Our employment background check picks for 2022

By: RAECHEL CONOVER | Fact Checked By: JAMIE OSTROE | Updated: September 29, 2022

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As a hiring manager, recruiter, and HR professional, a big portion of your job is hiring the right candidates. This typically includes some form of employment background check, but how detailed that gets depends largely on your industry and company needs. To make your job easier, we’ve compiled a list of the top employment background check services.


Our Top Picks

  1. GoodHire – Best Overall Employment Background Check Service
  2. Checkr – Best for Those Hiring the Modern/Freelance Workforce
  3. IntelliCorp – Best for Medical Workers
  4. Sterling – Best for Financial, Retail, and Non-Profit Workers
  5. HireRight – Best for the Global Workforce

Employment Background Check Reviews

We identified 24 employment background check services and narrowed it down to 5 vendors based on key features, pricing transparency, reputation, and customer service. The companies we reviewed are well known in the industry and offer a range of checks to help employers identify the best employee for the position.

Read our methodology for more information about how we selected these top picks.

goodhire logo

GoodHire – Best Overall Employment Background Check Service

No list of the best employment background check services would be complete without mentioning GoodHire. It is the most popular and highest recommended service in today’s market.

The company – recently acquired by Checkr, still operates on its own as GoodHire to rave user reviews. It exceeds others on our list for the best customer support and easy-to-use interface. Candidates can access the portal themselves, saving time on the HR end, and the interface is easily integrated with the top HR platforms.

We found GoodHire to be semi-transparent about pricing, but users argue that the ability to create custom packages depending on your volume and needs sets the company apart.

GoodHire provides the most detailed reporting of all the services on our list. Reports are thorough, timely, and accurate on all levels of checks.

Pros
  • Ability to create custom screening packages
  • Best reviews for customer service
  • Provides the most detailed reporting
  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Focused on compliance
Cons
  • Semi-transparent on price and packages

GoodHire features

  • Basic employment background checks – GoodHire offers a large variety of checks and screenings. To help you decide what checks you need done, the company provides an extensive library of background check recommendations based on industry. You select what you need checked, and a custom package and pricing are created for you.
  • Additional employment background checks – Many add-ons are available, including healthcare and medical field screening, criminal background checks, and more.
  • Turnaround time – GoodHire is reported to have excellent turnaround times. Identification and criminal checks take a minute or less, while other screenings take longer.
  • Integrations – GoodHire has 24 HR applications it integrates with, plus an extremely easy-to-use candidate interface.
  • Accreditations – GoodHire is accredited by the PBSA and provides education on the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

What markets does GoodHire serve?

GoodHire works for all industries and sizes, making it a great choice if you don’t know which one to pick. The resource library is packed with detailed information for each industry, while the learning curve to the portal and software is low.

Read our full GoodHire review

checkr logo

Checkr – Best for Hiring Freelance Workers

Checkr recently acquired GoodHire and is an AI-powered employment background check company. The standout feature of Checkr is that it allows HR professionals to mass-invite candidates to fill out the employment background check applications. This is extremely useful for those hiring in high turnover fields and working with freelance and contract workers.

The mobile and automated platform is easy for candidates and hiring managers to navigate. Customer reviews point out that it is extremely user-friendly, the customer support is exceptional, and the software makes the hiring manager’s job that much easier.

Pros
  • Ability to mass invite applicants
  • Easy to use AI-powered platform
  • Works for full-time and contract workers
  • Transparent pricing
  • 15-minute to 24-hour turnaround times
Cons
  • Occasional delays in turnaround times

Checkr features

  • Basic employment background checks – Checkr includes several levels of background checks. The basic level provides SSN tracing, sex offender list check, global watchlist check, and a scan of the national criminal database.
  • Additional employment background checks – The step up from the basic package is the essential package. This includes a criminal check by country with unlimited countries. The next level is professional, which includes employment and education verification. There are also several levels of international checks beyond the main three.
  • Turnaround time – Checkr is fast, and the company website states that 84% of background checks are completed within 24 hours, while third-party sites have reported results within 15 minutes.
  • Integrations – Checkr provides an extensive list of 28 HR and ATS partners for easier integration. They also partner with industry-specific platforms to support high turnover industries such as food service and hospitality, among others.
  • Accreditations – Checkr carries several accreditations, including PBSA and the Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC).

