Conducting Thorough and Legal Employee Background Checks: A Guide for HR Teams

Implementing a standardized employee background check process is crucial for making well-informed, low-risk hiring decisions. With resume fraud becoming commonplace, verified background checks enable employers to avoid bad hires that can hamper workplace culture and bottom lines.

However, background checks also raise critical privacy and compliance considerations. Organizations must implement legally sound check processes focused on validating job-related criteria. This article offers best practices for employee background screening along with an evaluation of leading background check services.

Why Employee Background Screening Matters

Most candidates try putting their best foot forward during the recruiting process which can sometimes lead to exaggerated or false claims around:

  • Employment history and responsibilities

  • Educational qualifications

  • Salary and title progression

  • Skills and professional certifications

  • Criminal history

A SHRM study found over 75% of HR managers have caught lies or misrepresentations on candidate resumes. Faulty hires that slip through the recruitment screening process end up being enormously expensive.

Apart from verifying candidate claims, background checks also surface crucially relevant information around:

  • Integrity and ethics – Civil court or credit history flags

  • Work eligibility – Identity verification, SSN validation

  • Safety risk factors – Criminal records, registry checks

Types of Pre-employment Background Checks

Type What It Validates How It Helps
Identity verification Name, SSN, Address, DOB Validates candidate identity and work eligibility
Prior employment verification Employers, titles, dates, responsibilities Confirms resume accuracy
Education verification Degrees, certifications, universities, dates Validates academic claims
Professional reference checks Gets confidential review from reporting managers Insights into ethics, performance and teamwork
Criminal history County/federal criminal records, warrants, arrests Flags violence, fraud, theft risks
Motor vehicle records Licensure status, traffic violations Reveks public safety risks for specific positions
Drug testing Detects substance abuse Mitigates workplace safety risks
Credit checks Financial responsibility flags Relevant for positions with money/data access

Picking the Right Background Check Provider

With a myriad of options to choose from, selecting the right background check services partner involves evaluating across:

Accuracy – Percentage of correct information found reflected in reliability certifications like NAPBS
Depth of checks – Types of checks offered and databases searched
Compliance – Adherence with FCRA/state laws around consent, adverse action
Speed – Turnaround time from order to report generation
Configurability – Custom checks, applicant linking and workflow integration capabilities
Ease-of-use – Intuitive interface, straightforward report interpretation
Customer support – Chat, phone, email access to HR/screening experts

Based on extensive research and client reviews, below are the top 10 pre-employment background check services that deliver the optimal combination of accuracy, reliability and ease-of-use.

1. Certn

Overview

Favored by leading employers like Instacart, Coinbase and Chime, Certn leverages automation and machine learning to deliver fast and accurate background screening.

Types of Checks

  • Employment and education verification
  • Professional and personal references
  • SSN trace, national criminal searches

Key Details

  • NAPBS accredited with 97% accuracy rate
  • Custom packages and candidate permission workflows
  • Robust integrations with Greenhouse, Workday etc.
  • Email and SMS communication to candidates
  • $35 base price + custom module add-ons

Ideal For

Startups and mid-size companies focused on speed and candidate experience

2. Checkr

Overview

Checkr provides comprehensive world-wide criminal searches and I-9 verifications powered by automation, machine learning and customized data sources.

Types of Checks

  • SSN and identity checks
  • County-level criminal searches
  • Commercial license verification
  • Global watchlist search

Key Details

  • Bulk upload and auto- invites for applicant tracking
  • Custom court runner searches for speed
  • Integrates tightly with Greenhouse, Workday
  • Shares audit and compliance documents
  • $35 and up depending on check types

Ideal For

HR teams seeking robust global checks and quick implementation

3. FirstAdvantage

Overview

One of the largest screening providers globally, FirstAdvantage offers extensive checks tailored to roles, risk levels and industries.

Types of Checks

  • Criminal searches across 231 million records
  • Employment history from 90 million profiles
  • Motor vehicle records from 49 states
  • Global sanctions and enforcement scans

Key Details

  • Longstanding leader with decades of pedigree
  • Extensive compliance resources
  • International checks spanning 200 countries
  • Offering targeted by industry and role
  • Enterprise pricing

Ideal For

Large, complex and geographically diverse organizations

4. HireRight

Overview

A longtime market leader in pre-employment screening, HireRight provides comprehensive background checks and ongoing monitoring tailored to business needs.

