What Does Certified Background Screening Even Mean?

When evaluating background screening services, one piece of advice you'll often hear is this: Choose a vendor that's been accredited by the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA).

But what does accreditation even mean? And why should you care? Below, we discuss four reasons why PBSA accreditation matters.

Note: Sometimes you'll hear people refer to PBSA-accreditation as "certified background screening" or "background check certification." People often use the terms "accreditation" and "certification" interchangeably, but the terms are not synonymous. The PBSA issues accreditation to companies, not certification.

Certifications can be held at the individual level and are granted to people who have passed an FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) certification course. An important caveat, however: Certified personnel can work at non-accredited screening firms. Make sure you ask for clarification!

1. PBSA accreditation signals high quality in an incredibly competitive arena.

And when we say competitive, we mean competitive! Employee screening is a multi-billion-dollar industry with over 2100 companies that offer background check services.

Having a reliable way to separate the wheat from the chaff is necessary, and PBSA accreditation goes a long way in doing exactly that. If you keep your list of potential background check vendors to only PBSA-accredited companies, you'll have a much smaller—and more focused—list to work from.

The PBSA accreditation will provide you with an incredibly strong baseline as well—one you can have confidence in. Instead of having to figure out if a background check company is legit or qualified, you can see if the company has received accreditation. PBSA-accredited vendors meet specific standards of excellence (more on this below). This allows you to focus on other things that matter to your organization, such as candidate experience or ATS integrations.

2. The PBSA is well respected within the background check industry.

Founded as a non-profit trade organization in 2003, the PBSA says that it "exists to advance excellence in the screening profession." Read that line again. When excellence is an organization's main mission, we consider that a good thing!

In addition, the PBSA's Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP) is widely recognized as the gold standard. Background screening firms that achieve accreditation have demonstrated their commitment to "achieving excellence through high professional standards with accountability that results in continued institutional improvement."

3. The PBSA's accreditation is rigorous, thorough, and unbiased.

The PBSA doesn't hand out "vanity" accreditations. This is the real deal. In order to become accredited, the background check company is put through its paces. There's no automatic "in."

As the PBSA explains, "To become accredited firms must demonstrate initial and ongoing compliance with the accreditation standard as prepared by the Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC). Compliance is demonstrated through rigorous desk and on-site audits, all of which are completed by an independent third-party auditor. Firms must document each of their policies and processes as required in each of the areas within the Standard and demonstrate visible compliance with their policies to the auditor."

Regarding the potential for bias, the PBSA addresses this in its FAQs: "Applicants are presented to the BSCC in a 'blind' process. Upon receipt at the PBSA office, each application is assigned a unique identifying number containing a combination of letters and numbers which is used on all subsequent audit letters, votes, discussions or other matters presented to the BSCC."

Simply put: If a background check vendor achieves accreditation, it's because the vendor is worthy of the distinction.

4. The PBSA accreditation isn't a lifetime accreditation (and that's a good thing).

Accreditation lasts for five years, and interim surveillance audits occur prior to reaccreditation. That’s right, RE-accreditation. Firms need to go through the accreditation process again in order to remain accredited. In other words, a background check vendor can't simply rest on its laurels. It needs to commit itself to excellence over the long haul rather than a short-term effort to gain accreditation.

Bottom line: Working with an PBSA-accredited vendor will offer you peace of mind.

The peace of mind comes from knowing that an independent organization with a deep understanding of the screening industry has already evaluated and accredited the vendor.

Keep in mind that if a background check vendor is accredited, it will likely display the accreditation on its website (check footers, headers, and the "about us" section). Or you can search the directory of PBSA-accredited firms.

And in case you were wondering, yes—Good Egg is a PBSA-accredited firm! Give us the opportunity to show you why. Let's chat about your employment screening needs.


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Danielle Deutsch

Posted by Danielle Deutsch

Danielle is the Senior Digital Marketing Coordinator at Good Egg & Foley Services. In her spare time you can find her either visiting an aquarium, enjoying a Broadway show or competing in a Crossfit competition.

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