The 7 Best Background Check Services of 2020

Protect your business with pre-employment screening

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Adding a new employee to your business is like inviting a new family member into your home. Running a background check on interviewees can give you the peace of mind of knowing that you’re protecting your business and other employees from potentially untrustworthy candidates.

Fortunately, there are many companies whose sole purpose is to run thorough pre-employment screenings for businesses of all sizes. Most can cover everything from criminal background checks and employment verification to social media activity and drug screenings.        

We researched the best background check companies based on ease of use, cost, compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, range of screening services, integrations with human resources and applicant tracking software, turnaround times, and more to help you find the right one for your business. Here are our top picks to aid in your hiring process.

The 7 Best Background Checks of 2020 

Best Overall: GoodHire

GoodHire

GoodHire

Established in 2013, GoodHire is accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), recognized by the American Staffing Association (ASA), and has an A+ rating and accreditation with the Better Business Bureau.

GoodHire uses an e-consent tool to get the candidate's consent to run a background check, and checks are fully compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Results are delivered via a mobile-optimized dashboard that can also be used to order new checks. You can sign up for alerts about changes in your employee's background check information after they’re hired. Finally, employees get copies of their results and can submit comments to provide context about the results if needed.

We chose GoodHire as our best overall background check service because the company offers reasonably priced background checks, is easy for employers to administer, and offers results in an easy-to-use mobile dashboard for quick review.

In addition to background checks, GoodHire offers employment credit reports, pre-employment drug testing, verifications for healthcare professionals, and identity verification checks.

GoodHire integrates with applicant tracking system (ATS) software like Lever and Greenhouse, HR information systems like BambooHR and OrangeHCM, professional employer organizations (PEO) like TriNet, and online job boards like SmartRecruiters and ZipRecruiter.

GoodHire Pricing

Three pricing packages are offered if you need to run fewer than 25 checks per year. You’ll have to request a custom quote if you need more. Additional services can be purchased as add-ons, including alias names, global watch lists, federal criminal databases, and statewide criminal records searches. All packages require a one-time setup fee of $49.99.

Basic Plan

  • $29.99 per search
  • Turnaround time: 1 business day
  • Social Security number verification
  • National criminal database search 
  • Sex offender search

Standard Plan

  • $39.99 per search
  • Turnaround time: 1 to 3 business days
  • All Basic Plan features
  • Domestic watch list

Premium Plan

  • $79.99 per search
  • All Standard Plan features
  • 7-year county criminal court search

Runner-Up, Best Overall: AccurateNow

AccurateNow

AccurateNow

AccurateNow was founded in 2002 and is an accredited member of NAPBS. While AccurateNow's parent company Accurate Background is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau, it does have an A+ rating.

The company offers affordable pricing, pay-as-you-go plans, and user-friendly online reports. You can also purchase FCRA-compliant background checks on an individual basis with no monthly minimums.

To get started, just choose a plan and enter the job candidate's name and email address. The candidate is then sent login information and an electronic consent form and prompted to enter the information needed to run a background check. We liked this feature since many other companies make hiring managers do all of the legwork.

AccurateNow’s reports are clear and easy to read, with color-coding to indicate where there are issues and where there are none. The online dashboard is mobile-friendly, so you can order and review the status of your background checks from a mobile device.  

We chose AccurateNow as our runner-up because the company offers checks that are easy for employers to request and reports that can be easily digested. The biggest drawback compared to GoodHire was AccurateNow's slightly higher pricing.

AccurateNow Pricing

AccurateNow offers three search plans. Add-on services are $9.95 each and include motor vehicle records search, education verification, employment verification, professional license verification, and federal criminal searches. While AccurateNow doesn’t offer drug or healthcare screenings, its parent company, Accurate Background, does.

Finally, you’ll need to pay a $25 setup fee and a $5 pre-adverse and adverse action notice fee (notices you send if you decide not to move forward with a potential hire), charges not typically found with other companies we reviewed.

