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How to choose a background check company

How to choose a background check companyUsing a background check company to carry out your employment screening program can benefit you in various ways. A professional company can access more accurate and complete information about a candidate than your HR department may be able to find, and by using a third party to carry out the checks you have some legal immunity in cases of negligent hire or negligent retention.

You need to be careful when choosing a background check company to work with however, as the quality and accuracy of the information you receive is at stake. In general you get what you pay for and suspiciously cheap services are usually best avoided.

Although there is no regulatory body governing background check companies, all consumer reporting agencies are bound to the terms of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). One of the first questions you should ask is what your obligations are under this Act and what state and federal laws apply to the searches you require. If the consumer reporting agency makes light of the legalities, walk away; if procedures are not followed correctly it could land you at the center of a costly lawsuit.

A background check company should be able to advise you on all the legal requirements involved as well as federal and state regulations on employment screening. At a minimum this means you must verify that you have a legitimate need for an investigation, that you have the employee’s consent, and will only use the information for employment purposes. The company should also provide you with guidance about your responsibilities when using consumer reports, your obligations if you make an adverse action decision and supply you with all the necessary paperwork.

Although many companies, particularly those advertising very low fees on the Internet, claim to be experts in background checking, it pays to ask a lot of questions about their search methods. The cheaper companies often retrieve records only and do not cross check references to ensure the information is accurate or follow up leads to further information that may be held in another state. They also often work from out-of-date databases.

Many of the criminal background searches are conducted using a candidate's name and address only – this can lead to false results if the investigator does not check results against former addresses, social security numbers and other identifying details. Another problem occurs with the issue of identity theft, when false criminal records can be held on an individual who has not committed a crime. A professional background check company should be able to wade through these obstacles and provide an accurate and thorough report.

Look for a personal recommendation for a firm, or ask for references from previous clients and make sure you speak to them about the work they have carried out. You can also ask for a ‘test’ case, submitting your own details for a check to see how much accurate information they turn up.

The prices charged by different companies usually reflect the quality of the service you will receive. Paying an extra few dollars for a more comprehensive service is well worth it when you consider the expense of hiring an unqualified or dishonest candidate.