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Choosing a Background Screening Vendor: 6 Questions to Ask

Tammy Cohen, PHR, SHRM-CP

October 27 2020

There are a lot of factors that go into choosing a background screening vendor. Like any business partnership, you need to know what you want and ask the right questions. With over three decades of experience in this business, we’ve put together a guide to choosing the right background screening vendor for your business.

Make a Wish List for Your Perfect Background Screening Vendor Relationship

When choosing the right background screening vendor, a host of capabilities and benefits factor in. Before you begin to put together a short list, take some time to consider what qualities matter most to you in a background screening partner. From there, you’ll have a picture to compare to when checking out websites, chatting with sales representatives, and evaluating vendors.

Once you’ve determined your needs and compiled available background screening vendors, you may be left with a long list of candidates. You can narrow the list by prioritizing the factors that are most important to your company. Common considerations include cost, fees, experience, support, service, and additional offerings. Here’s a few traits you might want to consider:

Check out “Busting 7 Myths About Background Screening"

1. How Much Does It Cost?

Cost will always be a factor, regardless of the type of vendor you’re looking for. You probably have a narrow budget for selecting a new background screening vendor. Many potential partners will fall in a similar range if they model their pricing on market value. Though you need to remain within your budget for the year, the lowest cost vendor isn’t always the right choice. Low-cost may mean low quality. Be sure to ask about their methods for background searches, the level of quality assurance they promise to ensure the accuracy of their results, and the type and availability of customer service you can expect.

2. Are There Start-Up or Implementation Fees?

Not all background screening programs are created equal. Be sure to consider how the implementation of your account will be handled and if you can expect additional fees during the start-up period from your chosen background screening vendor. Ask questions about the fees your vendor charges for bringing you on as a client. Ask for specific details about onboarding costs, ATS/HCM integration fees, training fees, mandatory fees, and whether you’ll need increased liability insurance.

3. What Kind of Experience Do They Have?

This is a major differentiator in the pre-employment screening scene today. As start-ups flood the market, be sure to ask the right questions about their experience levels: have they been certified by the PBSA?; do they outsource any portion of their domestic searches to international partners?; what do their quality assurance protocols look like?; do they rely entirely on databases or automated search results?; if so, how do they ensure the accuracy of the results, particular when it comes to identifiers?

Start-ups are everywhere and may offer discounted service as they try to break into the market, but that doesn’t mean they’re serving up quality. It also doesn’t mean they can handle your business if you’re doing a lot of hiring. Established providers will be able to onboard you without having to hire new staff, and they’ll scale with you as you grow. Check the experience of your potential vendor before beginning a relationship. A vendor’s time in the industry may impact whether he will be able to meet your expectations and provide quality returns.

4. How Does the Support Structure Function?

Customer support is the backbone of any vendor relationship. A partnership with a background screening vendor is no different. When you have a candidate who needs to start tomorrow, what kind of service can you expect?

Ask for specifics: Will you have a single dedicated representative, or will your account be picked up by whomever is working the phone that day? Does your client representative focus entirely on supporting your account, or do they also run the background checks? Is customer support managed in-house or is it outsourced to an international call center? When and where is support available to you? What does escalation look like in the event of a problem? How is applicant support managed?

Try to determine beforehand how much support you may need, and ask your vendor if they will be able to meet your expectations. It’s important to know whether a background screening vendor outsources any part of his operation, which can impact how well you are able to work together and how fast or slow you are able to solve problems and get results.

5. How Do You Keep Turnaround Times Low?

This one is more specific to choosing the right background screening vendor than it is to making smart business partnerships in general. Background check turnaround times (they time it takes to receive results after submitting a background check request) are at the top of the list for most companies when evaluating screening vendors.

Go one step further than just asking what a possible background screening vendor’s turnaround times are. With today’s technology, everyone should be quoting you under three days on average, and most are going to tell you just over one day for most results. Instead, ask how they achieve these results. That will tell you more. Are their turnaround times low because they’re reporting raw, unvetted results to you? Or are they low because they have the right technology and processes in place to deliver quick but accurate background check reports?

 

6. What Other Services and Products Are Offered?

You may want to add services or products as your business grows and changes. Make sure they have the right suite of basic solutions, but also ask about their full list of existing products and what products are on their roadmap for the future. If your vendor can’t or isn’t likely to offer innovation or additional services in the future, you may have to split your needs between vendors or find someone who can. Note: if your vendor offers other services/products unrelated to what you need, he may be splitting his focus between too many business goals to effectively serve you.

 

5 Tips for Finding the Background Screening Vendor for Your Particular Needs

Ask the opinion of key decision-makers from different areas of your business. Background screening isn’t just a job for HR anymore. Draw from the varied perspectives of a few different people. Compile the details of what your business expects to get from the vendor relationship and rank them by priority.

Solicit feedback from friends or peers at other companies. Almost every company is doing some level of pre-employment background screening now, and many have kicked it up a notch to do continuous monitoring or post-employment screening, too. Ask who they use and who they’ve used in the past. Your peers can give you the low-down on a vendor’s strengths and weaknesses.

Talk to the vendors you already have. Again, almost everyone is conducting background screening on their employees. If you have a partner in common, you may be able to get a deal.

Do your research. We’ve already mentioned this above, but it bears repeating: have a list of questions or requirements that matter most to you. Having this will help you guide the conversation, rather than allowing a salesperson to only address their company’s strengths. Know what matters to you so you can ask the right questions at the beginning.

Get a background check. Some companies look great on paper, but they disappoint you later. A background screening vendor who wants to be your true partner will offer you a test of their services.

Are you looking for a new background screening vendor? We recommend InfoMart, of course, but we’re also available to help you evaluate your current screening partner. Find out about our background screening audit service. If you’re ready to chat with an InfoMart sales rep, they’re ready to answer

About Tammy Cohen

Tammy Cohen, an industry pioneer and expert in identity and employment screening, founded InfoMart 30 years ago. Deemed the “Queen of Screen,” she’s been a force behind industry-leading innovations. She was most recently the first-to-market with a fully compliant sanctions search, as well as a suite of identity services that modernizes talent onboarding. Tammy revolutionized the screening industry when she stepped into the field, developing the first client-facing application and a due diligence criminal search that has since become standard for all background screening companies. Cohen has received national awards and honors for her business and civic involvement, including Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Top 25 Women-Owned Firms in Atlanta, Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year award, the YWCA of Northwest Georgia’s Kathryn Woods Racial Justice Award, and a commendation in the 152nd Congressional Record. To learn more about Tammy, visit www.tammycohen.com.

About InfoMart

InfoMart has been revolutionizing the global background and identity screening industry for 30 years, providing businesses the information they need to make informed hiring decisions. They develop innovative technology that modernizes talent onboarding, including a first-to-market biometric identity authentication application and a verified sanctions search. The WBENC-certified company is a founding member of the Professional Background Screening Association, and they have achieved PBSA accreditation in recognition of their consistent business practices and commitment to compliance with the FCRA. The company is dedicated to customer service, speed, and accuracy, and it has been recognized for its success, workplace culture, and corporate citizenship with over 45 industry awards. To Get the Whole Story on InfoMart, please visit www.InfoMart-USA.com, follow @InfoMartUSA, or call (770) 984-2727.

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