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Pre-employ Review: Best Background Check Service for Small Businesses

After much research and analysis, we recommend Pre-employ as the best employee background check service for small businesses. We chose Pre-employ from a pool of the dozens of background check services we considered. To read our full methodology and for a more comprehensive list of background check services, visit our best picks roundup page here. If you're still trying to get an understanding of what kind of background check service you need, check out our guide on how to choose a background check service

Pre-employ combines a wide variety of comprehensive and in-depth employment-screening packages with outstanding customer service.

Pre-employ, which serves small businesses through its website, MyBackgroundCheck.com, has an extensive selection of affordable background check plans. Its packages start with simple criminal background checks, while other packages offer more in-depth searches that include past employment and education verifications. There are also plans for businesses that specialize in transportation, child care, financial services and health care.

Pre-employ's background checks are available in bundles of 10 searches. So, rather than paying for background checks one at a time, you pay for a set of 10 up front. However, the checks don't have to be completed all at once, and they never expire. In addition to the bundle packages, some of Pre-employ's searches are offered in monthly subscription plans. With this option, you can conduct up to 10 searches each month. In addition to the cost of the plans, there is a one-time $25 registration fee.  Here is a breakdown of Pre-employ's plans:

Basic Business Background Check

  • Cost: $249 for a bundle of 10
  • Includes: a Social Security number search, a nationwide criminal database search and a criminal-history search in the county where the person currently lives

Employment Background Check

  • Cost: $489.95 for a bundle of 10, or $391.96 for a monthly subscription
  • Includes: Social Security number search, nationwide criminal database search, criminal searches in three counties, employment verification for the candidate's most recent job and college-degree verification

Corporate Small Business Background Check

  • Cost: $986 for a bundle of 10, or $788.80 for a monthly subscription
  • Includes: Social Security number search, nationwide criminal database search, criminal searches in every county in which the candidate has lived, two previous employment verifications and reference verifications

Basic Transportation (non-DOT regulated) Background Check

  • Cost: $539 for a bundle of 10
  • Includes: nationwide criminal database search, a country criminal search in three counties, a motor vehicle records report and a drug test

Additional plans

  • Financial services checks: in addition to the criminal searches, includes civil-court record searches
  • Child care provider checks: features a deeper criminal history search
  • Health care industry background check: includes a special search to determine if the applicant has committed any type of fraud against Medicare, Medicaid or other federally funded health care programs

Pre-employ also offers an employment-verification bundle for $149. This plan can be used in combination with any other package. For example, you can use it to add employment verifications to the basic background searches, or you can use it with the more in-depth packages to conduct more verifications than are included.

Editor’s Note: Looking for a background check service? Fill out the form below to get free quotes from our vendor partners.

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If none of Pre-employ's preset plans offers exactly what you need, the company will work with you to create a customized package. This wasn't an option at many of the other providers we examined.

One aspect of the searches we found impressive was that when conducting county criminal searches, Pre-employ has court runners visit courthouses in person to gain more details about any arrests or convictions that are uncovered. These in-person visits help ensure that everything found in the court database is accurate. This isn't a service all of the background check providers we looked into offered.

In addition to its array of background checks, Pre-employ offers several other services. Those include drug testing, which can be ordered and reviewed through the same online portal used for background checks, along with I-9 compliance and E-Verify management options.

The full list of plans, services and costs can be viewed on MyBackgroundCheck.com.

What really separates Pre-employ from its competitors is its customer service. To gauge what working with Pre-employ would be like, we called the company on several occasions posing as a small business owner looking for background-check services. Of all the companies we spoke with, Pre-employ offered, by far, the best service.

When we initially called the company, we were immediately connected to a customer service representative who walked us through all the services offered. Our questions focused on the types of searches available, the costs, how the background checks were conducted and how easy the online system was to use. The customer service rep provided clear, detailed answers and took extra time to make sure we understood everything.

