ScreenDiscussion

Blogging background checking and security issues

3.18.2005

What Questions to Ask a Pre-Employment Screening or Background Checking Company

You know you need to do background checks on your new hires, but it can be a daunting task to sort through the seemingly endless number of companies out there that do background checks. Here are a few questions to ask to help you sort through them. No doubt there are many more questions that you could ask, but these should get you started.

How do you obtain your criminal record information?Do they send an actual person to search the courthouse records, or do they search a database? If they search a database, do they follow up all noted records before they report the results to you? It’s important that all criminal record information they report to you is as accurate and as up to date as possible, and this usually means directly searching county courthouse records. Also, be sure you’re comparing apples to apples when you compare the services provided by different companies. Companies often have different names for the same service, and the same names for different services. You have to ask about the sources of information if you want to be able to make a good comparative decision.

Do you check for criminal records at the county, state and Federal levels?
A decent background checking company will be able to search records at each of these levels.

How do you find out where someone has lived in the past?
Credit reporting companies like http://www.acxiom.com”>Acxiom, a division of http://www.transunion.com”>TransUnion, provide this information based on credit histories. Non-credit reporting companies like National Background Data, also report this information. Be sure that the source reports previous addresses at least seven years back because some only go back three or four years.

How Quickly Are Criminal Search Results Returned?
If the company says they always return them within two days or less, or better yet, instantaneously, look out! They’re probably doing a database search and aren’t following up to verify any records they found, which means they may not be complying with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. If this is the case, then you could have problems using the information they provide to make employment decisions.

How do you ensure that the criminal information you provide is free from error and typos?
There should be a process in place in which all information that is reported to the client is double-checked for accuracy. Any time a human is involved there will be errors, and a good company takes this into account and builds their reporting system in such a way that data-entry errors are minimized or eliminated. There isn’t really an excuse for providing inaccurate information to a client, especially when it impacts someone’s job.

What procedure do you have in place to deal with incorrect information you report?
This is an unavoidable problem in the background checking industry. Even if the company reported exactly what was provided to them by the court or any other source, there will still be errors. Court records are far from perfect, which means there needs to be a solution on the back end of things to regulate how inaccuracies are dealt with. If inaccurate information is found to have been reported, the company should have a procedure in place for re-checking the information and, if at all possible, that prevents the same error from occurring again. They obviously can’t guarantee that all court records will be perfect in the future, but if the problem is that the researcher didn’t pull the records correctly then there needs to be a policy in place to address that.

In additional to a consumer report, do you also do investigative reporting?
A typical consumer report as defined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act attempts to locate records that already exist on an individual. An investigative consumer report, however, involves speaking with people to learn more about the personal characteristics of the person you are investigating. This includes things like speaking with personal references or references from previous employers. The legal language is clearer and more exact, but this is the general gist of it.

How many calls a day do you make to complete a verification of employment?
The company should call at least once a day and, in the case that calls are not returned, should clearly communicate at what point the verification request is closed.

What level of customer service do you provide?
This is very important, especially when you have to meet deadlines or request additional information on something that the company reports. A good company will be able to rush requests when necessary, but be careful not to cry “wolf” too many times or you won’t be taken seriously and may actually receive poorer customer service. If you don’t catch someone on the phone when you call, you should generally expect to receive a return phone call or email within an hour or two.

Picking the right company to do your background checks is important. You want the most accurate results and you want to be covered legally. A lot of companies make great claims about the information they provide, but it can just be a smokescreen. You need to be smart enough to dig a little deeper and be sure you’re comparing apples to apples when companies are telling you about the services they provide. I hope this is helpful. As always, email me (use the link at the bottom of the page) if you have any questions or would like to see an additional post on the subject.

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