Background screening is an essential part of your hiring process, and you need to derive maximum value in exchange for your investment. Though value-bundling may seem like a great way to get better value for your background screening dollar, it can actually increase your hiring risk rather than help you manage it.

The Allure of Value-Bundling 

Bundling is a sales tactic used to combine similar products, services, or quantities into one package, supposedly priced for value. Value bundles can also be referred to as “packages.” The following are common packages and bundles in background screening:

  • Criminal record searches bundle (county and federal searches for one price)
  • Experience bundle (education and employment verifications for one price)
  • Bulk order pricing bundles (pricing per 10, 50, or more searches within a specified time frame)

Value-bundling can be an attractive option to the uninformed customer because it appears to provide a combination of products or services at a lower price than they might be individually. However, bundling is not always as it seems at face value. As Roger Dooley, marketing author, notes, “[B]undling can serve to reduce the ‘pain of paying’ because it makes it harder for consumers to know what the ‘right’ price is for the products.” For example, a company may raise the perceived value of background screening services by having the customer believe $50 for a two-product bundle is better than $30 for each product purchased separately. You don’t know if the single product is worth $30, or something much less.  

Bundling can also promote unnecessary products and services. By adding a low-value-add product or service to a bundle—for example, a database search not applicable to your industry—a company can try to fool you into thinking you’re getting valuable extras, when really the item in the bundle is worthless to your organization.

A background screening company might also offer bundles as a way of increasing the sales price. They might try to use the number of products in the bundle to justify the price. But an educated customer recognizes quantity doesn’t equate to value, or price. 

The Risks Associated with Value Bundles

The list of offerings in a product bundle may look impressive on the surface, but you could be getting less rather than more. Additionally, a value bundle can cause more harm to your hiring process. Here are some of the reasons not to select value bundles in background screening:

Limited use of SSN trace results

The social security number (SSN) trace is an essential element of background screening and helps to make sure you’re conducting a background check on the correct person. The trace is performed to identify all known names and addresses associated with an SSN. When the trace finds an alternate name for a candidate—for example, an alias or maiden name—the background screening provider can perform additional searches on the name, such as a criminal record or registry search.

Some background screening companies may say they include an SSN trace in their value bundles but limit the number of searches they will perform on the names from the trace. For example, instead of searching for Mary Smith, Mary Jones-Smith, and Mary Jones, the SSN trace in a value bundle might only search for Mary Smith, possibly denying you a complete and accurate background check for the candidate. 

Missed records

Value bundles often don’t tell you what’s not included. For example, a criminal search bundle may claim to include multiple county searches without actually saying how the searches are performed. For example, a screening company may perform a search based on one name, rather than all names yielded from an SSN trace. Because court cases are typically indexed by name and not SSN, a background screening company could cut corners and perform a search for Mary Jonson but not Mary Johnson, even though they may be the same person.  

Poor audit findings

Just as you learn firsthand the value of an insurance policy when you make a claim, you may not notice the flaws in value-bundling until after a problem occurs. For example, a background screening company offering an employment and education verification bundle may not make enough verification attempts, leading to inconclusive results or failure to identify a fake degree.

If you hire a candidate who lacks the necessary credentials, you could encounter problems during an audit, not to mention possible legal action. Ultimately, poor audit findings suggesting insufficient background checks could lead to accreditation concerns and call into question the effectiveness of your entire background screening program.

[INFOGRAPHIC] Key factors to consider when comparing background screening  service providers »

Possible legal claims

Selecting a bundled package for the cost savings can end up costing you more in the long run, particularly if the quality is sacrificed for price. If an employee commits an illegal act, and it is later discovered the employee had a criminal history, your organization could be held liable for negligent hiring. One woman assaulted by her ride-share driver sued his employer for either not discovering his previous record in a background check, or knowing about it and hiring him anyway. Former or prospective employees can also bring lawsuits if they are denied employment based on an erroneous background check

Questions to Ask a Provider Who Offers Value-Bundling 

Value-bundling may be an effective marketing tactic with some products, but in an area as complex and nuanced as background screening, there are many opportunities for a dishonest screening company to omit certain background screening services without your knowledge. Without asking about the “devil in the details,” you could be signing up for poor background checks. If you are considering a background screening provider who offers value-bundling, be sure to ask the following questions to understand their services: 

  • How does the bundled price compare to an à la carte option? There may be services in the bundle you don’t need, and you may be able to get a better value-to-price ratio if you select services à la carte.
  • What are the possible extra fees we might pay on top of the bundled price? Understand hidden fees and figure those into the bundled price.
  • Does the SSN trace have any name or address restrictions? If there are restrictions, you will likely receive incomplete background check results based on some, but not all, of a candidate’s known names.
  • How many names (for a single candidate) are included in the bundle? It’s essential for all potential names and aliases for a person to be included in the bundle, and not just one.
  • What is your “hit rate”? How often do you get results? In some industries, an exceptionally low hit rate could be a sign the screening company is not uncovering the available background information related to a candidate.

Budgeting Tips for High-Quality Background Screening Services

When you want to achieve a strong return on investment for background screening services, it’s understandable to consider value-bundling as a way to help manage costs. However, other options can allow you to save costs and achieve accurate, high-quality background checks. Take the following actions to explore alternatives to bundling:

Pay for what you need

Instead of giving you quality background screening results for a fair price, bundling can deliver less and cost you more. For example, when doing a background check for a candidate who has only lived in one county and has only had one name, you should only pay for one county search, not a “bundled” fee for additional county and name searches you don’t need.

Work with your background screening provider to estimate total anticipated fees

Some companies may try to attract your business with package deals, leaving out hidden fees you’ll only have to pay later. With a trusted partner who offers transparent pricing, you can set a realistic budget for background screening and understand your potential spend for a given year. When you have a background screening partner who tells you the truth about court fees and related costs, you can anticipate your total spend based on the background screening services you select.

Don’t ‘set it and forget it’

Instead of signing you up for a package deal for a year or longer, a great background screening partner will work with you to conduct regular reviews of your background screening program. With quarterly business reviews to assess your background check program’s effectiveness, your screening partner can help you make improvements to save time and money.

Think Twice Before Choosing a Value Bundle

Background check bundles aren’t all they seem. Whether you’re paying for services you don’t need or getting inaccurate background check results, a bundle doesn’t necessarily save money. Alternatively, you can anticipate and manage your background screening costs by working with a company that delivers accuracy and value. Instead of trying to sell you background screening services on the cheap, a reputable provider offers the services you need at a fair price and works with you throughout the year to help improve your program's cost-efficiency. Need help selecting the ideal background screening partner for your organization? Use our competitor comparison infographic to guide you.

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