In our subsequent calls, our questions were answered clearly and thoroughly. While many of the companies seemed more interested in making sure they got their message across, Pre-employ representatives took the time to hear our concerns.

In addition to answering all of our questions, Pre-employ was the only company to offer us a one-on-one demonstration of its online system. The specialist spent nearly an hour walking us through every aspect of the system, including how to request reports, how to get the candidate's authorization for the background check, how to input information for the employment and education verifications, how to check on a report's status, and how to read the final report. 

Following the demo, one of the company's managers sent an email offering to answer any follow-up questions we had. The system demo and follow-up email provided the level of detail and response you want from a company you are hiring to complete such a critical task.

If you meet a minimum requirement for monthly background checks, Pre-employ will assign you an account manager, who will be your main point of contact for any questions or concerns. If you aren't given a specific point person, the company has a large number of customer service reps and background check specialists available to help with your questions. The background check specialist we spoke with said all the company's customer service representatives are fully versed on the system and criminal records, so they can both help you understand how to use the system and answer any of your questions about the crimes that may have been flagged in your reports. When you do need help, representatives are available via telephone and email between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. (EST).

Pre-employ's online portal is very easy to use.First, you purchase the plan that fits your needs. After making the purchase online, you will receive an email requesting the name of your company and contact details, as well as additional information, such as articles of incorporation, W-9 forms and other details that allow Pre-employ to verify your business.

Once your business has been verified, which typically takes between 48 and 96 hours, a customer service representative will call to help you log in to the online portal, walk you through how the system works and answer any initial questions you may have. Through this online portal, you can request background checks, see the status of a check and review the final reports. 

Pre-employ offers two ways to request a background check. The first is a manual option in which you fill in the candidate's name, birthday, Social Security number and résumé details directly into the website. 

The second option is the "Quick Invite." With this method, you just fill out the candidate's name and email address. Pre-employ then sends the job candidate an email with a link to the system, asking them to log in and fill in all of the remaining details. This is also an opportunity for candidates to electronically sign the required consent forms that show they understand a background check is being conducted on them. This not only makes less work for you, but also puts the responsibility on the candidates to make sure all of the details they submit are accurate.

Once the required information has been submitted, the background check is immediately started. On average, each check takes about two days to complete. However, it can take longer if an employment verification is being conducted. Throughout the process, you can log in to the system to check on the status of your searches. Pre-employ also sends you an email each time a search is completed.**

When you log in to the system to view a completed report, you are immediately notified if the background check turned up any red flags. Next to each candidate, there is a green or red box. A green box means the background check came up clean, with no criminal records or employment or education verification concerns, while a red box indicates that something negative was uncovered. To get more details, you just click on the candidate's report. 

Each background check report is laid out in an easy-to-read format. As you scroll through the report, you will see results and details of each type of search that was conducted. For example, if a county criminal search was done, the status will say "clear" if nothing was found or "hit" if a criminal record was discovered. For those who have a hit, Pre-employ displays all of the particulars it found about the case, such as when the incident occurred, the exact charges and any details on those charges, whether the incident was a misdemeanor or a felony, and what the sentence was. In some cases, a mug shot will also be included.

Once you are done reading the report, you have the option of printing it out for your own records. The reports are also saved on the website for your review at any time.

The biggest drawback to using Pre-employ is that the background checks must be purchased in bundles of at least 10. Many of the other services we analyzed offered the ability to purchase individual background checks. However, we don't think purchasing 10 background checks at one time is a big inconvenience for small businesses that make at least five new hires each year, since they likely would be conducting background checks on several candidates for each position. In the end, we think that the easy-to-use system and superior customer service outweigh the downsides of purchasing the background checks up front. 

However, for businesses that plan to make only a couple of new hires a year, our choice for the best background check service for very small businesses may be a better option.

Ready to choose a background check service? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:

Editor’s Note: Looking for a background check service? Fill out the form below to get free quotes from our vendor partners.

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Chad  Brooks
Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.