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What should employers ask from their background check vendors?

Key Takeaways :

  • Not all background check companies provide the same level of service – and it’s important to find a vendor that aligns with your Fair Chance goals

  • Some vendors can implement relevancy matrices to narrow the background check results to job-relevant conviction types

  • Most vendors can limit the look-back period on background checks (ie. return results from the past five- or seven-years rather than the full conviction history)


A background check is the process that employers use to verify that an individual is who they claim to be, and most often concerns the candidate’s conviction history, education background, employment history, and other activities. While background checks can be helpful to confirm facts and gather information about a job candidate, the results of a background check can also cause unwanted bias in the hiring process.

Perhaps the most effective practice in Fair Chance employment is limiting the use of background checks so only job-relevant convictions histories appear. This is also important to maintain compliance with local and state laws requiring such limitations. But implementing this practice requires partnership with a background check provider that has the capacity and sophistication to customize results.

In the summer of 2022, Envoy interviewed 15 popular background check companies to determine if and how vendors can customize background checks according to employer needs. By pre-determining a few key factors, such as look-back periods, conviction-to-job relevance, and the exclusion of arrest records, many vendors can work with employers to narrow the results of the check and limit potential bias in the hiring process.

While background check vendors follow a fairly consistent process, vendors have distinct abilities to customize their searches depending on an employer's requests. Of the 15 vendors interviewed, 12 indicated that they would be able to narrow the “look-back” period beyond simply complying with local state laws. Meanwhile, only five vendors were familiar with relevancy matrices and were comfortable implementing them for their clients, though some would charge an extra fee. Additionally, only one vendor was not able to eliminate arrest records from the results of a background search. Every other vendor either did not provide any arrest records, or could remove arrest records upon the employer's request. In total, five background check vendors indicated they could remove arrest records, implement limited look-back periods, and utilize relevancy matrices.

Because the capabilities of background check providers vary so widely, it is important for employers to be asking the right questions of their vendors. Here are three questions to ask your background check provider :

  • Can you eliminate arrest records on request?

  • Can you limit the look-back period on a background check?

  • Can you customize a search based on the relevancy of convictions or conviction categories designated by the employer

For more on how to evaluate prospective background check vendors, download our background check assessment scorecard here :

Background Check Vendor Scorecard
Download PDF • 106KB



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