Job applications and postings contain many important details for applicants to consider. One phrase that individuals might encounter is “third-party background check.” A business may say that an applicant should expect to pass such a check to get a job. Is this process different from a regular background check? What does it mean, and why do employers use them? Here’s our quick look at the essential answers to those questions.

This phrase might sound confusing, but in fact, it’s very simple. In the context of a hiring process, a “third-party background check” takes place when an employer turns to outside help. In other words, it’s a type of employment screening provided to the business as a service.

Most employee background screening is run through a third-party company. Generally, employers lack the time and resources required to conduct every check themselves. Some may not know how to conduct background checks at all. Thus, they rely on professional help to get the job done.

Many background checks include information that is part of the public record. Criminal records are not available only to official screening companies. There is no special access necessary to look up criminal records. Instead, most records exist at county courthouses and in state databases. With the right information, most employers could order that data on their own time. Much of this information is also available online, too.

Are third-party background check companies necessary?

Some employers believe they can bypass third-party services and run background checks independently. This is particularly common in smaller businesses. When you have fewer than a dozen employees at any one time, scale may not be an issue. A business owner might have the time to invest in individual screening. Others may think that a Google search of the applicant and a look at social media will suffice.

However, thoroughness requires a more involved background check process. Simply visiting a local courthouse might not yield all the information you need. Likewise, a Google search or attempted social media background check won’t tell you much. A thorough background check looks at many elements, including public records. A criminal history check is just one part of the process. When it comes to the kind of background check companies use, it may include some or all these elements:

Doing all these steps for a new hire can take time for a hiring manager. Now, imagine that you need to handle dozens of candidates continuously. The work quickly stacks up. At scale, running a background check entirely in-house can prove problematic. It can take too much time and cost your business too much money.

Hiring a background check company for screening can save time and money. There are other benefits, too. Consider why most companies opt to use third-party reference checkers and screeners.

What background check companies bring to the table

Third-party background check companies offer valuable expertise and resources. As a company’s hiring needs increase, so do the burdens on HR staff. HR must be able to focus on mission-critical tasks while also operating cost-effectively. A business may not have the time or money to invest in developing in-house screening procedures.

In contrast, background check companies build their business on the processes and policies needed to provide useful reports. These professional teams and the supporting tools can complete screening tasks much faster. In many cases, they also have access to unique, proprietary resources that employers can’t access. Consider the US OneSEARCH as an example.

The US OneSEARCH is a multi-jurisdictional reporting tool. Using this product lets you cast the widest possible net for criminal records associated with your applicant. How? The US OneSEARCH relies on our own database of more than 650 million criminal records. We meticulously compile records from state and local court systems nationwide. We also keep these records updated as frequently as possible.

For employers, such resources offer a very valuable resource. They provide a more comprehensive view of a potential employee than a single courthouse record check. An employer handling screening in-house would need to order many reports from different courts to screen someone thoroughly. That process adds up in time and court fees. Third-party solutions such as the US OneSEARCH provide a more cost-sensitive approach.

Managing compliance

Background check companies can also provide resources and support for legal compliance. Background checks are a regulated type of consumer report. As per the Fair Credit Reporting Act, anyone using these tools for employment must follow some rules. These include gathering applicant consent and providing key legal disclosures. Employers who don’t follow these guidelines carefully expose themselves to possible legal risks.

Other rules, such as local “ban the box” or “Fair Chance” ordinances, may also impact how you run your checks. A trusted provider can provide essential insights and educational resources for maintaining compliance. At, we also support our partners in achieving FCRA compliance. Our applicant self-entry program prompts users to answer FCRA-related questions. If they haven’t received the appropriate documents, we will provide them.

With compliance support, companies can rely on third-party screening with peace of mind.

How a third-party background check works in practice

Using third-party background checks is a straightforward process. This effort usually begins with creating an account with a provider such as You can then set up your own self-entry program or order background checks as needed. What’s a third-party check looking for on your behalf? Most employers want to know about any relevant criminal records. Potential falsehoods on an applicant’s resume are also possible red flags.

To get started, you’ll need to provide some information about applicants. This usually includes their name and date of birth. A Social Security number won’t return criminal records but does help verify identity. Explore our background check products in depth to learn more about how these solutions work.

Building a better screening process for your business

A “do it yourself” approach to background checks is a challenge for all but the smallest companies. Even then, there are potential risks to navigate. Incomplete information, compliance failures, and other issues could complicate your process. A third-party background check performed by a professional team is the answer. Discover what’s possible with proven support from our products today.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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