How to Find the Best Background Check Company or Service

Whether you’re an employer, a landlord, or a volunteer coordinator, you understand the importance of protecting your clients, customers, employees, tenants, and assets. A comprehensive background check is one of the best ways to keep your organization—and everyone who comes in contact with it—safe.

But the background screening process can be confusing if you’re new to it. Laws and regulations can vary from state to state and industry to industry, there are multiple types of checks that may or may not be relevant to your circumstances, and you want to make sure you’re treating potential employees, tenants, and volunteers fairly—without cutting corners.

Moreover, there are numerous screening companies out there offering similar-sounding services. You know you need to find one you can trust, but how do you find the right one for you?

Not all background checks and not all background screening companies are the same. We put together this short guide on how to find the right background check service just for you. We’ll show you what to look for, explain what kind of services are available, and talk about when you should hire one, what your legal responsibilities are, and how the right company can help you make sense of it all.

What should I look for in a service?

With dozens of screening services out there to choose from, how do you narrow it down? Here are a few things to look for:

Compliance expertise

Being in compliance with federal, state, and local rules about background checks is vital. You need to balance the legal requirements requiring background checks with legal requirements that you respect the rights of the people you’re checking.

And while federal law applies to everyone, laws in states, counties, and cities can vary widely.

Failure to comply with regulations can result in problems ranging from slower hiring times to penalties and even lawsuits. Choosing a service that understands the importance of compliance and is willing to work with you to ensure it can save you endless headaches later.

Human expertise

Don’t get us wrong: computer searches are great! But bots can’t do it all. When there are red flags, it’s smart to have a real live expert, not an algorithm, follow up. This protects your candidates from false positives—if they have the same name as a convicted felon in their area, for example—and gives you an extra layer of security, knowing that the information you get on each candidate is accurate.

Humans can also go the extra mile when verifying past employment, education, and licensing. In most cases, there isn’t a single database to search for this information, so screening company employees send emails, make calls, and follow up.

Many of our competitors will simply meet the bare minimum requirements of their service-level agreement. For example, they might call the same number five times over five days, and, if they don’t get an answer, close the report with no results. At Eaglescreen, we don’t take shortcuts, and we don’t deliver the bare minimum. Instead, our team goes above and beyond to obtain the correct contact information required to verify the information (not just close) the service.

The personal touch can make all the difference, so don’t underestimate its importance.

Turnaround times

Accuracy may be more important than speed—but that doesn’t mean you need to accept slow service! Whether you’re a landlord with apartments to rent or an employer with a position to fill, it’s not an exaggeration to say that time is money. Look for a service with a record of quick turnaround times.

Different types of background check services

There are numerous types of background checks. Depending on your situation, some of them may be required by law, others might be a smart investment, and others may not be necessary at all.

Drug screenings, for example, might be mandated by law for employees who work in safety-sensitive transportation industries such as aviation, trucking, railroads, mass transit, and pipelines.

Virtually all organizations can also benefit from criminal records and sex offender registry searches, whether they’re mandated by law or not. Allowing someone with a history of acting in a violent way to work for you or rent from you potentially endangers other employees or tenants and opens you up to charges of negligence.

On the other hand, companies will generally get more value from education and licensing verifications, while landlords are probably more interested in eviction history checks.

When looking for a screening company, it’s important to understand what types of screenings they offer and whether those screenings are applicable to your specific needs.

The following is a list of standard screening services. A good screening company will walk you through your options and help you choose the ones that best suit your needs:

  • Social Security number traces and address validations
  • Criminal records searches at the county, state, and national levels
  • Sex offender registry searches
  • Civil records checks
  • Employment verification
  • Education verification
  • Professional license verification
  • Motor vehicle records
  • Credit reports
  • Drug screening
  • Eviction history
  • Global records check

When do you need a background check service?

Not all situations call for a background check, but many do. When should you consider getting one?

First, when they’re required by law. For example, if you work in education, public safety, or healthcare, among others, a criminal background check and sex offender registry check are both standard and legally required. Similarly, if your business is regulated by the Department of Transportation, a background check that includes a motor vehicle report history is mandated by law when hiring a commercial driver.

But even when a background check isn’t legally required, it might still be a smart move.

For example, if you’re a landlord, you want to be sure that your tenants have a history of paying their rent on time and won’t cause you or other tenants any problems. In addition to checking out their criminal records, you can also request a credit check to see if they have a history of paying their bills on time, and an eviction history report to see if they’ve been evicted by a previous landlord.

If your company is hiring a new employee, a criminal check and sex offender registry check can reduce your chances of hiring someone who’s inclined to be violent. Education, employment, and licensing checks can ensure that the information on the resume is accurate and that they have the qualifications they need to do the job. When hiring at the executive level, where candidates typically have access to accounts and sensitive company information, the extra detail provided by a due diligence check can be invaluable. 

Legal regulations you should know about

The Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) governs the way that background checks are conducted and used. It applies to all background checks conducted in the US, whether you’re hiring an employee, vetting a volunteer, or screening a prospective tenant.

In addition to federal law, there are regulations at the state, county, and even city level. It’s particularly important that companies with offices in multiple jurisdictions be aware of regional regulatory differences. What is acceptable in one location may not be acceptable in others.

The following are some of the most important aspects of the FCRA as they apply to organizations that are conducting background checks. It’s not intended to be comprehensive, but it should give a good overview of some of your responsibilities:

Inform applicants of their rights

It’s your responsibility to inform candidates of their rights concerning background checks and to have them sign a statement to the effect that they have been made aware of their rights.

Provide up-to-date consent forms

Downloading random consent and authorization forms from the internet can lead to unfortunate results!

Believe it or not, companies have been sued for not providing candidates with the most up-to-date consent forms. Working with a screening company helps ensure you always have the most up-to-date forms and information.

Ensure that applicant information is kept secure and private

As part of the screening process, candidates may be required to share identifying information including their social security number, date of birth, full name, and present and past addresses. In the case of drug tests, they may be asked to share medical information if it could potentially skew a result.

As an employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure that any sensitive data is kept safe and that all privacy laws are respected.

Ensure that all applicants are treated equally and fairly

It’s important to treat all your candidates equally. Once you screen one candidate, all other candidates who’ve reached the same point in the hiring process should also not only be screened but screened based on the same criteria. Failing to treat all candidates by the same standards can open you up to charges of discrimination.

Having uniform policies in place not only ensures that all candidates are treated equally but can also help make the screening process more efficient.

Inform candidates if screening information has been held against them

If you deny employment, a volunteer position, or a rental home to a candidate based on their background check, you must inform them and give them the name, address, and phone number of the agency that provided the information.

Final thoughts

The right background check company will make your life easier by helping you qualify your candidates effectively and efficiently. Your candidates will be treated fairly, and you’ll have peace of mind.

If you’re still wondering how to find the right background screening service, contact us at EagleScreen today. We can walk you through what sets us apart and how we can save you time and money while giving you peace of mind.  

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