Employers conduct checks of job applicants’ background to mitigate risk, reduce liability, improve the quality of new hires, promote workplace safety, and meet regulatory compliance requirements. The process has been simplified in recent years by the rapid growth in the professional background screening industry-and most companies take advantage of these firms’ services, according to respondents. Only 21% of companies rely exclusively on in-house staff to conduct security background checks on new hires, and those that do tend to be smaller employers. In addition to ease of use, cost is another motivation to utilize outside firms to conduct background checks. The median cost for conducting a security background check is 25% less when utilizing an outside agency than exclusive use of in-house staff, according to respondents. Interestingly, companies that leverage the different strengths of both in-house staff and contract firms in their background check process report paying the least-just $62.50 per new hire.
The lure of using an outside firm to conduct background checks can’t blind organizations to their limitations, however. These firms may inflate the extent of their databases, and security teams need to assess what they cover and how frequently the provider updates them. Tests of online screening firms have shown that applicants with criminal histories can slip through, and companies should conduct their own tests-by periodically sending in a name for which a criminal history is known-to see whether the provider accurately identifies it.