Basic Plan

  • $29.95 per search
  • Turnaround time: 1 to 2 business days
  • Social Security number verification
  • National criminal database search 
  • Sex offender search

Standard Plan

  • $59.95 per search
  • Turnaround time: 3 to 4 business days
  • All Basic Plan features
  • Global watch search

Premium Plan

  • $74.95 per search
  • Turnaround time: 3 to 4 business days
  • All Standard Plan features
  • Education and employment verification

Best Value: InfoMart

InfoMart

InfoMart

Founded in 1989, InfoMart offered the first FCRA-compliant background checks in the business. The company is a founding member of and accredited with the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) and has an A+ rating and accreditation with the Better Business Bureau. InfoMart serves all industries, including automotive, food service, healthcare, hospitality, and retail.

With an average turnaround time of one business day, competitive pay-as-you go pricing, 30 years of industry experience, and the broadest range of screenings and services for the money, InfoMart offers the best value of all the options we reviewed.

InfoMart offers a full range of background check services, including criminal and sex offender searches, education and employment verifications, motor vehicle records, credit reports, reference and license checks, and Social Security number tracing. It offers both new hire and post-employment screening, including identity and immigration status verifications, employee audits and monitoring, risk and compliance checks, drug testing, and candidate social media tracking.

InfoMart makes it easy to access forms and background check updates online and integrates with popular ATS platforms like Greenhouse, Workable, and Taleo. It can share data across enterprise platforms like PeopleSoft, Workday, and ADP Virtual Edge.

InfoMart Pricing

Simple Plan

  • $28.95 per search
  • Turnaround time: average 1 business day
  • National Social Security search
  • Multi-state criminal history search 
  • Multi-state sex offender search

Popular Plan

  • $53.95 per search
  • Turnaround time: average 1 business day
  • All Simple Plan features
  • County criminal history search
  • Verified watch list

Classic Plan

  • $78.95 per search
  • Turnaround time: average 1 business day
  • All Popular Plan features
  • Education and employment verification

Best Price: HireRight

HireRight

HireRight

HireRight developed the industry's first Internet-based background check in 1997 and has been an industry leader ever since. The company is PBSA-accredited and, while it doesn’t have a Better Business Bureau accreditation, it does enjoy an A- rating from the organization.

As a provider of more than 150 background screening services in 200 countries and territories, HireRight is ideal for companies that operate both nationally and internationally and hire candidates from around the globe.

HireRight’s services include identity checks, global screening, driving records, criminal background checks, county searches, education and employment history, and social media background checks.

HireRight features a user-friendly interface and integrates with ATS, HR, payroll, and timekeeping software, including Greenhouse, Workaday, ADP, and Paychex, so you can securely store and record candidate data.

We chose HireRight as our best-priced option because its basic search plans are in-line with other providers in this space and comprehensive search plans are generally less expensive than other top-shelf competitors.

HireRight Pricing

While HireRight is more geared toward big businesses, it does offer our test group's most affordable plans for small businesses through their backgroundchecks.com service.

Basic Plan

  • $29.95 per search
  • Turnaround time: 1 to 3 business days
  • Criminal database search
  • Non-hit and alias links search 

Better Plan

  • $49.95 per search
  • Turnaround time: 1 to 3 business days
  • All Basic Plan features 
  • County criminal search: 1 county

Premium Plan

  • $64.95 per search
  • Turnaround time: 1 to 3 business days
  • All Better Plan features 
  • County criminal search: Unlimited counties (going back up to 7 years)

Most Years in Business: SterlingOne

SterlingOne

SterlingOne

Founded in 1975, SterlingOne is NAPBS-accredited and a member of the ASA. While it doesn’t have a Better Business Bureau accreditation, it does enjoy an A+ rating from that organization.

We chose to highlight SterlingOne for most years in business because the company's 45-year history means that it has been at the forefront of employee background checks. The company was helping employers find the right hires when computers were just becoming available for businesses and long before the Internet became widely available. As a company, it has innovated and stood the test of time.

The company offers a wide range of pre-employment services, including criminal and civil court checks, identity verification, drug and health screening, professional license and certification verifications, military employment verifications, professional reference checks, and workforce monitoring. SterlingOne also offers many HR software integrations, including Workday, Greenhouse, Jobvite, and LinkedIn.

