Our Blog

Why Professional License Verification is Essential for a Comprehensive Background Check

By: Celeste Ricco Tuesday, 3 January 2017


Whenever a license impacts employment, Professional License Verifications are an essential part of a comprehensive background check.

Here’s some best practices to make sure you’re getting the most out of this service.

Any time a license or certificate is required as part of employment, it should be verified directly with the licensing board.

Simply inspecting a license for “authenticity” should never be relied upon as the sole means of verification. Nor should verification anywhere other than the issuing agency or assuming licensure based on educational achievement.

Going directly to the issuing board is known as a primary source verification.

Licenses are too easy to forge. Much of Frank Abagnale’s fraudulent activity was possible because of his ability to forge documents.

One of the best ways to accomplish a successful verification is through a professional license verification request with Choice Screening.

Doing so places the results directly into your background screening report so it’s easy to retrieve. This also lets you, as the current or prospective employer, rely on our researcher’s experience when pulling license details.

Know what a professional license verification provides… and what it does not.

Professional License Verifications confirm a variety of information such as the licensee’s name, if the license is active and in good standing with that board, the issue and expiration date and if the board has sanctioned or restricted the license.

The last is often the most important to employers, but is also the information left with the biggest gaps.

Medical licensees in New York are a good example. NY is one of six states that only require voluntary disclosure of criminal records and sanctions/debarment/etc. that are not filed directly with the state. This includes licenses when transferring to NY and upon renewal.

Because the vast majority of licenses are issued by state-level boards, employers can expect nuanced (sometimes major) documentation and reporting differences between states. Some will only report a case if the medical license is suspended. Others will report only specific types of incidents. This is true whether the state requires background checks or relies on voluntary reporting.

These variations bring us to the next point:

Use background screening services that compliment the license to effectively fill in the gaps.

A comprehensive criminal record check could reveal conduct that either wasn’t reported to the state board, or was not documented by the board on the license.

Specific to medical licenses, running an aggregate data search, such as FACIS®, accesses up to 2,000+ primary sources, seeking any records associated with the individual to provide a more complete picture. The OIG Search specifically searches for individuals restricted from billing for Medicaid, Medicare and other federally funded programs. But, neither search for criminal records external to registries, lists or licensing boards.

To use another example, if a harassment conviction does not warrant notation or revocation of an electrician’s license, would you still want to employ them? Sending him into a client's home?

Make the most out of a Professional License Verification by drawing parallels to other credentials.

The purpose of a license verification is obvious – confirm your applicant’s license and if it is current and active.

It also can impact other areas of your search.

For example:

  • Look at the issue date – is it way after graduation or even before? What did the education verification reveal in comparison?
  • Does the legal name on the license fully match what was entered for the background check?

If multiple licenses are applicable to the applicant’s profession, verify these as well, such as a DEA license and NPI (National Provider Identifier) in addition to state-issued MD.

Whenever a valid license is an employment requirement, make sure you remember these 4 steps:

  1. Verify all licenses directly with the issuing agency
  2. Know what information a license verification will reveal
  3. Fill in any information gaps with complimentary services
  4. Make the most out of every service: Draw associations between the license verification and other services 
Let’s chat about comprehensive background screening!

Contact Choice Screening

Topics: Comprehensive, Background Check, Verification, Industry Resources, Healthcare, Professional License Verification

Celeste Ricco

Background screening enthusiast. Blogger. FCRA Advanced Certified by NAPBS. Dedicated to all things background screening!