The complexities of criminal background checks can make it challenging to decide the right mix of services. After all, as we explain here, there are many types and each offers unique benefits. Furthermore, background screening companies approach criminal searches differently, making it critical to carefully review background screening providers and the services they offer.

The Importance of Comparing Screening Providers and Services

While all background screening companies offer criminal history checks as a basic service, they have different processes for conducting searches and delivering quality results. 

For example, “county court records search” can mean different things depending on the provider. Some background screening providers perform a county court records search on all names yielded from a candidate’s social security number (SSN) trace, while others will take a shortcut and perform the search on just one name (the one provided by the candidate), potentially missing criminal records for a candidate. If just one candidate is hired and harms others in the workplace, your organization can be open to additional risks such as negligent hiring lawsuits, regulatory fines, or even loss of accreditation in certain industries.

Background screening providers also have different approaches to the databases they use and their processes for verifying results. You should expect your provider to use reliable data sources and verify any database search “hits” with a court search. Each court system is different, so you will benefit from working with a provider who understands the various court systems and where you may encounter court-specific delays.

When reviewing criminal background check services, keep in mind the many factors impacting turnaround time. “Clear” records (indicating individuals with no criminal record) from a database search typically have a faster turnaround time, but certain factors can result in a more extensive search and a longer search time, for example, candidates with a criminal record and candidates with common names.

Key Factors for Selecting Criminal Background Checks

There are many different combinations of criminal background check services, and it’s critical to choose the ones with the best fit for your organization. How do you decide which criminal history searches you need?

Before you select a background screening provider and choose between the available screening options, consider the following factors.

Your organizational goals

Every organization has different objectives for background screening, and it’s essential to examine yours. Do you need to conduct background screening to satisfy industry-specific regulations or requirements, or do you have other goals related to protecting the workplace, reducing hiring risk, or improving the candidate experience? 

The level of risk in your workplace may also influence your background screening goals. Depending on the types of positions within your organization, you may have goals related to the specific level of criminal record you want to search, for example, felonies only, rather than felonies and misdemeanors.

Your industry 

Your organization may be in an industry where making a bad hire creates much higher risks than in other industries. For example, if you’re hiring medical professionals, individuals handling others’ money, or workers handling dangerous chemicals or equipment, you will likely require a broader mix of criminal background searches than other industries.

Your need for accuracy

Your investment in background screening naturally comes with an expectation of accuracy. Put simply, achieving accurate background screening results comes down to the provider you choose, and not necessarily the cheapest provider or the one that seems to offer all the same services as the rest. The right provider can explain which mix of criminal background searches will provide the most accurate results.

Speed of delivery

You need background check results on time to keep the hiring process moving, and the criminal searches you select must meet your turnaround time expectations. However, certain criminal background checks can extend the time it takes to get reliable results. For example, a physical court search provides highly accurate and complete results, but it may take longer because of court-specific rules for requesting and searching court files. To anticipate and avoid unwanted delays, it’s critical to select services to help you balance your desire for breadth of results with turnaround time.

How Your Background Screening Provider Can Help You Decide 

A great background screening partner does more than run criminal background checks and deliver a report of the results. Your screening partner can help you select an optimal mix of criminal background checks to meet your goals and comply with applicable industry standards. 

Your screening partner can also offer tips and best practices for evaluating each option according to:

  • Breadth of search
  • Accuracy
  • Turnaround time
  • Verification method
  • Alignment with your budget

Work with a Screening Partner Who Meets Your Needs

In some respects, selecting from the available types of criminal background checks is akin to deciding between two restaurants. While they may offer a similar menu and may look similar on the outside, each has a different style of meal preparation and service. 

Similarly, in background screening, it’s essential to go beyond the surface and determine which approach to criminal searches delivers the most value for your organization. For more ideas to help you build and improve your background screening program, read our Guide to Auditing and Improving Your Background Screening Program.

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