Requesting a background check through SterlingOne is a bit more cumbersome than with some of the other companies we reviewed, though. First, you need to submit info about your business, including the legal name of your company. Once your account is set up, you can order the screenings you need.

While SterlingOne’s services are geared toward major brands and agencies, it offers three screening packages perfectly suited to small businesses, and you can add additional services to fit your needs, such as a driver's record check for $9.95 each, and education or employment verification for $19.95 each. Custom packages are also available.

SterlingOne Pricing

Basic Plan

  • $29.95 per search
  • Turnaround time: 1 to 3 business days
  • Social Security number trace
  • Multistate instant criminal check
  • Sex offender search
  • County criminal search: 1 county

Preferred Plan

  • $59.95 per search
  • Turnaround time: 1 to 3 business days
  • All Basic Plan features
  • Federal criminal district search
  • OFAC terrorist watchlist search

Pro Plan

  • $79.95 per search
  • Turnaround time: 1 to 3 business days
  • All Preferred Plan features
  • County criminal search: Unlimited counties (up to 7 years)
  • Federal criminal district search (up to 7 years)

Best for Healthcare and Nonprofits: IntelliCorp

IntelliCorp

IntelliCorp

Intellicorp was founded in 1996 and is a PBSA-accredited background check company staffed with FCRA-certified professionals. It has an A+ rating and accreditation with the Better Business Bureau.

IntelliCorp offers pre-employment screening for employers, including employment verifications, criminal background checks, credit checks, driving record reviews, and drug screening. Where it really excels, however, is in its medical licensing checks, which screen candidates for medical fraud or abuse. It does this by referencing the National Practitioner’s Databank (DPDB) for sanctions from Medicare or Medicaid.

IntelliCorp provides background checks and add-on services for verifying nonprofit and healthcare workers in child care, senior services, or disaster recovery services, including multicounty, international screening, healthcare sanctions, credit checks, and drug tests.

IntelliCorp's user interface is straightforward, but not as modern and slick as some of the other companies we reviewed. Additionally, it lacks a mobile app and requires you to download and email forms to your candidates.

IntelliCorp integrates with a few organizations like VolunteerMatters and job boards like SmartRecruiters, but lacks simple HR and ATS integrations.

IntelliCorp offers three employment screening plans, and while there are no prices available on its website, customer reviews suggest that plans range from $20 to $100.

IntelliCorp Pricing

Standard (Good) Plan

  • Turnaround time: 1 to 3 business days
  • Social Security number verification
  • Nationwide criminal database search
  • Nationwide sex offender search
  • Unlimited single county criminal search (up to 7 years)
  • OFAC terrorist watchlist search

Enhanced (Better) Plan

  • Turnaround time: 1 to 3 business days
  • All Standard (Good) Plan features
  • Federal criminal records search
  • Employment verification

Premium (Best) Plan

  • Turnaround time: 1 to 3 business days
  • All Enhanced (Better) Plan features
  • Unlimited single county criminal search (unlimited history)

Best for Heavily Regulated States: AGoodEmployee.com

AGoodEmployee.com

AGoodEmployee.com

AGoodEmployee.com was founded in 2004 as a screening service for real estate property management companies. Since then, it has expanded to corporate and staffing agency employee background checks. An FCRA-compliant background screening provider, the company has an A+ rating and accreditation with the Better Business Bureau.

Although AGoodEmployee.com offers fewer types of background checks than other providers we reviewed, it specializes in background checks that are compliant with strict laws in states like California, New York, and Massachusetts. Due to the extra employee protections these states offer, businesses can get into a lot of trouble if they perform background checks incorrectly, and AGoodEmployee.com has the experience and service to help employers navigate this territory.

The company offers basic employee screenings, including Social Security number and address history, background checks, identity and resume validation, credit checks, and drug screens. While AGoodEmployee.com does have a decent user interface, you will need to print consent forms and have your candidates sign them manually.

