Background check companies compile reports with information about the background and history of individuals. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) has certain requirements for companies that do background checks, and you should use your own diligence to ensure the company you are hiring complies with all relevant laws.
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How to choose the right background check service
Background check credentials
Many background check companies are able to offer background screening services, and some have different official credentials than others. Understanding what these credentials are and why they matter can help you identify legitimate background check companies.
- NAPBS members: Some background check companies are members of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). This means the company complies with all the current rules and laws about background checks and is closely monitored.
- Unaccredited: Some background check companies don’t have official credentials, but they are still able to run background checks on individuals. Note that these types of companies might have restrictions when they can and cannot be used by individuals.
- Contact information: There are several fake background check companies who are happy to take money from unknowing consumers. To make sure you are not involved in an illegitimate background check, verify that the address and contact information for the company is accurate and current.
Types of background checks
Background screening companies often differ from one another based on the kinds of background checks their company can perform.
- Credit checks: Credit checks are run to see a person’s financial history. Companies use this information to determine how likely the individual is to make payments. Landlords, lenders and insurance companies often request this type of screening. Some employers run this type of check as well.
- Criminal background: Many backgrounds check companies research court, police and other records to determine whether the subject has a criminal history. Background check companies frequently use county and/or state records when conducting criminal background checks. They can also use federal records.
- Driving records: Companies that hire drivers who need to have a clean record will request this type of check to learn about the candidate’s driving history and ensure their license is current.
- Litigation records: Some companies may run a check on litigation records to determine how likely a job candidate or tenant is to file a lawsuit.
- Drug testing: Many employers require drug testing for job candidates and employees.
- Employment and education check: Many background checks include verification of a candidate’s employment and education history to ensure the candidate has all the qualifications required by their employer.
Background check companies aim their services at different client types. Knowing which type of client you are will help you narrow down your options to find the background check company that can best address your needs. Most background check companies have options for a range of needs.
- Employers: Some background check companies target their services to employers researching potential employees. Note that employers cannot use information gained through background checks to discriminate against employees, and they must request the same types of background checks for every job candidate.
- Landlords and property managers: Background check companies often target their business to landlords who run background checks on potential and current tenants. Note that landlords must adhere to the laws regulated by the FCRA and cannot use information learned from background checks to discriminate against potential tenants.
- People hiring an in-home nanny or housekeeper: Some background check companies specialize in running background checks on housekeepers, nannies, and other household employees.
Background check services
Most background check companies run checks for clients, and some companies set themselves apart by offering additional services.
- Strictly testing companies: Some background check companies simply run background checks and compile the results to give to people requesting the test. These companies generally are run fully online, making them accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
- Full-service companies: Full-service background check companies learn about a company’s recruiting strategies and desired employee type, and they help a client understand test results and further develop a recruiting strategy. Larger corporations that have a high number of job candidates going through background checking may want to utilize a full-service background check company.
- Testing and consulting companies: Some background check companies run checks on candidates and offer advice to clients about how to interpret the results.
Background check report type
Background check companies deliver a large amount of information to clients after running checks, and they often vary from one another based on how they deliver this information and in what format.
- Online reports: Some background checks companies run checks online and provide online reports.
- Printed reports: Background check companies that provide printed reports give clients hard copies of the results they find in their tests.
- In-person reports: Many full-service background check companies will provide clients with in-person updates about their screening results, in addition to printed material.
Background check cost
Fee amounts and types vary significantly between companies, often based on the types of checks done and the scope of services required.
- Base price and fees: Some companies charge clients a base price for their services, in addition to fees for each individual report.
- Flat fee companies: Flat fee background check companies offer comprehensive background services for one fixed price.
- Custom fees: Some background check companies can come up with custom fees and payment plans for companies. These plans are particularly common for big companies that need to run background checks often.
- Price by search volume: Many background check companies offer tiered pricing based on the number of searches required. Larger companies and those who will be asking for multiple background checks at one time will want to look into getting a volume discount.