The request for proposal (RFP) process can be a great way to understand the product and service offerings of different companies. Distributing a consistent set of questions and requirements to prospective providers through the RFP process is your chance to be in the driver’s seat and choose the partner best suited to your organization’s needs. 

A background check RFP helps you distinguish between different providers and how each proposes to deliver comprehensive background screening services. Unlike a more informal process of choosing between two or three providers, the RFP process allows you to dig deeper and learn about a company’s screening methodology, technology, and processes. Here are some key considerations and a range of questions you should include in your next background check RFP. 

How to Improve Background Check RFPs

The background check RFP process can be quite complex when you consider the different elements of background screening like criminal background checks, I-9 services, and health and drug screening, just to name a few. Moreover, when you work in a highly regulated industry, such as healthcare or financial services, there are even more components to your background screening program, including employment exclusion and license monitoring. To make sure you have the most successful background check RFP process possible, take the following steps:

Involve key stakeholders

Conducting a robust RFP process takes planning and the involvement of key stakeholders, each playing a role in asking questions and providing input to help you make an informed decision. Some stakeholders may have specific questions about the compliance of background checks, while others may have suggestions about turnaround times and overall efficiency. With the involvement of relevant stakeholders, you can cover more bases and reduce the chances of leaving out important details.

According to the Bonfire “State of the RFP” Report, the average RFP evaluation team is 4.4 people. The size of your RFP team should include whatever is the right mix of people in your organization to help you deliver the most complete set of RFP questions. Though the background check process is often managed by HR as part of the hiring process, HR may not be the only stakeholder. In addition to HR, you may have colleagues in risk management, compliance, and legal who should play a role in your RFP process. For example, the stakeholders in a healthcare organization might also include volunteer services or the chief medical officer.

Conduct a discovery call

Before sending your RFP to background check companies, it’s a good idea to create an opportunity for them to hear about your background screening needs. A discovery call helps you articulate what you’re looking for in a background screening provider and which products or services you prioritize for your organization. The discovery call also gives each provider a chance to ask questions and determine how best to approach your RFP.

A discovery call helps you articulate what you’re looking for in a background check organization, and acts as a qualifier for you, as well as the companies you include in your RFP. It helps you determine which companies should be participating in the RFP, so you don’t end up wasting your time on the ones that are a poor fit for your organization. In addition, when you conduct a discovery call, you help background check companies decide how to respond to your RFP. According to a Loopio survey, the average company responds to two out of three RFPs they receive. A discovery call allows you to disseminate more information and get the attention of background screening companies who might otherwise not respond to your RFP.

Determine the right data points

A successful RFP goes beyond superficial questions and answers. For example, you don’t just want to know the average turnaround time a background check company takes to complete a background check. You want to know how long the company takes to complete a high-quality background check, whether they use reliable sources, and the degree of accuracy of the background checks they provide.

When assembling your RFP, be thoughtful about the factors most important to your organization. The questions you include in your RFP should cover not just what each background check organization does, but also how it does it. Questions should cover the following areas:

  • Process: The methodology the provider uses to deliver high-quality background checks
  • Compliance: How does the provider comply with federal and state laws
  • Experience: How well the provider understands your industry, including applicable testimonials and case studies
  • Technology: What tools support background check requests and hiring decision-making
  • Service: What is the provider’s customer service model

Be transparent about your needs and challenges 

Your future background screening partner can compile a more comprehensive RFP response when you’re clear about your needs, particularly your key challenges or expectations. If you want a complete review of your background screening program, more responsive support, or better software, there’s nothing to lose by describing those goals to the companies in the RFP. When you clearly articulate your priorities and what’s most important to your organization, you give the background check organizations the chance to show you their unique capabilities in those areas.

Use this "RFP Evaluation Scorecard” to create a winning RFP process for  background screening providers >>

Questions to Ask in a Background Check RFP 

In an RFP, the questions you ask should enable an apples-to-apples comparison of different providers. You want the questions you ask to tell you if a particular provider can keep you in compliance and deliver a quality background check program. With the right questions, you can avoid manipulated numbers or responses that tell only part of the story. Questions to include in your RFP can fall into a few main categories:


  • PBSA status: Are you accredited by the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA)?
  • Experience: What is your experience providing background screening services to organizations of various sizes and industries?
  • Penalties or lawsuits: Has the organization been party to any lawsuits related to background check non-compliance or alleged negligence?

Products and process

  • Turnaround time: What is the average time to complete criminal background checks? What is the average time to complete health screenings, court searches, verifications, and reference checks?
  • Completion rates: What percentage of background checks do you complete on the first attempt? What is your completion rate after a request for additional information? 
  • Data sources: Which databases, registries, and exclusion lists are included in the searches you conduct?
  • Verification attempts: How many attempts do you make when conducting employment and educational verifications? The industry standard three or more?
  • Verification process: Do you have a process for identifying diploma mills? Who is making verification attempts? Are those individuals trained to understand the nuances of requesting verification information from US employers and educational institutions?
  • Dispute and resolution rates: How often do candidates dispute information reported in their background check? Of the disputes, how many led to a report change or a change in the background check process?
  • Pricing: How do you price products and services? Are there extra or pass-through fees for specific searches or expedited services?
  • Systems and technology: Is there technology available to automate background check requests and report delivery? How does your technology interact with other systems, such as an applicant tracking system (ATS)? What are your data security protocols?

Compliance and program management services 

  • Compliance programs: What methods do you use to keep customers updated about regulatory changes or delays with local courts?
  • Audits and program reviews: How do you help customers review and update an existing program for compliance and efficiency?
  • Industry-specific services: What available industry-specific services do you offer, for example, sanction and license monitoring?
  • Customer service: What are the available avenues for customer support? Do you provide a dedicated point of contact? What modes of communication are available, for example, phone, in-app messaging? Is phone support US-based and working in US time zones?

Ask the Right Questions to Find Your Background Screening Partner

When choosing a background screening provider, it’s essential to understand not only the mix of products and services available, but also the steps your partner will take to deliver quality background checks and help you stay in compliance. The RFP process is a critical tool for helping you evaluate providers, make an informed selection, and begin a relationship with a true background screening partner.

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