The Inside Story:
The Best Background Check Service
(Questions You Should Ask YOUR Background Check Vendor)
by Glenn Hammer
Accredited VS. Non-Accredited Background Check CompanyA background screening company’s participation in industry accreditation programs and organizations is an important indication of that company's attitudes and practices. Two accreditations worth mentioning are the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) accreditation and the Better Business Bureau accreditation.
The gold standard accreditation for a background check vendor is the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) accreditation. To become accredited, consumer reporting agencies must pass a rigorous on-site audit, conducted by an independent auditing firm, of its policies and procedures as they relate to six critical areas:
- Consumer protection
- Legal compliance
- Client education
- Product standards
- Service standards
- General business practices
The Better Business Bureau logo is familiar to many. A business displaying the BBB logo online implies that the business is BBB Accredited, commits to adhere to the BBB Code of Business Practices (including the BBB online advertising standard), and commits to work with its customers and BBB to resolve disputes. Click on the seal to verify that the business is certified and review the information the BBB has about the business and the history of disputes reported to the BBB.
In addition to the accreditations mentioned above, two important industry organizations of note are the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) and ConcernedCRAs.
The mission of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) is to promote ethical business practices, promote compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and foster awareness of issues related to consumer protection and privacy rights within the background screening industry. Membership in the association is self-policing.
ConcernedCRAs.com is a group of like-minded Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRA's) dedicated to consumer protection by not sending Personally Identifiable Information (PPI's) Off Shore without Client and Applicant Notifications and by proper and responsible use of National Criminal Databases. ConcernedCRAs.com members are self-certified.
Real Criminal Record Checks VS. Criminal Database ChecksCriminal Databases are notoriously incomplete and out of date. There are significant holes in the coverage in geography, time, accuracy, and completeness. What information is included, when it is included, and how it is included varies greatly for both commercial compilers and government reporting agencies. Most criminal database searches are not compliant with the Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA) and similar state laws. Therefore, any "hits" must be verified with the proper jurisdiction.
A Proper Criminal Record check is conducted by searching court records in the jurisdiction of interest. A criminal database check is a research tool properly used only to identify jurisdictions of interest. A criminal database check is not a background check in and of itself.
Quality background check companies recommend State/Multi-State Criminal Database Checks as research tools to widen the geographical area being searched for criminal records. This allows employers to better protect themselves from individuals who may be trying to hide criminal records. Because of the incomplete and inaccurate nature of a criminal database search, any "hits" are verified with the proper jurisdiction before they are reported to the employer.
Criminal Database Limitations: A Database Search Is Not A Background Check
ConcernedCRAs: Responsible Use of Criminal Records Database
Comprehensive Criminal Record Check VS. Single County Single Name CheckCourts do not share records. Each criminal record repository contains different record types, covers different geographic areas, and covers different time periods. Many criminal record types and jurisdictions may need to be searched depending on the employer and the position the applicant will be filling. Criminal record checks may include:
- County Criminal Records Check
- Federal Criminal Records Check
- Global Homeland Security Search
- National Wants and Warrants Search
- Sex Offender Registry Check
- State-Wide Criminal Database Checks
- Nation-Wide Criminal Database Checks
- International Criminal Records Check
The best background check services will help employers determine the criminal record checks appropriate to their unique situations.
Employment Criminal Background Checks
Complete Background Check VS. Criminal Only Background CheckEmployers are finding that a simple criminal background check is no longer sufficient to protect their assets and reputation. Criminal history is only one facet of an applicant's character. For example, Education, Employment, and License verifications check the past for appropriate skills, experience, and workplace behaviors.
In reality few prospective employees have criminal records relevant to the position for which they are being considered. On the other hand issues are regularly uncovered when conducting Education, Employment, and License verifications.
It is recommended that employers conduct at least the following basic searches for all staff plus additional searches based on the particular needs of the employer and the position being filled. Basic searches include:
- Social Security Number Scan
- County Criminal Record Check in counties of residence, school, and work for the last 7 years
- Employment Verification for all employers for the last 7 years
- Education Verification for any post-high school education (especially for professional and management positions)
Comprehensive Background Checks
How Are Employers Being More Thorough In Their Background Checks?
Personalized Background Check VS. One-Size-Fits-All Background CheckFixed packages may seem ideal, however in reality they usually mean that the employer pays for searches that are not needed or worse still does not get the searches needed.
