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The Best Background Check Companies of 2019

By
Skye Schooley
,
business.com writer
| Updated
Aug 03, 2019
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Background Check Company Comparisons

As a business owner, hiring a new employee is one of the most expensive decisions you will make. The importance of this decision is often downplayed, but bad hiring decisions can cost your business tens of thousands of dollars.

Knowing how much is at stake, it is critical that you make the best hiring decisions. Conducting pre-employment background checks help you do that.

To ensure you hire the best job candidates possible, use a pre-employment screening service. Every type of business can benefit from using a pre-employment screening service, though the specific features a business needs may differ, depending on the business, the industry it is in, etc.

Background screening companies offer services like basic criminal background checks (many services, however, can conduct in-depth criminal history searches), health and drug screenings; Social Security number traces; identity, employment, and education verification; and credit reporting.

When looking for an employee background screening service, there are numerous factors to consider, including how easy it is to order and review background checks, whether the provider offers the type of screening your business needs, and if it abides by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

We evaluated more than 135 companies before arriving at our picks of the top background check companies for small businesses. You can read more about our best picks, why we selected them, the types of businesses we think they are best for and how much you can expect to pay.

Best Picks

Pricing

 

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.

 

Pricing

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 a sales representative 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, conduct a criminal history search and can provide education and employment verification
  • 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 the account verification process. Fees cost between $25 and $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 can 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.

Reviews

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

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 a few 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 determining what you should look for in 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 (FCRA). 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 taking a big risk by 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.

Customization

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.

Methodology

To find the best background check providers for small businesses, we began with an initial list of 135 companies. 

We then narrowed our list based on these factors: 

  • Rates and contracts
  • Industries served
  • Screenings and tests available
  • Customization of screening plans
  • Technology and online features
  • Turnaround time
  • Accuracy
  • FCRA compliance and NAPBS affiliation
  • Customer service
  • Better Business Bureau ratings and accreditation
  • Customer reviews and complaints

We posed as small business owners and contacted each service to learn more about the services provided to potential customers and the quality of their customer service.

After several exhaustive weeks, we narrowed our list to our nine finalists ‒ AccurateNow, B&B Reporting Inc., Background Screeners of America, BackgroundReport.com, Corra Group, Employment Record Service, GoodHire, InfoCheckUSA and Sterling.

Downloadable Guides

How to Avoid Hiring Monsters
How to Avoid Hiring Monsters

Guide to Better Hiring Decisions

View Infographic

Before you hire someone scary, arm yourself with the facts. From the great big liar to the dirty thief, a masked new hire with a hidden record can have negative consequences on customer relations, internal operations and higher replacement costs. On average, companies can reduce liability from $3,111 to only $300 by using an expert screening company.

View the stats and figures in our latest infographic by downloading now. 

Common Background Check Company Questions & Answers

Have a background check company question of your own?
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What kind of steps should be in place before selecting a technology partner?

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What is the advantage to the technology provider to work with your company? What markets will the technology provider reach that are not reached today but can be reached by partnering with your company? What is the return on relationship partnering with your company? Before a background check on the technology provider, I would need to know their length of time in business, what markets they serve, what their customers say about them, what is their delivery success rate, how is their...

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In my experience the frustrations depend on the type of position you are trying to fill. My biggest frustrations when looking for creative types is that new technology (software etc.) have made the thinking process too dependent on external/mechanical factors. Therefore, young minds are not adept at problem solving and creative solution seeking. This leads to limited and less creative end products. I realize that you are seeking ore of an HR response, and I am offering more of an...

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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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