If you’ve been paying attention to our blog lately, you’ll know we’re big advocates for automating criminal background checks and court research where the quality matches or exceeds in-person research.
We’ve declared that automation is the key to unlocking the growth potential of your consumer reporting agency (CRA). And we’ve pointed out that automated tools can be more efficient, more reliable, and more cost-effective than large teams of human researchers.
But how can you be sure the background screening automation vendor you choose will deliver on the promise of automation?
(For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume you’ve decided to go with an automation vendor and not develop your own automated system — or you’ve decided to replace in-house automation software that never lived up to your expectations.)
These days, most successful background screening companies prefer a consolidated supplier strategy. By working primarily with a few select vendors, you can secure the highest discounts.
So, a lot is riding on your choice of criminal record and court data vendor/s. Those providers will likely be your go-to data source for the bulk of your background screening reports.
We encourage you to shop carefully, weighing the following characteristics alongside the usual considerations, such as cost.
6 Traits That Set the Best Automated Court Research and Criminal Record Data Vendors Apart from the Rest
1. The Results Are Indistinguishable From Manual Search Results
The quality benchmark for background checks are the results a team of expert researchers is capable of producing.
You know you’re on the right track with a vendor when you can’t tell the difference between the reports the vendor provides and those you would expect from manual processes. After all, the goal is to replace or supplement the work of manual researchers with the efficiency, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness of automation.
2. High-Quality Data
Working with the wrong automation vendor can expose your CRA to unacceptable levels of risk.
For example, let’s say you ordered a background check covering seven years of felony and misdemeanor convictions, in compliance with FCRA standards. Your vendor’s automated search, however, scraped information from a county website that covered only five years of felony data. If your vendor fails to alert you to this discrepancy or doesn’t make up for it by running manual searches, your company could find itself facing a lawsuit.
3. An HTML Audit Trail
You shouldn’t have to take your vendor’s word for it when it comes to their data sources. A transparent vendor will provide you with an HTML snapshot of every page from which they extracted information. This way, if a quality issue ever arises and attorneys come calling, you will have timestamped screenshots ready to go that document the time, date, and location each record was found.
An audit trail of screenshots also enhances a vendor’s client services capabilities. When customers have concerns or questions about a result, the vendor can compare the screenshots to a new extraction and ask, “What did our processor look at in this audit trail to produce that result?” This process helps vendors isolate issues and identify educational opportunities.
4. A Hybrid Approach
What happens when court records go offline or aren’t available digitally? A good vendor will be prepared to transition seamlessly to manual researchers to provide you the records you require, regardless of the county or the circumstances.
5. Customization Options
Criminal background check information shouldn’t come in a one-size-fits-all format. Different customers require different types of information in a variety of formats. Your automation vendor should be able to customize your results according to your needs.
- Are you only interested in a specific time period?
- Do you want to exclude traffic cases?
- Do you care about dismissed misdemeanors?
A high-quality background screening automation vendor will filter the data and format it to meet your exacting specifications.
6. Years of Experience
As with any type of vendor, longevity in the background screening industry tends to signify quality.
In the grand scheme of things, the technology to scrape court websites for information has not existed that long. The most reliable vendors started developing their techniques in the earliest days of the industry, about a decade or so ago. These vendors have had time to thoroughly test their software, iron out any bugs, and build up comprehensive county databases.
At SJV Data Solutions, we’ve been automating criminal background checks longer than anyone. If you would like to learn more about how our unique combination of cutting-edge software automation and the most experienced researchers in the business can help your CRA grow, contact us here.
Do you have more questions about how background check automation works? Check out our new ebook - CRA's Guide to Background Automation.