The best employment screening services help employers determine the searches to include in their background checks. They tailor their services to meet an employer’s needs and budget.
How To Do A Comprehensive Background Check
Full Service Customer Assistance VS. You-Are-On-Your-OwnStep-by-step guides to getting started, suggested policies, suggested forms, knowledgeable customer service agents that can actually be reached on the phone, and recommendations for each search type are available from full service background check companies to help employers get the right background check for their unique situations.
Also, full service background check companies are willing to do the data entry for background check orders (usually at not charge) and will adjust each background check based upon the data uncovered during the research.
Outstanding Customer Service Is Our Specialty
Up front Disclosure VS. Hidden GotchasQuality background check companies are up front about their prices, provide detailed information about each search type including realistic time frames, recommendations, sample reports and they publish their Privacy and Data Security polices.
Employment Background Check Products and Services
Privacy and Security Policies
Timely Service VS. Unrealistic Claims and/or Slow ServiceThe better background check companies explain up front that a quality background check requires checking records with record holders (such as courts, employers, educational institutions, licensing agencies, etc). to verify the information provided by the applicant and that most record checks are finished within two or three business days. They will also explain that a few record holders can be difficult to contact and/or are slow to respond, slowing the final report.
How Long Does A Background Check Take For A Job?
Help With Compliance Issues VS. " Good Luck"While a background check company is not a law firm and cannot give legal advice, the company can provide helps. The best background check services provide suggested forms, informative articles and regularly update their clients on legal and regulatory changes and developments. They can provide references to professionals who can help with detailed HR and Legal advice.
Employment Background Check Knowledge Index
Employment Background Check Blog
Internal Check and Double Check VS. Quick & Dirty & CheapUnfortunately the way to offer cheap background checks is to save money by cutting corners in internal processes and by cutting support staff. The best background check companies take a different approach. Their customer service representatives check and double check information received from clients, the information received from applicants, and the information received from researchers each step of the background check process. While they cannot guarantee that there will never be an error, they do eliminate most problems before the errors get into a report.
Our Customer Service Is Designed To Help Employers Obtain Quality Background Checks
Follow Up on Verifications VS. A Few Calls and We Are DoneSome companies consider an employment, education or license verification complete after they have made a couple of phone calls. If no contact is made they may just close the order and not tell the employer that no contact was actually made. While no company can make unlimited contact attempts, the better companies will disclose how many contact attempts they will make and inform the employer if they have been unable to make contact. The best companies will also attempt contact via alternate methods such as mail, fax and email if phone contact has failed.
It is occasionally difficult to obtain responses from an employer, educational institution, or licensing agency. The extra effort the best companies make to complete a verification can make a big difference, especially when understood that occasionally the reason for the difficulty in obtaining a response is because there is something “fishy” about the applicant or the employer, institution or agency.
International Coverage VS. Only Local/Regional CoverageThe best background check services have developed relationships with trusted researchers nationally and internationally and can assist employers with both domestic and international background checks.
For example see
International Criminal History Records Search
International Education Verification
International Employment Verification
International Driving Record Search
US Based Processing VS. Offshore ProcessingSome countries have extremely strong data and privacy protection laws, such as the European Union (EU) states. However, many places information is sent by some background check companies for off-shore processing have very little if any practical data protection. These countries are selected because they offer a way to cut costs. In some countries, for example, private data can be purchased very cheaply. In addition, as a practical matter, American job applicants have no ability to enforce their privacy rights overseas. The lack of any meaningful protection once U.S. data is sent off-shore is a major gap in the effort to combat identity theft and to protect privacy. Responsible background screening companies subscribe to the standards of ConcernedCRAs regarding the off shoring of sensitive personal information.
ConcernedCRAs: No-Offshore Data
ConclusionBackground checks are one area where the old sayings "Buyer Beware" and "You Get What You Pay For" certainly apply. Employment background checks are an important investment for any employer. Prudent employers will carefully consider who they trust to help them with this critical business function.
The AuthorGlenn Hammer is a consultant and speaker on Employment Background Checks. He is founder and President of A Matter of Fact, a California-based employment background check firm. A Matter of Fact was founded in 1994 and was a founding member of The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). A Matter of Fact is accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) and the Better Business Bureau, and subscribes to the standards of ConcernedCRAs regarding the off shoring of sensitive personal information and the responsible use of criminal databases. See www.amof.info.