Not all background screening companies provide the same products or offer the same value in exchange for quoted services. Whereas some companies offer an online-only interface, other companies act as an advisor and partner, helping clients navigate compliance risks and run a background screening program that works seamlessly alongside other talent management activities.

To be sure you’re getting the best value for your investment, it’s important to compare background screening services and quotes carefully. You need the assurance that companies can perform the work they commit to, and that they can do it in a cost-efficient and timely manner. Here are nine areas to examine when comparing background screening service companies.

Compliance

Background screening is regulated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), as well as a range of individual state laws. State and federal regulations not only protect the rights of individuals, but they also provide clear guidance about what companies can do with background screening results. Companies providing background screening services should demonstrate that they have a mechanism in place to stay abreast of changes in regulations and help their customers remain within the law when conducting background checks.

Providing another level of compliance-related peace of mind is the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA), which oversees a rigorous accreditation process for background screening companies in accordance with the FCRA. Working with a company that is PBSA-accredited offers additional assurance that the background screening company abides by high background screening standards for compliance, research and data gathering, and a range of related business practices.

Cost

You shouldn’t have to overpay for background screening, nor do you want to be fooled into selecting a provider that claims to offer a broad range of services at prices that seem too good to be true. Instead, it makes sense to work with a provider that offers a la carte and package pricing, with the necessary flexibility to accommodate the services and screening frequency you desire.

Turnaround Time

According to a national survey conducted by HR.com and the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS, now the PBSA), 62 percent of employers said that the length of time to get results is the most significant challenge facing their organization when conducting background checks. Turnaround time can be impacted by a range of factors, including municipality-specific delays, the accuracy of the information provided by individuals (for example, a wrong SSN), and the time it takes for references, schools, or company contacts to reply to requests.

The turnaround time for background screening results is too important to leave to chance, particularly when those results are required to move forward with a candidate’s job offer. It’s important to know how long it will take to get background screening results for each search and verification. Ideally, the screening company you work with should offer “actionable information” that combines an automated platform with human analysis to provide step-by-step updates, guidance for how long each background check will take, and a well-defined process for anticipating and communicating delays. 

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Technology

Background screening has evolved beyond passing back and forth authorization and paper records. Today’s technology streamlines the process by going beyond paper, and even email, to a platform that sends notifications, stores documents, and timestamps screening records. Background screening technology also works well alongside other HR platforms you’re likely already using. For example, with the benefit of pre-configured integrations and an application programming interface (API) that allows for seamless connectivity, it’s possible to use background screening technology in conjunction with the company applicant tracking system (ATS). That way, as candidates move through the hiring process, their background screening information moves along with them.

When comparing background screening services, it makes sense to work with a provider that uses the latest technology to conduct background screening, routinely making improvements to its functionality to remain competitive and give you the best background screening has to offer. In addition to integrations, many providers also offer mobile access, allowing candidates to access authorizations, disclosures, and more.

Impact on Candidate Experience

Background screening should work as efficiently for candidates as it does for the hiring company. After all, a hiring outcome is all the more positive when candidates have a good experience from the moment they begin to learn about a company to the moment they begin work as an employee. 

As an extension of the hiring company, background screening companies impact both a company’s employer brand and the candidate experience during the hiring process. Therefore, it’s important to work with a background screening company that helps you deliver a background screening process that is seamless, automated, and takes place in a timely fashion. Background screening should be easy for candidates and not be so cumbersome that they lose interest or take another opportunity while they wait for an overly long screening process to be completed.

Completeness of Reporting

A background screening company that merely goes through a “check the box” exercise doesn’t help to minimize hiring risks, nor does it make good use of your investment. For example, many companies may say they verify education and employment, but will limit their verification attempts and report that sources were unresponsive after only three tries. It’s much better to work with a provider that doesn’t stop there, but will work harder and make additional attempts until more information can be found. When getting quotes for comparing screening services, it’s better to see that the screening company has a multi-stage process for verification via email, phone, fax, and integrations, rather than simply saying they’ll make three attempts to verify a candidate’s educational and employment history.

Accuracy of Reporting

There’s a difference between simply providing a report on an individual’s background and verifying the accuracy of that report. Therefore, it’s necessary to understand how background screening companies confirm the accuracy of the information they provide. When comparing background services, it’s important to make sure the provider checks primary sources and takes the time to do any necessary research to verify the accuracy of information in each background screening report. Some examples of the accuracy mistakes you’ll want your background screening partner to avoid include:

  • Citing the same criminal offense multiple times in a report 
  • Reporting on records that were expunged
  • Listing convictions for other people, not the intended candidate
  • Including data in a report you don’t have the authorization to check
  • Reporting on incorrect addresses, names, or other information

Customization 

Not all companies or positions are alike, and background screening product offerings should reflect that reality. In some cases, you’ll have a need for background screenings that cover database and criminal record searches, and in other cases you may need searches that include drug or health screening or an international screening component. 

Background screening services should also offer customization according to industry. For example, industries such as healthcare and financial services have specific regulatory reporting requirements and will differ from screening services for other industries. Any quote for services should include custom and bundled options that give you flexibility based on the type of jobs in your company as well as your industry.

Customer Support

Having a good background screening provider means having a transparent process for requesting and viewing reports as well as the necessary support to handle ad hoc requests or provide clarification where needed. Key support benefits to look for include;

  • Direct messaging within the background screening software
  • Resources such as FAQs, videos, and alerts about delays affecting different geographical locations
  • Access to a dedicated screening analyst (not a call center) who can answer in-depth questions about specific reports or results

Comparing background screening services and quotes requires looking beyond cost alone. By zeroing in on key differentiators such as accuracy of results, use of technology, and impact on the candidate experience, you will be better equipped to select a screening partner that will enhance the compliance and efficiency of your background screening program. Incomplete background checks or screening that takes too long can lead to noncompliance penalties, lost candidates, or damage to the company’s reputation and brand. By choosing the right background screening company for you, you can reduce these risks and have a highly productive hiring process at the same time.

 

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