When the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) was formed in 2003 as a professional trade association for the background screening industry, the idea of an accreditation process was a central driving force in order to demonstrate that background screening was a professional endeavor. Currently, NAPBS accreditation is quickly becoming a requirement of many employers when considering a background screening provider since it is the only practical means of third party verification of the professionalism and competency of a particular screening firm. This is Trend Number 5 of the fifth annual ‘Employment Screening Resources (ESR) Top 10 Trends in Background Checks’ for 2012. To view the list of trends, visit http://www.esrcheck.com/ESR-Top-10-Trends-in-Background-Checks-for-2012.php.
Background of Accreditation Program
Each year, U.S. employers, organizations, and governmental agencies request millions of consumer reports to assist with critical business decisions involving background screening. Background screening reports, which are categorized as consumer reports, are currently regulated at both the federal and state level.
Since its inception, the NAPBS has believed that there is a strong need for a singular cohesive industry standard. Over the years, it took a lot of hard work from many very dedicated people who put the NAPBS accreditation program together on their own time, and the screening industry owes a debt of gratitude to all of those people who made the accreditation program a reality.
In April 2009, in conjunction with its Annual Conference, the NAPBS launched the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP) to serve as the industry’s primary vehicle for quality assurance, self-regulation, and public accountability. The NAPBS also formed a governing body for its new accreditation program – the Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) – to ensure firms seeking accreditation would meet a measurable standard of competence.
Governed by a set of 58 clauses divided into six sections, the BSAAP recognizes a screening company’s commitment to excellence, accountability, professional standards and continued institutional improvement. Accreditation has become a widely recognized “seal of approval” that brings national recognition to background screening organizations. To become accredited, background screening firms – also referred to as Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs) – must pass a rigorous audit of policies and procedures related to six critical areas:
- Consumer protection;
- Legal compliance;
- Client education;
- Product standards;
- Service standards; and
- General business practices.
The BSCC oversees the application process and ensures all organizations seeking accreditation meet or exceed a measurable standard of competence in these six areas. The accreditation program is open to any U.S.-based background screening company and the process takes approximately six months from submission to completion. Companies are accredited for five years and the program also includes an interim surveillance audit after three years. For more information about accreditation, visit the NAPBS website at http://www.napbs.com/.
The Need for an Accreditation Program
Every profession has to have standards, and NAPBS accreditation represents the standards for the screening industry. Without the accreditation program, employers have no real way of differentiating between providers of screening services. With it, employers have a level of assurance that a screening firm meets the stringent accreditation standards. It is just a matter of time before most employers will only want to deal with accredited screening firms.
Before the NAPBS accreditation program, employers were largely on their own when selecting a background screening firm. With hundreds upon hundreds of background screening firms to choose from, employers faced a confusing landscape of competing screening providers that made it hard to distinguish one background screening provider form another. Some background screening firms had ISO (International Organization for Standardization) certification while others had “commercial” rankings published by private “for-profit” publications, which only added to the confusion.
The problem for employers is that background screening is a critical function subject to intense legal regulation, and so the stakes are high. In 2010, the NAPBS took significant steps towards solving this perplexing problem with the creation of the BSAAP that covers all areas related to the background screening process and, most important, is professional and objective and not based upon any commercial considerations. The BSAAP advances professionalism in the background screening industry through the promotion of best practices, awareness of legal compliance, and development of standards that protect consumers.
Benefits & Challenges of Accreditation Program
The benefits of NAPBS accreditation are two fold, both external and internal. Externally, accreditation is proof positive to an employer that a background screening firm meets the accreditation guidelines. Internally, our going through the accreditation process was educational and reinforced the standards that ESR already upheld. Also, since the NAPBS mission relates to professionalism in the screening industry, and with most other professions having some sort of accreditation or licensing process, it is very important for our industry to show that we are self-regulating before government agencies seek to over control the industry – accreditation is a big part of demonstrating that we police ourselves.
The main challenge of accreditation for a background screening firm is that it requires a real commitment to spend the time needed to document policies, practices, and procedures for the auditor. However, once a background screening firm makes the commitment of time and energy to undergo a third party audit though NAPBS accreditation, it is actually a very exciting process to review each standard and document compliance. It’s also a tremendous training opportunity for all members of the company.
While every business has a number of pressing shorter term priorities, it is critical to think long term and strategically about what the future holds. In the background screening industry, the “writing is on the wall” so to speak that accreditation will be nothing less than a business necessity for a professional screening company competing in the current economic environment.
An NAPBS Accredited Company
The NAPBS Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) has formally recognized Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a nationwide background check firm headquartered in the San Francisco, CA-area – as BSCC Accredited for successfully proving compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). For more information, visit http://www.esrcheck.com/ESR-NAPBS-Accreditation.php.
To read an ‘Accredited Member Spotlight’ on Employment Screening Resources (ESR) and the article ‘Changes in Background Screening Industry Led to Need for NAPBS Accreditation Program’ in the NAPBS Journal for November/December 2011, visit http://www.napbs.com/files/journal/Nov_Dec_2011.pdf.
For more information about background screening services from ESR, visit http://www.esrcheck.com/ or call toll free 888.999.4474.
About Employment Screening Resources (ESR):
Founded in 1997 in the San Francisco, CA area, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) literally wrote the book on background screening with “The Safe Hiring Manual” by ESR Founder and CEO Lester Rosen. ESR streamlines the screening process and reduces administrative overhead though its proprietary technology solutions. ESR is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®), a distinction held by less than two percent of all screening firms. This important recognition was achieved by successfully passing a third party audit demonstrating compliance with the NAPBS Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program. By choosing an accredited screening firm like ESR, employers know they have selected an agency that meets the highest industry standards. For more information about ESR, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com or call toll free 888.999.4474.
About ESR News:
The Employment Screening Resources (ESR) News blog – ESR News – provides employment screening information for employers, recruiters, and jobseekers on a variety of topics including credit reports, criminal records, data privacy, discrimination, E-Verify, jobs reports, legal updates, negligent hiring, workplace violence, and use of search engines and social network sites for background checks. For more information about ESR News or to send comments or questions, please email ESR News Editor Thomas Ahearn at [email protected].