What markets does Checkr serve?

The modern workforce includes freelance and contract workers and companies that experience high turnover rates like Uber.

Read our full Checkr review

intellicorp logo

IntelliCorp – Best for Medical Workers

IntelliCorp provides employment background checks for various professions, including healthcare workers, pre-employment screenings, and volunteer and tenant checks. The company prides itself on giving hiring managers a full 360 accurate view of their potential hires.

The most notable feature for IntelliCorp is the extra checks they perform for those entering a healthcare position. The service will check licenses, screen for medical fraud, and search for Medicare and Medicaid sanctions for these positions.

Users admit that there is a learning curve to using IntelliCorp’s software, but the company does a good job walking you through it and providing customer service when needed. Once you figure out the software and process, it’s easy to repeat and scale.

Pros
  • Multiple screening options for medical workers
  • Very strong compliance emphasis including compliance training
  • Three to five day turnaround time
Cons
  • No mobile app
  • Pricing only available by quote

IntelliCorp features

  • Basic employment background checks – On the basic level, IntelliCorp offers pre-employment screening in three levels starting with identification screening, criminal checks, and sex offender checks.
  • Additional employment background checks – Beyond the basic service, there are also enhanced and premium pre-employment levels, including education, employment, and reference checks. For the healthcare field, the advanced levels include license checks, medical fraud, Medicare and Medicaid sanctions, and professional reference checks.
  • Turnaround time – While IntelliCorp doesn’t turn employment background checks around within minutes, it does boast a modest three to five-day business turnaround time on most background checks.
  • Integrations – As far as integrations go, the options are very limited here. This was one area IntelliCorp scored the lowest in our ranking.
  • Accreditations – IntelliCorp is PBSA accredited.

What markets does IntelliCorp serve?

IntelliCorp is one of the best employment background check services for the healthcare industry. Their services include various checks specific to the industry, from verifying licenses to checking for medical fraud.

sterling logo

Sterling – Best for Financial Services, Retail, and Non-Profits

If you want to ensure a safe working environment – always important, but most important for customer-facing establishments like retail, then Sterling is the right service for you.

Sterling excels in criminal background checks useful for financial positions, non-profit workers, and retail. On the basic level, Sterling provides a one-county criminal records search, but it’s the levels beyond that truly stand out. At the preferred level, you get a federal criminal district search and a check within the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) for terrorist activity. On the pro level, you get a seven-year federal district criminal record search.

Sterling also offers a service called SterlingNOW, which is slightly higher priced but uses a proprietary service called CourtDirect, which completes 70% of criminal checks within an hour and 90% within a day.

Users find Sterling a reliable and easy-to-use platform, many reporting using it for years without complaint. Several users say the company is very good about updating the programs to keep up with the growing and changing workforce demands.

Pros
  • Multiple criminal background check options
  • Less than 24 hours for the basic checks
  • Higher-level CourtDirect criminal checks
  • Transparent pricing
Cons
  • Basic level is too basic

Sterling features

  • Basic employment background checks – The basic level of Sterling’s service isn’t much to write home about. The company offers a very basic SSN trace, a single county criminal record search, a multiple state criminal record check, and a check on the national sex offender site.
  • Additional employment background check – The next level up – the preferred level is where it’s at. This level gets you a federal criminal record and terrorist search, and the third level, the pro level, gets you a 7-year federal district criminal check. Sterling also has a service called SterlingNOW which costs slightly more and uses a CourtDirect service to expedite criminal background checks – 70% are completed within the hour, while 90% within a day.
  • Turnaround time – Sterling states that most of their basic checks are performed within 24 hours, while the other levels take longer, although how long is a bit vague.
  • Integrations – A cloud-based service, Sterling partners with over 30 HR service providers to make integration quick and easy.
  • Accreditations – Sterling is PBSA accredited.

What markets does Sterling serve?

