how to find a professional background check company

There is a plethora of companies in today’s background screening industry. A quick Google search of the term “ professional background check company ” generates over 7 million hits!
These results range from honest reliable companies to others that will charge anywhere from $20-$50 dollars for an “instant national criminal search”. Their claim is that they will search billions of records, all instantly returned to you in an easy to read and understand format, right to your web browser. What they do not tell you is where this information comes from, how old it is, how often the information is updated or the legality of its use.
You need a professional to perform your pre-employment background checks.

Finding a professional background check company

Like most things, you get what you pay for and not all professional background check companies are the same.
Here is a checklist of questions (and the answers to look for) that you can use to background check the background checkers:

1. Where are your call centers located and who is answering the phones?

The answer you’re looking for is: “The call centers are located in the United States and the people answering the phones not only have decision-making ability but also know and understand the products and services that they’re selling.”

If a company is offshoring their call centers, that is a huge red flag. When you call the company you need to know you’re speaking with someone in the USA who knows what is important in a background check and how to help you evaluate the results.

2. Will you guide me through the process, making sure that I’m following the applicable laws and regulations including the FCRA?

The correct answer to this is (obviously) “yes” and an explanation of how they plan to do so.
The professional background screening company you choose must know and be in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations including the FCRA. This will ensure that you (and your employer) are on the right side of the law.

FYI – The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is “a U.S. Federal Government legislation enacted to promote the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of consumer information contained in the files of consumer reporting agencies.” (wikipedia)

3. How many consent forms do you have for my perspective hire to sign?

You need 2 different forms for your perspective hire to sign. One of them is an authorization form and the other is a notification of disclosure. Both of these are standard and provided to you by the background screening company.

If the company has more or less forms than these 2, be wary and get more information about what the forms are and why you need them, or why they’re missing the ones we mentioned.

4. What is the process that you use to gather the information for the report?

The answer to this will heavily depend on the type of report that you’ve requested. This question is meant to make sure that they have a process in place that consists of a professional vetting the results of the report before it is given to you.

5. What is the cost?

The answer to this question will also heavily depend on the type of report that you’ve requested. Keep in mind that you get what you pay for.

6. What is the turnaround time?

All things being equal, a completed background check should be returned, on average, within 1-3 days. There are some aspects of a report that may require a lengthier turnaround time such as verifications of employment and education.

But ALL background check companies are held at the mercy of the prior employer, school or reference to reply in a timely manner. So, if a company is guaranteeing a certain turnaround time than that is a huge red flag.
What these companies are doing to close a search quickly and keep their “guarantees” is making three calls and if they don’t get a reply they close the search as unable to verify. This answer only provides additional questions for your staff and doesn’t provide a very good background check.
Keep in mind that international searches can and most often will, go longer.

One last piece of advice

Once you’ve made your (informed) choice, chosen a company and received the background report that you asked (and paid) for, do a gut check.

– Does the information contained in the report seem relevant?

– Did the company help you through the process? Showing their understanding of laws and regulations in different states and counties.

– Is there anything to make you believe that the company didn’t truthfully answer any of the questions you asked them in the pre-interview?


This may seem like a lot of work but choosing a background screening company should be something that you only need to do once. After you have a great team of people that you trust and are ready to help you, it will feel like an extension of your company and will be something that you no longer have to worry about.

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