How to Select an Employment Background Screening Firm

employment background screening firmFinding an employment background screening firm is as easy as performing an internet search, but finding a professional employment background screening firm that ensures accuracy and thoroughness of data is more difficult. Since the background screening industry is largely unregulated, organizations must perform a little investigation on their own to find a screening firm that matches their company’s needs. An organization that hires a screening firm based on price or turnaround time is setting itself up for the very risks that background screening is designed to avoid.

Best Practices

An employment background screening firm is not required to implement or follow any one set of best practices, but a firm should always be able to provide an outline of their own best practices. Contrary to popular impressions, there is no one nationwide criminal database that is comprehensive and accurate. The $10 background checks so prevalent in the industry are usually only a cursory check into one national database that is neither thorough nor accurate. A professional background screening firm should be able to provide:

  • Searches reaching back further than 7 years, especially if suspicious information is found
  • Searches on multiple names and aliases
  • Searches at the national, federal, and local levels based on address and employment history
  • Knowledge of process in all fifty U.S. states and relevant jurisdictions
  • Personal as well as criminal history
  • Felony and misdemeanor reporting

Firms Should Partner with an Organization

Background screening firms with low quality standards are also likely to leave an organization foundering when support is needed. A professional screening firm should guide an organization through the process, explain their practices, and help organizations understand the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Screening firms should also provide guidance on what to do if adverse action or a second investigation appears necessary. Most importantly, they should be able to understand an organization’s needs and situation, as every organization is unique.

Claims that a screening can be completed in twenty-four hours or at fantastically low prices may be a sign that a firm is providing inaccurate or incomplete data, setting an organization up for risk if a potential employee does have a criminal record not captured by a cursory screening. Organizations must choose their background screening firms based on their commitment to accuracy and thoroughness to mitigate their risk in the hiring process.

Does Your Background Screening Firm “Offshore” Personal Information?

background screening firmHow would you feel about your background screening firm “offshoring” personally identifiable information (PII) collected for a background check?  Would you be concerned? Yes, you should be.  Sending PII data of job applicants outside the U.S. eliminates all the protections of our privacy, identity theft and information security laws.

I recently spoke with a large organization that was concerned with the practices of their current criminal background screening provider. They were initially most concerned with the low quality criminal background checks but found that the very large screening company was also “offshoring” all of their reference checks.  The PII of all of their candidates was being sent to a call center halfway around the world.

The company had no idea the PII of their candidates had been sent outside the U.S. borders for years.  And even yet, most of our new client’s candidates have no idea their information may be sitting on a server in a foreign country.

Let’s be honest, we live in a world where identity theft is a real and growing concern.  The Federal Trade Commission Survey on Identity Theft found more than 27.3 million victims in the past 5 years.  More than 140,000 children in the U.S. have their identity stolen each year ID Analytics estimates.

I spend a considerable amount of time speaking with groups and individuals about information security, identity theft and acknowledging PII safety concerns as it relates to criminal background checks.  I do not take these concerns lightly and am very patient explaining all of the ongoing safety and security measures we take to protect their PII.

And let me say ALL of our domestic background checks are performed in the United States.  We would never offshore PII.

California appears to be the first state in the nation to address this growing concern of offshoring PII with SB 909 that became law on 01/01/2012.   Please understand, this law does not prohibit the sending of personal information from a background check outside the U.S.  However, it requires a disclosure so that consumers are aware that their information is being sent outside the U.S. borders.

The bottom line is the practice of offshoring personally identifiable information such as name, date of birth and social security number is an unnecessary risk and poor business practice for a background screening firm.  The screening companies that offshore are placing profit above safety and security which further illustrates the importance of conducting due diligence on prospective background check firms.

How would you react to your PII being offshored?