Sterling prides itself on being one of the best employment background check services for quick and in-depth criminal record checks. This is helpful in several industries, including retail, financial, and non-profit.

hireright logo

HireRight – Best for Global Employment Background Checks

HireRight is perfectly positioned as a global employment background check service. With support in 22 languages throughout 200 countries and territories, companies that operate on a global scale can easily do all their employee background checks through one stand-alone portal that includes mobile capabilities.

If integration is high on your list of priorities, HireRight does that too. It has a list of 10 industry-leading HR services and ATS providers it integrates with.

Users find HireRight thorough and accurate, with easily accessible customer service for any hiccups that occur along the way.

Pros
  • Integrates with 10 HR and ATS providers
  • Single platform to manage and track applicants
  • Global reach
Cons
  • Price only available by quote
  • Unknown turnaround times

HireRight features

  • Basic employment background checks – HireRight includes one of the most comprehensive lists of checks. You can choose based on your unique hiring needs, but the basic check includes screenings such as employment history, criminal record, credit history, academic verification, identification checks, professional qualifications and memberships, financial checks, and directorship.
  • Additional employment background checks – HireRight boasts 150 employee background screenings to choose from in 22 languages in over 200 countries.
  • Turnaround time – HireRight doesn’t come out and state a specific turnaround time – it just says real-time results as they are made available; however, when pressed, the typical time frame is ten to 15 business days. This is the slowest on our list.
  • Integrations – HireRight is known to integrate easily with the top industry HR and ATS service providers. Their list of partners includes ten of the key industry players.
  • Accreditations – HireRight is accredited by many services. Their list of accreditations includes PBSA, the APAC Chapter of PBSA, the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA), and the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP).

What markets does HireRight serve?

HireRight provides extensive checks and customer support to the global workforce in over 200 countries and territories.

Read our full HireRight review

Compare the best employment background check companies side-by-side

Software name Why we picked It Starting price for cheapest plan Highlights
GoodHire Best Overall $29.99 Covers a wide range of industries with a resource library full of information on what is needed for each.
Checkr Best for the Freelance Workforce $29.99 Ability to invite mass applicants to fill out the background screening paperwork at once.
IntelliCorp Best for Medical and Healthcare Workers Price available upon request In-depth screenings specific to the healthcare field.
Sterling Best for Retail, Finance, and Non-Profits $29.95 Expedited and thorough criminal check through CourtDirect.
HireRight Best for a Global Workforce Price available upon request Single platform to manage and track applicants globally, with easy integration.

What are employment background check services?

Employment background check services help you verify that the person applying for your open position is who they say they are and is qualified for the role. According to SHRM, employment background checks are a way to secure information about the potential hire that doesn’t come from themselves.

A check generally includes looking for a criminal record, driving violations, poor credit history, and confirming education and work history. Beyond this, there are many other in-depth checks you can opt to run. This all cumulates to ensure you make the best hire possible for your open position.

Who uses employment background checks?

  • Recruiters
  • HR Managers
  • Employers

What does an employment background check do?

  • Pre-employment screening ensures that the pool of applicants is qualified.
  • Verifies applicants’ identity, criminal records, and more.
  • Ensures the applicant is who they say they are and possesses the right qualifications. Also performs screenings on current employees such as drug screenings.

Legalities of employment background check services

Because you are digging into a person’s very personal history, legal requirements come along with running an employment background check. The best way to cover your bases when running a check is to use an accredited service. This ensures they follow the legal sanctions required in all background checks.

The Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) is one of the best accreditations to look for in these services. According to ScreeningIntelligence.com, this accreditation means, among other things, that the service complies with the FCRA, which regulates privacy rights regarding investigative consumer reporting.

How much do employment background checks cost?

Employment background check services typically start around $29 per check. This generally covers very basic checks such as identification verifications, a quick criminal record check, and a sex offender list scan. More in-depth checks cost up to $80 per screening for things like criminal records in unlimited countries going back seven years or more, education and employment history checks, and even license checks and fraud checks for those in fields like healthcare.

Who should use employment background checks, and what are the different types?