Types of Checks

  • Criminal watch continuous monitoring
  • Employment verification using AI matching
  • Global background checks covering 240 territories

Key Details

  • Proprietary employment database with 470 million records
  • Real-time status tracking and compliance workflow
  • Criminal offense matching algorithm
  • Candidate experience and communication focus
  • Starts at $100 per basic check

Ideal For

Enterprise and global companies that value rich insights

5. GoodHire

Overview

GoodHire offers a customizable menu of checks from identities to federal crimes bundled into packages by risk levels.

Types of Checks

  • SSN verification and trace
  • Nationwide sex offender registry
  • Terrorist watchlist search
  • Drug testing

Key Details

  • Integrates tightly with Taleo, Jobvite
  • Customizable consents and adverse action
  • A la carte check ordering or bundles
  • Instant pass/fail results for some checks
  • Averages $50+ per standard check

Ideal For

Mid-size businesses with Taleo/Jobvite recruitment workflows

6. Orange Tree Employment Screening

Overview

A unique employee-owned company, Orange Tree offers tailored packages for roles, risk levels across 200 countries all in a singular integrated platform.

Types of Checks

  • Criminal record checks from global data sources
  • Ongoing criminal monitoring
  • Executive due diligence investigations

Key Details

  • Complimentary compliance resources
  • Flexible integrations using their THOR API
  • Custom qualification scoring models
  • International checks in native languages
  • Competitive, customized enterprise pricing

Ideal For

Mid to large global companies desiring flexibility and strong compliance posture

7. Sterling

Overview

Sterling offers comprehensive background checks paired with manual verification experts to provide context around records.

Types of Checks

  • Criminal searches across all counties
  • Motor vehicle records
  • Employment history verification

Key Details

  • 98% client retention reflecting reliability
  • Over 50 years of screening pedigree
  • Staffed professional verification experts
  • Integration via Sterling Direct Connect
  • Starts around $100 per standard check

Ideal For

HR teams that value personalized human review

8. Asurint

Overview

Asurint leverages proprietary data sources to deliver comprehensive checks with compliance guarantees across all packages.

Types of Checks

  • SSN trace and address history
  • National and county civil court searches
  • Motor vehicle records

Key Details

  • Custom packages for good, better best
  • Free compliance consultation
  • Dedicated account manager
  • XML integration capabilities
  • Around $40 and up per check

Ideal For

HR teams wanting tailored packages and compliance guidance

9. IntelliCorp Records

Overview

Offering comprehensive checks since 2003, IntelliCorp has an industry-best customer retention rate reflecting reliability.

Types of Checks

  • Criminal record searches across thousands of jurisdictions

  • Civil court and liens check

Key Details

  • Proprietary national criminal database
  • Meets rigorous FCRA standards
  • Customized reporting and workflows
  • XML integrations available
  • $30 basic checks + customization

Ideal For

Mid-market companies seeking proven stable background check partner

Overview

A global background check provider with 25 years of experience tailored for roles with serious risks.

Types of Checks

  • Medical license and DEA validation
  • FACIS level 3 exclusion scans
  • Continuous criminal monitoring

Key Details

  • Specialized checks for healthcare, transportation industries
  • Proprietary global watchlists
  • International checks available in 14 languages
    Arabic, French, Spanish and many more
  • Enterprise packages

Ideal For

High risk roles like healthcare staffing, transportation

Key Considerations for Background Check Implementation

Beyond assessing providers, organizations need robust processes governing the scope, consent and adverse action procedures around checks such as:

  • Ensuring checks are justified and validate job-related criteria
  • Securing informed candidate permission before initiating checks
  • Providing adverse action notices in cases of withdrawal
  • Allowing candidates to dispute inaccurate information surfaced

Striking the right balance between diligent screening and fair, ethical treatment of candidates is crucial for avoiding legal exposures while making the best hires.

Conclusion: Building a Structured Screening Program

Selecting and partnering with the right background check provider is step one towards standardized, low-risk pre-employment screening. But an end-to-end program spanning scoping, consent, assessment and compliance is key to ensuring such checks translate into positive hiring outcomes.

With carefully calibrated checks and processes, companies can make well-informed, risk-appropriate hiring decisions efficiently. But organizations also need to view background checks as one input for evaluating candidates, not the sole determinant for employment suitability.

What has your experience been with pre-employment background screening services? What capabilities or partnership traits are most valuable when identifying the right background check partner? Share your perspectives below!