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The Best Background Check Companies of 2020

Skye Schooley
, writer
| Updated
Feb 11, 2020
Image Credit: Ivan-balvan / Getty Images
> Human Resources

Update: We updated this page to include personal background check plans that GoodHire now offers.

Running a background check on a potential new hire allows you to verify their identity and history. Although every company can benefit from a pre-employment screening service, the specific features a business needs to check for will depend on the business type and industry. Background check companies can offer services like criminal history checks, health and drug screenings, Social Security number traces, credit reports, and identity, employment and education verification. When choosing an employee background screening service, consider factors like types of screenings available, cost and ease of use. To help you find a service that's right for you, we researched and analyzed a number of options to determine the background check companies we think are best for different types of businesses.

Best Picks

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Editor's note: Looking for the right background check service for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.


What to Expect in 2020

As technology and workplace trends are evolving, so is the state of background check services. There are a few trends we can expect to change in 2020, primarily regarding social media, independent contractors and continuous monitoring. Whether you are considering using a background check service or not, watch out for these industry changes. 

As an employer, you are likely looking for the most cost-effective way to validate your potential employees' history, so it may be tempting to forgo a costly background check and turn to social media profiles instead. However, you should be wary of this method, as it can open you up to lawsuits. Social media profiles can reveal protected information (such as race, religion and sexual orientation) and lead to hiring bias. To avoid this, more background check companies are offering legal social media checks as part of their screening services. This will protect you from accidentally viewing protected information. 

With gig-economy services like ridesharing and food delivery on the rise, the need for on-demand background checks has risen in tandem. Employers view these freelance workers as extensions of their brand, and therefore should screen them as they would employees. Since the hiring process for this type of worker tends to be quick, on-demand background check services are often the best option for employers. We can expect the need for on-demand background checks to rise in 2020.  

Another rising background check industry trend to watch in 2020 is continuous monitoring. This allows employers to receive updated background information on their workers after they are hired. This is especially beneficial in transportation industries, keeping companies up to date on their employees' driving records and licensure statuses. 

Our Reviews

In addition to our best picks, here are our reviews of other top background check companies.


The cost of conducting a background check varies greatly, depending on the provider you select and the screenings you want conducted. Some background check companies display pricing online; however, many do not, in which case, you'll need to contact the company for a price quote. 

Nearly every company we reviewed offers volume discounts. 

Some background check providers offer preset packages with specific screenings included (Social Security trace, criminal history searches), whereas others offer a la carte options so you can select the screenings you want conducted. 

Most of the services we evaluated offer multiple screening packages; there are different tiers to choose from, typically ranging from basic to premium. The specific price (and the services included in each plan) will vary based on the provider you choose. Based on our research, we've compiled an average of the types of checks typically included in basic, midtier and premium plans and the average costs for those plans. 

Basic Background Checks

  • Cost: $14.95 to $29.99 per check

  • Includes: Basic identity verification (Social Security number trace) and criminal history search (searches of national criminal databases and the sex offender registries)

  • Ideal for: Businesses needing an inexpensive, basic report to confirm an employee's identity and criminal background 

Midtier (Standard) Background Checks

  • Cost: $29.95 to $59.95 per check
  • Includes: In addition to identity verification and a criminal history search, midtier background checks search domestic watch lists and county criminal databases
  • Ideal for: Small businesses needing to run few to several pre-employment background checks at an affordable rate 

Premium Background Checks

  • Cost: $59.95 to $79.95 per check
  • Includes: Background checks verify a potential employee's identity, their educational degrees and past employment. In addition, it conducts a criminal history search
  • Ideal for: Businesses needing to run a thorough check on potential employees, including confirmation of their education and employment history 

Additional Fees and Requirements

  • Minimum commitment: Some companies require that you commit to conducting a certain number of checks each year. If this is the case, make sure that you will meet the minimum quota.

  • Drug testing: Most services charge extra for drug testing. Fees range from $50 to $150 per test, depending on how many drugs you want the candidate screened for.

  • Setup fees: Some providers charge a one-time setup fee to cover the cost of verifying your business. Fees range from $25 to $50.

  • Third-party fees: Additional third-party fees may apply, too, such as education verification, employment verification and court fees. Fees typically vary by state and screening provider. They are primarily charged in states that have a more complex process. For example, in New York, you will often find court processing fees that range from $15 to $100 per check. Not every state charges fees, and not all providers charge them, but it is a potential cost to be aware of.

  • A la carte options: Many background check companies offer a la carte services, like motor vehicle records and professional license verification, that you may want to include with a background check you conduct on a job candidate. Some companies offer these services solely on an a la carte basis, which can become costly if you need an exhaustive series of checks performed or have multiple people you will be running background checks on.

