation (i.e., credit, employment, tenant screening, insurance, government license, child support enforcement or court order)
  • Provide a disclosure in a clear and conspicuous written document
  • Obtain written authorization (in a standalone document) from the candidate to perform a background check
  • Follow the adverse action process before denying employment based upon the background report
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Comprehensive Background Checks

To ensure ultimate accuracy, DISA’s background screening procedures involve multiple National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) FCRA certified employees confirming that all information aligns with the person who is being checked. These individuals also must hold a private investigator license in order to legally be able to research and verify information about the applicant. This process verifies that the information is accurate and is not information from an alias with the same name as the applicant being screened.

Often times, instant background checks will find a person with the same name as the applicant and mistake it for the actual applicant being searched, thus providing the employer with an inaccurate representation of the person being searched. A comprehensive background check, like the ones DISA provides, will prevent any confusion or mix-ups with aliases.


How DISA Can Help

DISA’s background screening services are thorough and comprehensive, and our professionals will help walk you through building a package that will meet your industry needs. When choosing to go through DISA, you will find reliable background screening options that ensure verified and compliant information gets returned to the employers who request it.

DISA is a member of the NAPBS and our employees hold private investigator licenses and process more than 2 million background products each year.

DISA provides a comprehensive line of background screening services, individual background products, and DOT specific requiremnts. Our customized packages are a valuable tool for HR, safety, and security professionals across all industries. Our background products include:

- E-Verify

- Social Security Number (SSN) Validity

- SafetyNet Criminal Jurisdiction Search

- Instant SSN & Address Trace

- State Driving Record

- Patriot Act

- U.S. Sex Offender

- Criminal History County & State

- Criminal History Federal Felony

- Civil Court History County & Federal

- Education Verification

- Employment Verification

- Personal Reference Verification

- Professional License Verification

- Credit Report

- DOT Testing & FMCSA Safety Performance History


For more than 30 years, DISA has been a provider of workplace safety and compliance services. DISA helps companies make more informed staffing decisions by offering a broad array of industry-leading methodologies to make employee screening faster and more accurate. For more information about DISA call 1-800-752-6432 or email sales@disa.com.