Employment background checks are used by almost every business to ensure that the candidate they hire possesses the correct qualifications for the job and is a safe person to have in their place of work. Recruiters, HR managers, and employers use these checks to vet applicants and, when the need arises, screen current employees – such as routine drug screenings.

There are many good employment background check services on the market, but some might fit your specific industry better depending on the specific checks you need to run. Others might be a better fit based on the applicants you are dealing with.

The following are the types of checks our selected services run:

  • Social Security Number Trace
  • International and National Criminal Database Search
  • Sex Offender Registry Search
  • Global and Domestic Watch List Search
  • Country Criminal Court Search – 7 years
  • International and National Education Verification
  • International and National Employment Verification
  • Professional License Verification
  • Drug Screening
  • Healthcare Sanctions Search
  • Medical Fraud
  • Motor Vehicles Records Search

It’s important to research and know what each service offers. For example, if you are hiring healthcare workers, IntelliCorp is a great option because it can perform additional checks specific to the medical field. With its advanced CourtDirect feature, Sterling is a great option for retail, financial, and non-profit workers where singling out those with a criminal history is of the utmost importance.

Other services that hire based on the type of applicant are also something to consider. Checkr, for example, with the ability to invite mass applicants to the background check platform, is a top option for companies hiring contract and freelance workers or companies like Uber with high turnover rates. HireRight is an excellent option for international and multinational companies.

Finally, a good all-around pick if you are hiring for a range of industries is GoodHire. The service can check multiple industries and educates you on the checks you should perform per industry

Key questions to consider

Employment background check services can verify basic to in-depth information about the applicant. It can also search for things like criminal activity or sex offenders. How deep you need to dive into your applicant’s personal history is up to you and the requirements of the position.

Employment background check services can also integrate with your HR and ATS software and give you and the applicant access throughout the process. Before choosing which employment background check service to use, ask yourself these questions to identify your exact needs:

  1. What industry are you hiring for?
  2. How many employment background checks do you need to run?
  3. Is the company you’re considering accredited by the NAPBS?
  4. What is your budget?
  5. Do you need a service that is ATS and HR compatible?
  6. What type of applicants are you working with? National, international?

Employment background check FAQs

What do employers look for in a background check?
Employers look to background checks to provide details on an applicant that does not come directly from the applicant. Items checked range from basic identification checks to detailed education and employment histories to criminal behavior.

What is the most common background check for employment?
At the most basic level, a background check verifies an applicant’s identity, checks for criminal activity, and searches the sex offender database.

What background checks do most employers use?
Employers pick employment background check services based on the industry they are hiring for, the volume of checks they need to run, and the type of applicants they’re working with.

What is the best place to get a background check?
Where you get a background check is dependent on what service your potential employer uses. Our five picks are all excellent choices to get employment background checks done.

How we chose the best employment background check companies

We curated a list of 24 employment background check services on the market and identified 15 popular vendors with significant online search volume to narrow our focus. From there, we chose five vendors that stood out for features offered, brand reputation, pricing transparency, and customer service.

We collect information from vendors and verify it through:

  • Customer reviews
  • Vendor and parent company websites

We scored companies on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) across the following criteria, each worth 25% of our total score:

  • Variety of features: We looked for services that offered quick turnaround times on employment background checks, the PBSA accreditation, a basic level background check, additional checks, and what HR and ATS software integrations it offered. A company scores higher when it offers all these features because it means a more streamlined, accurate, and straightforward experience for employers, recruiters, and HR managers.
  • Pricing transparency: We not only compare actual pricing for each employment background check service but also assess how readily available this information is. Companies that are straightforward and list their price per background check online scored higher in this section than companies that require you to request a price quote.
  • Customer support: We looked for companies that offered multiple avenues for customer support, from live chats to email to a readily available customer service line. We also included a resource library under this feature as it is a quick and easy way for customers to find answers and support independently. Services that covered all these bases scored higher in this section.
  • Brand reputation: We poured through customer reviews and ratings from trustworthy third-party review sites and compiled a percentage rating based on these reviews to get a sense of each vendor’s reputation with its customers.