Negotiating with Background Check Companies

There often isn't much room for negotiation with the price of a service's a la carte options, but there may be wiggle room in other areas. 

To ensure you get the best deal possible from a full-service firm, here are five areas where you might save some money: 

  • Setup fees: Request to have the setup fee waived. Some firms will do so to land your business.

  • Bulk discounts: If you conduct several background checks each year, see if the provider will give you a per-screening discount.

  • Commitment discounts: Ask the provider if they can lower the price of individual checks if you commit to conducting a certain number of screenings each year. 
  • A la carte pricing: For firms that only offer set packages, see if you can get a la carte pricing if the packages include screenings you don't want.

  • Price matching: Check if the service is willing to match a competitor's lower price. 

Ask the provider if you need to sign a contract. If so, review everything in detail. Make sure it includes all the details you agreed to and doesn't contain any additional charges.   

Also check whether the contract has any special clauses pertaining to canceling the service. Are you committed to a certain number of checks? What happens if you don't conduct them all? Can you walk away at any time? These are all questions you want answered before hiring an employee background check service.

Benefits of Using a Background Check Company

Conducting employee background checks as part of the hiring process has become commonplace for most employers today. If your business has never used a background check service, here are some compelling reasons why you might want to employ one. 

Surprise, Surprise … Most People Are Not Forthright on Job Applications

recent study by the background check company HireRight revealed that 84% of organizations screen job candidates for a criminal history, with 73% using background checks to verify past employment and/or references.   

Research shows that employers have good reason to screen potential new hires. The HireRight study reported that 84% of employers discovered a misrepresentation on a resume or job application, with 23% of employers reporting that their screenings uncovered misrepresentations regarding one's educational credentials.   

Companies Can Conduct a Range Of Screenings

Employers today have several options when it comes to what they can screen job candidates for. Other screenings and services that background check companies offer include:   

  • Sex-offender searches
  • Professional license verifications
  • Credit report checks
  • Civil records checks
  • Workers' compensation history searches
  • Healthcare sanction checks
  • Drug testing   

The best background check firms offer a comprehensive array of screening options to help you hire the best employees. When conducting screenings, many firms go beyond an online database search. For example, when conducting criminal background checks, they might follow up with county courthouses to inspect onsite records. 

Background Checks Can Lead To Higher Caliber Employees

In the end, most employers believe implementing some type of background check into their hiring process paid positive dividends. More than 50% of the businesses surveyed by HireRight said it led to better quality hires.

How to Choose a Background Check Company

When you're considering a background check company, first identify the type of data you need to gather on potential employees ‒ that factor alone affects the price and the agencies that can help you. For example, not all of the services we evaluated handle drug screenings. If this is a screening you need, several services will automatically be eliminated from your list. 

Accreditation and Compliance

Verify that the pre-employment screening company and its screenings comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The FCRA outlines how employee background checks must be conducted, including obtaining the job candidate's consent to conduct a background check, as well as an opportunity to review and rebut what was discovered. Some agencies do not adhere to FCRA laws. Businesses that use these services are opening themselves up to a potential lawsuit. 

You also want to verify that the background check company you're considering is an accredited member of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). This accreditation is given to many of the top consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) that abide by strict professional standards. 

Turnaround Time

The urgency of how soon you need the results of your screenings will factor into which agency you choose. Some sites allow you to search and view results instantly, while others may take between one and five days to give you the results. 

If you can wait a few days before making a hiring decision, you may receive more comprehensive screening results. 


It is important that you get the exact reports you need from a background check service. As you evaluate agencies, some only offer preset packages; other services offer specific packages but allow you to customize the plan for the screenings you need. 

If you know which screenings and tests you want done, ask the agency you're considering using if they will be flexible with their pricing and accommodate your request. One last consideration is that while some services offer a variety of screenings, e.g., drug screening tests, the results may take longer.

Have a question related to background check services?

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Should background checks be required for potential hires?

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I think it depends on the work, Lexi. We don't do background checks on our contractors, but that's because we hire them for their expertise and results. Each hire goes through a testing period, where we try to "break them" by giving them a ton of work. That is our best way to see how they work under pressure and if they're a good culture fit. If someone has a felony for marijuana or some other non-violent crime, I really don't care. We all make mistakes. If they had a violent crime in their...

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Hi Leonard, I recommend getting your management team and employees involved in the hiring process. Instead of just meeting with a candidate and making a decision, have them go through an interview process with a current employee, manager and then you. This can empower your employees and managers to feel like they're contributing to the overall health of the business. It also provides them with an opportunity to have a say in the future of the business. After all, they are the ones who will...

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