AGoodEmployee.com Pricing

Basic Plan

  • $29.95 per search
  • Turnaround time: 1 business day
  • Social Security number verification
  • Criminal, sex offender, terrorist, and federal crimes search

Plus Plan

  • $49.95 per search
  • Turnaround time: 1 business day
  • All Basic Plan features
  • 1 county search
  • Social Security number fraud verification

Value Plan

  • $79.95 per search
  • Turnaround time: 2 to 3 business days
  • All Plus Plan features
  • Employment, education, and I-9 verification

What Are Background Checks?

Most people confuse a background check with searching to see if someone has a criminal record before you decide to hire them. While that kind of information is definitely vital, a background check can also involve identity verification using a Social Security number trace; non-criminal civil records searches; education, employment, and professional licensing verifications; motor vehicle record searches; drug screenings; and more.

What Are Background Checks Used For?

While many businesses would be reluctant to hire someone with a criminal record, there are some industries in which additional types of background screening might be important or even required. Not only do these screenings protect your business from litigation in the event you hire an untrustworthy or dangerous employee, they also protect your customers and the public at large.

For example, a sex offender registry check is essential for a candidate who will be working around children. If you’re a financial institution, you’d want to check a candidate’s credit history or see if they have pending litigation for fraud or bad financial practices. A company hiring drivers would want to check a candidate’s motor vehicle records and conduct drug screening. Finally, a healthcare provider would want to screen candidates for medical fraud or abuse and verify their medical licenses.

What Do Background Checks Normally Include?

A standard background check usually includes Social Security number traces and address validations; misdemeanor and felony criminal records searches at the county, state, and national levels; sex offender registry searches; and non-criminal civil records checks.

More in-depth screening can include county criminal court searches for the past seven years, education and employment verifications, motor vehicle record checks, credit checks, and professional licensing verifications.

A background check can be run at any time during the interview process. Due to the expense involved, however, most businesses wait until an applicant is a serious candidate for a position before investing in a background check.

What Are the Expected Costs a Background Check?

In our research, we discovered that most reputable background check companies charge between $30 to $200 per search depending on what types of screenings are requested. Some companies charge a one-time setup fee, which can be as much as $50. Add-ons for specific types of screenings (motor vehicle records search, professional license verification, federal criminal searches, etc.) typically cost between $10 and $20 each.

A basic $30 plan typically includes a standard national criminal record and sex offender registry search and identity verification through Social Security number tracing and address verification. Mid-range plans typically run from $50 to $60 per search and include a domestic watch list search and a seven-year county criminal court search. Top-tier plans range from $70 to $80 and add employment and education verifications.

How Do Employers Use Background Checks?

A background check is an easy way to confirm the identity and history of a candidate and to protect yourself and your business from someone with malicious or misleading intent.

A candidate must give permission to have a background check run on them. If a background check is a requirement in your application process, you are within your rights to reject their application if they refuse to consent to a check.

You must let a candidate know in writing that the results of a background check could impact your decision to hire them. If you find something in their report that makes you reconsider their application, you must give them a copy of the report so that they can see the issue for themselves. They may want an opportunity to explain or disprove the claim, but you are under no obligation to let them do so.

If you decide to hire a background check company for pre-employment screening and plan to use the information for hiring decisions, you must choose a company that complies with Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) guidelines. For added protection, we recommend you use an agency that is also accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) since they are required to abide by stricter guidelines.

How We Chose the Best Background Check Services

During our process for choosing the best background check services, we looked for companies that were FCRA-compliant, had clear and budget-friendly pricing, offered a comprehensive list of screening options bundled in standard packages or as add-ons, had an easy ordering process and easy-to-read reports, and that offered integrations with HR and applicant tracking software.

Article Sources

The Balance requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy .
  1. GoodHire. "Pricing." Accessed April 2, 2020. 

  2. Accurate Now. "Home." Accessed April 2, 2020.

  3. InfoMart. "Pricing." Accessed April 2, 2020.

  4. Backgroundchecks.com. "Pricing." Accessed April 2, 2020.

  5. SterlingNOW. "SMB." Accessed April 2, 2020.