Background checks help organizations manage hiring risks by providing information about candidates’ criminal, employment, and educational histories. Just as there are many different background check products and services, there are also many service providers, each with its own methods for searching for and delivering background information. In many ways, who performs your background checks is just as important as what kind of background checks you conduct.

Because background screening activities are regulated by federal and state law and have a critical impact on the hiring process, using just any background check provider is ill advised. These are just some of the many reasons to carefully select your background screening provider:

  • You need a provider who understands the complexities of background screening, including the myriad laws and regulations that govern how they’re used.
  • You need a partner that provides truthful reporting and advice and helps you navigate the regulatory compliance issues affecting your industry and organization.
  • You want great value and quality background checks at a price that fits your budget.

Unfortunately, some background check providers don’t meet the standard of a reliable, reputable, and truthful background screener. Even worse, many operate in a fashion that can expose your organization to numerous background screening and hiring risks. Here are 10 ways to tell if you have a bad background check provider.

1. They Promote Themselves as the Lowest-Cost Provider

When you consider the value-add of thorough, comprehensive background checks, you know that price is not the only variable. A provider that claims they offer the cheapest service probably also sacrifices on quality, transparency, and a range of other benefits that a reputable company provides. Some providers may even offer a low cost up front, only to tack on “data entry and processing fees” and other costs down the road. 

A common trap is bundled pricing. A product bundle has the allure of many screening services for one price, but it can be deceiving. Some background screening providers will narrow search parameters and keep prices low by skimping on searches that would require further research. That approach doesn’t deliver the value you thought you were paying for. Price shouldn’t trump quality, service, or compliance with applicable laws. When you pay by the screening service you select, you have a more complete picture of exactly what you’re getting.

2. Your Only Interaction Is over the Internet

As with any provider relationship, communication is key. It is important that your background check provider offer ample updates about new service capabilities, as well as information about best practices and laws that impact your screening program. If your background check provider offers no dedicated support other than a few FAQs on their homepage, doesn’t have a single point of contact to support your ongoing screening program needs, and doesn’t check in with you regularly for feedback, advice, and other updates, you’re missing out on a real partnership. You should be getting a higher level of communication and service. 

3. They’ve Never Recommended a Review or Audit of Your Existing Program

Even the most comprehensive background screening programs need an occasional review to make certain that the efficiency, compliance, and productivity of the program are maintained. If your relationship with your background check provider is purely transactional, you’ve got a bad provider. Instead of maintaining the status quo, your provider should conduct periodic or quarterly reviews of your existing screening program. Doing so helps to identify possible compliance risks, areas for improvement, and opportunities for greater efficiency or automation.

4. They Don’t Provide Regular Updates About Changing Laws

Several federal and state laws influence background screening and how background information is collected, stored, and used. Because some laws change regularly—“ban the box,” pay equity laws, and marijuana legalization are just a few examples—your provider should be communicating those changes to you on a regular basis. And, if you begin hiring in new states, your background check provider should also be there to let you know how laws in those states impact your existing background check policy and practices. If you’re not receiving regular updates about the laws in every state where you hire employees, your background check provider could be conducting noncompliant background checks without your even knowing it.

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5. They Are Not Notifying You of Delays Caused by COVID-19

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, many courts, government agencies, schools, and companies are closed or have experienced communication delays. In some cases, these closures have led to longer turnaround times for employment and education verifications, court searches, and other criminal history searches. If your background check provider isn’t notifying you about any delays they’re experiencing during the pandemic, they’re either poorly informed about the realities affecting today’s background check industry, or they may be intentionally trying to conduct background checks with poor or unreliable sources. You could be experiencing longer-than-usual background checks with no explanation, or you could be receiving incomplete background checks—both of which can expose your business to risk or cause delays in your hiring process.  

6. They Have Horrible BBB (Better Business Bureau) Reviews

Just as Glassdoor can be a great place for candidates to get information about employers, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers information about background check providers, as well as ratings and reviews from customers. If you search for a company and see an average of one or two rating stars (versus four or five), there’s evidence the organization has many unsatisfied customers. The BBB website also lists the number of customer complaints for each company. No company or customer is perfect, but if you see dozens of company complaints for your background check company, you should explore what people are saying about other providers.

7. They’ve Been Named in Class Action Lawsuits

Behind many organizations that have been fined or sanctioned for unlawful background screening practices are background check providers that may have failed to use proper disclosures, reported on prohibited information, or reported inaccurate information. If your background check provider was associated with a class action lawsuit and had to pay fines due to negligence or a compliance violation, you’ve been working with a bad background check provider.

8. They Offer Outdated Technology Automation or None at All

Some background check providers conduct background screening the same way they did years ago, relying on slow methods of communication and manual processes. Others may use limited technology but not incorporate new upgrades to keep step with changes in background screening and customer expectations. If your provider hasn’t offered automation technology that enhances or improves existing processes, you’re missing out. You should have the benefit of a provider that combines the best of human judgment and technology to automate key background check processes and enable real-time reporting capabilities.

9. They’re Not Concerned About the Candidate Experience

If your background check provider thinks they are not responsible for improving the candidate experience and that it’s solely “HR’s job,” you probably have a bad provider. The background check process is a critical part of hiring and talent management, and it should support a great candidate experience. Background checks must be completed in an acceptable period of time, and the process shouldn’t be so frustrating to candidates that they feel tempted to walk away and work somewhere else. Paperless drug screening with mobile integration, e-disclosures, and technology that makes it easy to exchange background information can all improve the candidate experience. If your provider doesn’t offer those services, you should look for a new provider.

10. They Offer No Customization

Contrary to what some providers might like you to believe, background screening is not “one size fits all.” Just as the type of background check can vary from job category to job category or even across industries, the purpose and type of background check programs also vary from one organization to another. If your provider can’t offer customization options and configure background check products and services to meet your needs, you’ll benefit from working with a provider who can.

Partner with the Background Check Provider You Deserve

Background screening is critical to an effective talent management program, and whom you choose to conduct background checks matters. A background check company that sacrifices quality for price, offers poor service and guidance, or delivers empty promises and outdated technology will fall short in helping you build an efficient and compliant background screening program. If any of these scenarios sound familiar, it’s time to consider your options and get the background check provider you need and deserve.

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