Quality, speed, and accuracy are the must-have elements you expect in background screening services. But another key differentiator, PBSA accreditation, is also something you should expect from your background screening partner.

PBSA accreditation is more than a badge on a screening company’s website—it is also a symbol the screening company has met high standards for compliance, professionalism, and client accountability. Working with a PBSA-accredited screening company benefits your organization in more ways than you might think.

What Is PBSA Accreditation? 

Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) accreditation is a nationally recognized achievement earned by U.S. consumer reporting agencies (CRAs). Because background screening companies are CRAs required to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), they are eligible to apply for PBSA accreditation.

The PBSA is a non-profit trade association with a mission to “advance excellence in the screening profession.” To support this aim, it offers the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP) specifically for background screening companies. 

Accreditation Standards

Accreditation guides screening companies in meeting strict professional standards and requirements across the following areas:

  • Information security: How well the screening company adheres to its data security policy, stores and backs up data, and controls access to sensitive information
  • Legal and compliance: Processes the screening company has in place to comply with the FCRA and state consumer reporting laws, including requirements for disclosure and authorization, adverse action, and use of database criminal records
  • Client education: How well the screening company communicates background check results and guides clients in ordering, retrieving, and understanding consumer report information
  • Researcher and data standards: Procedures the screening company uses to research and report individual background data, including actions by public record researchers
  • Verification services standards: The processes the screening company has in place to deliver accuracy through verified background information, including providing clients with access to all documented verification attempts
  • Business practices: The internal policies and practices of the screening company to hire and train employees, comply with changing laws, and manage vendors responsibly

Accreditation Process

Background screening companies don’t obtain PBSA accreditation as a one-time event. Rather, they must undergo the accreditation process every five years. Renewal is neither automatic nor guaranteed.

The initial step on the road to accreditation requires background screening companies to pass an in-depth onsite audit of their policies and practices by an independent auditing firm. The audit process can take between 3-4 months. During this phase, the independent auditor may request a screening company to modify its internal processes in order to adhere to accreditation standards. Absent those changes, a screening company’s accreditation application can be denied.

Within the first three years of each five-year accreditation period, screening companies also undergo a rigorous surveillance audit to confirm they are maintaining their commitment to the high industry standards associated with accreditation. This process involves a desk audit as well as submission of supporting materials by the screening company.

Given the standards of accreditation and the investment of time and resources, not all background screening companies pursue accreditation. In fact, PBSA membership is not the same as accreditation; there are nearly 1,000 PBSA members, but only about 125 are accredited. You’ll know your screening provider is PBSA accredited when it posts the BSAAP accreditation logo on its website and appears with the accreditation status designation in PBSA’s online directory.

How PBSA Accreditation Affects Your Background Screening Services

When you work with a PBSA-accredited screening company, you get peace of mind in knowing you’re working with a provider held to the highest industry standards for compliance, information security, and accuracy in screening. 

Any screening company can say it complies with FCRA requirements and conducts background screening with your best interests in mind. But PBSA accreditation means the screening company has the policies, processes, and procedures to back up those claims.

Here are many of the benefits you can expect from a PBSA-accredited background screening provider:

1. Compliance Guidance and Support

PBSA-accredited screening companies must demonstrate commitment to laws affecting the screening process, including the FCRA and industry-specific screening requirements, such as those set by the US Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Working with an accredited provider can also give you access to timely updates and practical guidance to help you maintain compliance as your hiring process evolves. For example, your screening provider can help you keep pace with labor and employment laws such as ”ban the box” legislation, salary history bans, and marijuana legislation.

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2. Data Security and Protection

Accredited screening companies have data encryption and security processes in place to protect candidate and employee background data.


3. Support for Improving Your Screening Program

In keeping with the client education standards required for PBSA accreditation, your screening provider should also provide you with resources and best practices to increase the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of your screening program. For example, a screening company offering regular program audits and quarterly reviews can help you take advantage of opportunities to increase automation and address potential compliance gaps in your program.

4. Thorough Research and Verification Processes

PBSA-accredited background screening providers follow FCRA requirements for including only the most accurate and up-to-date sources of information in background check results. By checking primary sources and verifying information from third-party databases and lists, an accredited provider can provide accurate background screening services and reduce the occurrence of errors in background check reports.

5. Commitment to Your Background Screening Goals

An accredited screening company recognizes the importance of offering background screening services to meet your expectations for timeliness, quality, and support of the candidate experience. 

An accredited and committed provider knows quality service is about more than delivering background check reports. The committed provider also leads with a partner mentality and helps you design a screening process to align with your hiring process and goals.

Get the Most Value from Your Background Screening Relationship

Though screening companies may offer similar background screening services, not all have made the commitment to pursue and maintain PBSA accreditation. Therefore, they may offer varying levels of quality, accuracy, and compliance with applicable laws. Without the policies and processes to offer your organization the best in research, verification, and data quality, those screening companies will likely have a harder time delivering the quality screening services your organization deserves. 

Conversely, working with a trusted PBSA-accredited partner can open the door to new insights and best practices to help you meet your hiring and talent management goals. To learn more about the areas where you may be able to get more value from your screening provider relationship, take our interactive background check assessment.

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