What's in a Name? Aliases and Maiden Names Pose Screening Complications


The background screening process relies on accurate identifiers, which include name and date of birth, to produce accurate and comprehensive reports. Aliases and maiden names are an essential component to locating records that some employers don’t consider. But without considering and searching these name variations, records vital to your hiring decision may slip through the cracks.

Why Use an Alias?

An alias can be any name used in place of a birth name. While there may be legitimate reasons for using another name, this is often used by criminals, as they don’t wish to have their true identity revealed, or they have a short nickname they go by instead of their birth name. While it is against the law in many states to use a false name when arrested, some can slip through. And if you’re hiring outside of the United States, some countries may not have similar laws. 

Some individuals living in the US with difficult to pronounce names often take on an alias. Others feel it shields them from undue racism when applying for jobs and the like. According to Marianne Bertrand, a researcher studying racial bias in hiring, found that “white” sounding names were 50% more likely to get a callback from an application. She explains, “we’re not claiming that employers engage in discriminatory behavior consciously, or that this is necessarily an issue of racism.” That may be the case, but it doesn’t make the desire to use an alias any lower. 

A great majority of people use a shortened version of their birth name, which can also complicate a background check. Those that use Katie instead of Catherine, Jim instead of James, or Bob instead of Robert, may not be found under one name but perhaps both. It’s a good idea to request a check on both names.

Tips to Ensure a Successful Background Check

Double check spellings

Always double check spellings when requesting a background check. If your applicant uses a shortened version of their birth name, be sure to double check how their name is spelled. Just because they go by Jon doesn’t mean his given name isn’t spelled Johnathan. Misspelled names can pull records from the wrong person. A misspelling could lead you to the record of a very different person, opening a whole can of legal worms.

Always run a SSN trace

A Social Security Number trace is used to verify the identity of your applicants. It also provides any known aliases and addresses to further investigate. This trace is typically part of a background screening package, but it’s a good idea to ensure your current screening parameters include this search type..

Aliases and maiden names are an essential component to successful employment screening. These names fill in gaps that would otherwise be missing in your applicant’s history. When adding alias and maiden names to your background check request, it’s a good idea to double check spellings and make sure your screening parameters include a SSN trace.


Critical Research provides in-depth employment screening and background checks. We are committed to accuracy, every time. For questions or more information about our services, please contact us! We look forward to assisting your search for the perfect candidate.