How Your Background Screening Company Can Help You Navigate Name Variation Challenges

, , , | January 19, 2021 | By

Name variation in background screening involves the many versions of an applicant's name used to conduct a background check. While the variation can include someone’s alias or also-known-as (AKA) name, it can also include former names, nicknames, and even misspellings of a person’s name.


the importance of name variation in background screening

Searching all variations of an applicant’s name is a best practice in background screening. Searching all possible names an applicant has used increases the chances of obtaining all relevant background data about the person. For example, someone who studied and worked under a maiden name, but changed their name after marriage, will have background records associated with both names. Similarly, a person who went by a middle name at some point in their career, but then used their first name in other circumstances, could have background records under both names. 


There are several reasons individuals undergo name changes, and they can include:

  • Last name change due to marriage
  • Nickname
  • Gender identity change

There’s more to name variation than AKAs. They can also arise from misspellings and typos, such as extra spaces, apostrophes, and symbols. For example, an applicant named Jack Sparrow could be recorded as John Sparrow, Jackie Sparrow, Jack Sparro, and many other variations. Therefore, to obtain the most complete results, the applicant’s background check should include all possible names.


how your background screening company helps you search all name variations

Given all the possible name variations for a single person—whether due to an intentional name change or a typo—your background check company should always kick off the background check process with a search called an address history trace. Also sometimes called a social security number (SSN) trace, the address history trace searches all possible names and addresses related to an applicant’s social security number, ensuring the background information you obtain is for the correct person and doesn’t exclude their other names. According to a recent survey conducted by and the Professional Background Screeners Association (PBSA), 81 percent of organizations conduct an SSN trace during the background screening process.


Traditionally, a background screening company begins the address history trace using names and AKAs provided by the applicant. However, given that an applicant can mistakenly or purposefully exclude an alias or former name, you can’t rely solely on the information applicants provide.


Another reason not to rely only on candidate-submitted data is that candidates don’t know the entire universe of different ways their name has been misspelled or listed in a database. Just think of how many possible name variations an applicant named O’Conner can have depending on how different databases treat the apostrophe in their name. They could be listed as OConner, O Conner, O-Conner, or just Conner. Trying to find all those variations could take forever—and you don’t have forever when it comes to filling open positions and getting new hires and volunteers up and running.


Thankfully, modern screening technology makes background checks infinitely easier and faster when searching applicant names. When your background screening company uses AI-powered algorithms to automate name variation searches, you can expand background check parameters and achieve the following goals:

  • Faster background checks
  • More accurate background check results
  • More comprehensive background check results


better technology to support applicant name variation

When you think of all the possible names applicants can have, it doesn’t make sense to rely solely on names they provide or that you uncover through manual searches. Searching this way may only provide half the story about an applicant’s background. Instead, always work with a background screening company that can perform background searches via name variation algorithms. As a result, you’ll have the best chance of finding records that might otherwise be missed. Contact us today to learn more!