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Background checks are crucial to identify potential red flags and concerns when screening potential employees for your business. Many have the misconception that this is only a common practice among established or larger businesses. However, there are comprehensive services even the smallest businesses can easily afford. These tailored checks and screenings provide information on employees.
There are numerous background and employee screening sites out there, and we've conducted a review of more than 30 options to find the best option for your firm.
Best Free Background Check: None
Any service that is FCRA-compliant, and reputable won't be free. FCRA stands for the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and it applies anytime an employer pulls a background check. There may be free background check services online that aren't FCRA-compliant, but we don't recommend using those for employment decisions. Doing so will expose you to legal liabilities.
Is it possible to conduct a search by yourself? Possibly. That'll depend on the extent of the information you're looking for. However, any information that should be used for employment decisions won't be able to be found online via a free source. Therefore, we recommend using only paid services.
Best General Background Check for Startups: AccurateNow
Why we like it: AccurateNow is fully FCRA-compliant and starts at a low cost of $24.95 per report. Similar to other basic packages that other companies also provide, AccurateNow provides a Social Security number trace, a county criminal search, a national criminal search and a query against the national sex offender registry. Additionally, background checks are completed within as little as three business days.
With a low starting price and a fairly comprehensive basic package, AccurateNow is our top recommendation for startups that don't want to spend too much money. Additionally, we know that startups, especially newer ones, need to ramp up employees quickly and don't have time to wait for weeks for background check results. AccurateNow has a turnaround of only three business days.
Drawbacks: If you operate in an industry that requires additional services like financial services or health care, AccurateNow isn't for you. AccurateNow does have a more limited selection of services compared to others in the market and is more of designed for general use.
Additionally, if you're looking to integrate AccurateNow with your existing HR system, be sure the two are compatible. AccurateNow doesn't support integration with many HR systems, and it is quite limited in that area compared to other background check services.
Best Full-Service Background Check for Small Businesses: GoodHire
Why we like it: GoodHire is one of the easiest-to-use background check services that is both comprehensive and accurate. Few other background check services are priced as competitively as GoodHire that also offer niche services for industries like finance or child care, which require additional screenings. GoodHire also has a mobile counterpart, which is rare in the background check world, and the ability to integrate with various HR systems, which can make handling information that much easier.
Small businesses that can afford to pay a little bit more for more comprehensive background checks will like what GoodHire has to offer. The company’s user interface is one of the smoothest and most modern in the market. For all the different custom services GoodHire can provide, it's the best-priced service on the market.
Drawbacks: As comprehensive as GoodHire can be, it doesn't offer I-9 or E-Verify management programs. These are used to validate a candidate's identity and verify that they can work in the U.S. We will mention that GoodHire does use alternative identity verification methods by asking candidates questions that they only they would know.
Additionally, GoodHire has somewhat limited customer service hours. It only operates from Monday through Friday 8 a.m. -8 p.m. EST. So if you run into an issue outside of these times, you'll have to wait until they reopen.
We recommend you use one of the two services we outlined above. However, for readers that want to see a few more great options, here are a few background check services that just missed the cut.
Honorable Mention 1: Background Report
Why it didn't make the cut: Background Report could easily be considered as the best cheap background check service, because it is indeed the cheapest with a low starting cost of $19.99. However, its cheapest option is DIY and fairly user-intensive. It didn't make the list, because for only $5 more, a provider like AccurateNow will provide an end to end service. Still, if you're looking to cut costs, and want the bare minimum required to conduct a background check, you should use Background Report.
Honorable Mention 2: Checkr
Why it didn't make the cut: Similar to GoodHire, Checkr is also a new Silicon Valley startup that has recently entered the playing field. Like GoodHire, Checkr sets a new standard for ease of use and comprehensive support. However, Checkr didn't make the cut, because its turnaround time is relatively long compared to others at 21 days, and it also starts off at a steeper price—$35—than competitors.
How to choose the best background check service for your business
Before you even begin considering different background check services, first determine what information you want to look up about potential hires. Typically, background check services can provide the following:
- Employment history
- Academic and/or professional qualifications
- Criminal history
- Outstanding financial obligations
- Social media results
- Drug tests (through partnerships with various test locations)
More nuanced and specialized services will reveal more niche info, but a good, comprehensive check should be able to provide the above services at a minimum. Industries that may require specialized services include financial services, health care, babysitting and more.
List of Additional Background Check Sites
There is a large variety of background check services, and although we recommend the services that we strongly felt were the best in the market, there are still other services that could be right for you based on your unique needs. We've compiled a more comprehensive list of fully FCRA-compliant services designed for employers.
|Background Check Website||Our Thoughts|
|HireRight Express||HireRight Express can perform checks within 48 hours or less, which is one of the fastest turnaround times out of the services we've reviewed|
|eNannySource||Comprehensive service with additional features designed specifically for child care services|
|IntelliCorp||Intellicorp starts at a competitive price of $27.95 and makes a strong commitment to be FCRA-compliant and meet its estimated turnaround times|
|Accio||Accio is designed for large companies that have the scale to quickly recover the significant upfront costs and Accio's platform makes integrating with other systems simple|
|Sterling||Comprehensive service that features integration with applicant tracking systems|
|A Good Employee||Although it initially focused on real estate management, A Good Employee can be used for any industry or company|
How to stay FCRA compliant
Any employer that makes a hiring decision based on someone's background information needs to comply with rules set forth by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). These laws are basic and need to be followed even if you don't conduct a third-party background check.
If you conduct a background check or screening with a third-party provider, you and the provider need to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Any service that doesn't explicitly state in writing that they comply with FCRA should be avoided. Sites that we've identified that don't comply with FCRA guidelines are BeenVerified, PeopleFinders and USA People Search.
If you gather background information on an applicant, you'll need to do the following per FCRA guidelines:
- Notify the subject in writing that the background information can be used for decisions about their employment. This cannot simply be in an employment application.
- If you are looking for an "investigative report," a report concerning a person's general character—you must also notify the subject of the nature and scope of the investigation.
- Subject must provide written permission to undergo a background check.
- Let the third party provider know that you:
- complied with all relevant FCRA requirements,
- and won't discriminate against the applicant or employee or otherwise misuse the information in violation of federal or state equal opportunity laws or regulations.
Be careful when using a background check service as using the wrong one can expose your business to potential lawsuits.