Evaluating a Background Check Company — Top 10 Questions To Ask
Determining what background check company to work with can be a difficult and overwhelming task.
Of course, hiring a third-party background screening company saves you time, money, and ultimately, the legal risk of performing checks on your own. But among the many background screening vendors that crop up in a cursory Google search, how do you know which to choose?
ScoutLogic is here to help navigate the process. We believe in reliable, transparent, comprehensive background checks, and we’ve assembled the 10 most important questions to ask prospective background check vendors.
What Factors To Look For in a Background Check Service
1. How flexible is the vendor?
Before you dive into the background check process, it’s important to know your needs.
Are you looking for a one-time round of social media background checks? Or are you looking for a long-term, multi-round, series of comprehensive screenings on batches of new hires?
The truth is, your needs may evolve — what starts small may get more extensive, and vice versa. Make sure your prospective background check vendor is flexible. Look for à la carte services and dedicated options, such as our “Scout” service model for recruiters.
2. Does the vendor cater to mom & pop, mid-tier, or enterprise companies?
Knowing the background check vendor’s scope is as important as knowing your own needs.
In general, background check providers come in three sizes that we call mom & pop (small), mid-tier, and the giants. Each has its strengths and weaknesses that you’ll want to consider against the size of your business.
- The Mom & Pops: These are small companies with one or two founders, a modest team, and a handful of clients. They usually provide very personal customer support throughout the background check process but can’t accommodate much volume.
- The Mid-Tiers: These background check vendors thrive by having large-scale capabilities but attentive, 1:1 customer support priorities. They may be too focused on high-volume clients to hire if you’re a small company and not big enough if you’re a multinational monster. For example, ScoutLogic is a mid-tier background check firm.
- The Giants: These are the vendors to go to when your latest job posting has 1000+ applicants or you’re hiring for hundreds of positions monthly. Typically, the giant background check companies only work with giant corporations. The focus is quantity, not necessarily quality or personalized customer care.
3. Will the vendor guide you and offer a compliance-driven service?
When the word “compliance” gets thrown around concerning background checks, usually it’s about the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Enacted in 1970, it protects the rights and privacy of citizens by ensuring that their consumer information remains confidential when included in consumer reporting agency and background check reports.
You must ensure that the vendor is FCRA compliant. The consequences of a FCRA violation don’t just damage your reputation — they could be criminal.
4. How does the vendor handle challenging reports?
This is an important question to ask when seeking to distinguish how much work your background check vendor is doing versus how much work your recruiters are doing.
You don’t want to hear things like “the pre-employment screening process is being slowed down because the vendor didn’t chase down a candidate’s old W-2s.” You want to hear things like, “they follow up with candidates on drug tests,” and “they handle everything about the verification process.”
5. What’s the cost of the vendor’s service?
There should be relatively straightforward answers to the question of cost. If there aren’t, that’s a red flag.
Look for a page on the vendor’s website dedicated to pricing. There should be a clear description of what services are included within each plan or model and what the total of each will cost you. If the vendor offers à la carte services, cross-reference the cost of those services against that of the bundles.
In the background check industry, pricing is extremely fluid, as the work is always tailored to clients’ particular needs. At ScoutLogic, you can always request a quote.
6. What’s the vendor’s typical turnaround time?
Your average background check will take as little as 12 hours and as long as 15 days, but it all varies based on the individual needs of your business.
Vendors offering guaranteed fast turnaround times should be thoroughly vetted. Timeliness is always a priority, but services like education background checks and drug and alcohol screening reports take time because they require interaction with real people.
It’s better to wait a couple of extra days for genuine results from candidates’ past employers than accept an educated guess based on none of their employers responding to queries within the turnaround time quoted.
7. Who’s in charge of my account?
Each professional background check provider has a different way of delegating responsibility for individual accounts. Most pool their clients together, and whenever a client needs assistance or has a question, they must go through the same general customer service channels that every other client is provided access to. There’s never an opportunity to develop brand familiarity with an agent for long-term support.
ScoutLogic does it differently. We assign a “Scout” who is dedicated to your business. The Scout gets to know your business and its unique needs, handles all the screenings, and is the point of contact to resolve problems and field questions when needed.
8. What is the vendor’s dispute rate on reports?
Once you’ve narrowed down the potential background check vendors you’re going to move forward with, it’s important to all be on the same page about how metrics are communicated.
We suggest you ask for the candidate’s dispute rates on reports.
A dispute rate averages the number of legitimate disputes that candidates whose applications have been flagged have filed against the vendor (emphasis on “legitimate,” because many are not) versus the total number of background checks performed. This percentage should be well under 1%.
9. Does the vendor have plenty of reviews and references?
Looking at reviews and references are important when you’re vetting any business, including a background check provider.
Keep in mind that customers are generally more prone to leave reviews of a business when they have a negative experience, but probing the responsiveness and training experience provided by a background screening service provider through reviews is essential.
Start first with Google and Glassdoor when diving into references and reviews. Focus on feedback from business owners who have worked with the company rather than on reviews from former employees. These tend to make up a large proportion of reviews, particularly on Glassdoor.
10. How does their customer service differentiate from competitors?
Your entire experience with the background check vendor you ultimately hire can come down to customer service. This is the most important question on this list because it’s the metric by which you’ll evaluate the whole process.
There is an 80/20 rule that applies to background checks: 80% sail through, and 20% have some issue. When those issues arise, you want to hear about them quickly, clearly, and on your own timeline.
At ScoutLogic, our dedicated Scout liaison model makes clients feel like they’ve added a new member to their hiring team. Results are walked through step by step, leading to smarter hiring choices.
Reliable Personalized Background Checks
From sifting through social media to running targeted county-specific searches, background screening is a complex process involving time, patience, technology, and specialized skills. It’s not something that most business owners or human resources departments find themselves capable of doing independently.
ScoutLogic is a professional background check provider whose responsive and proactive service model puts time back in your hands, so you can focus on the important parts of the hiring process, from interviewing to onboarding.
Download this free guide to go into the searching process prepared. This guide includes actionable steps to:
- Gather your requirements
- Determine vendors
- Check references
- Determine success metrics