ScreenDiscussion

Blogging background checking and security issues

4.11.2005

Comparing Background Screening Companies - Confusing Services

Deciding which company to use to do background checks is an important decision. I have another post that lists what questions to ask a screening company, and here are a few more thoughts to add to that:

1. The first step is always to decide what kind of background check you want to perform. This depends on your industry, position type, budget, etc.

2. Compare apples to apples. This is a big one. Most established, reputable background screening companies offer similar services, but they're often packaged differently and given different names. This can be highly confusing, so be cautious about discounting a company just because the title of one service sounds like it is better or different than a similar service at a different company.

One company might offer a Complete 7-Year Criminal History, and another might offer a National Criminal History Search. They each highlight a different aspect of the search, but they could be the same thing. It's important for you, the potential customer, to know enough about the industry to be able to ask the right questions. For example, seven years is the industry standard for criminal searches. No company is going to be able to consistently pull criminal records past 7 seven years from different court systems, and some states even limit the number of years back information found in a records search can be used to make employment decisions to 7 years.

Regarding a national search, it doesn't really exist. However, a company might say that a search is national only because they have the ability to search county courthouses in just about every county in the country, and will do so depending on where the applicant has lived. This isn’t a unique ability - any background screening company worth its salt will be able to do this.

Since most employers don’t know the ins and outs of the industry, the important thing for the employer is to ask lost about the sources of the information. A screening company isn't required to release information about their sources to prospective clients, but it is required to release source information, upon request, to its actual clients. If the company won't give you enough information about its sources to enable you to compare it to other companies, you might want to consider not using this company. It's a fine line, but you have to be able to make an educated decision. Also, a company not willing to work with you up front to help you make a good decision might also be a company that gives you headaches when you need information later on.

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