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Cost of Pre-Employment Screening in the U.S.

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What is the actual cost of pre-employment screening? Well, the answer to this question isn’t as straightforward or convenient as some may hope. The reality is, there are many things to take into consideration before determining a somewhat stable cost, and even after such considerations, background check prices experience a fair amount of variability.

However, we will do our best to simplify background screening costs to better give employers a general idea of what to expect.

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What Affects the Cost of a Background Check?

It will come as no surprise that the primary determinant of background check cost is scope. People often think that a criminal investigation is a “one push of a button” kind of deal. This is not true. There are a number of databases, courthouses, and court types that call for unique retrieval processes. Some records can be accessed online while other records can only be obtained from the courthouse directly. A comprehensive criminal background check draws from a number of sources, each with an associated cost. Generally, the more detail requested, the more thorough (and expensive)  the criminal screening will be. 

Some data sources also charge access fees that providers will usually pass directly on to their clients. Access fees established by courts, states, DMVs, and other data providers could be anywhere from $3-$95 per search. Most of the time, these fees are unavoidable.

Is a Background Check Worth the Cost?

Perhaps this question is best answered with another question:

What is the value of a good hire?

Background checks provide employers with insights regarding the criminal history, work habits, and overall dependability of their prospective hires. These insights can be used to reduce turnover, improve productivity, and promote workplace safety. Proper background checks can certainly provide more than just peace of mind.

How Much Does It Cost to Run a Criminal Background Check?

Again, the cost of a criminal background check depends on how in-depth the search is to be and, frankly, the markups of the provider. Here are some standard searches and their associated costs (ballpark only, access fees excluded):

  • County criminal records (per county cost): $5 – $20
  • Nationwide Criminal Database Searches: $5 – $15
  • State criminal (repository) records: $9 – $20
  • Federal criminal records: $6 – $15
  • Sex offender status: $0 – $10
  • Records of terrorist activity: $0 to $5

How Much Does It Cost to Run a Motor Vehicle Background Check?

A Motor Vehicle Background Check helps employers better understand an applicant’s driving history. This check is utilized when hiring for positions where driving company vehicles or operating machinery may be necessary. Solutions are available for both DOT and non-DOT-regulated organizations and costs will vary accordingly. The average motor vehicle background check (private license) is $3 – $10. It’s important to note that these background checks will also be subject to access fees.

How Much Does It Cost to Run Verification Background Checks?

There are a number of verification products organizations can include on their employee background checks. Such products include:

  • SSN verification checks: $0–$10
  • Education verifications: $7 – $15
  • Employment verifications: $7 – $15
  • Personal reference verifications: $7 – $15
  • Professional reference verifications: $7 – $15
  • Professional license checks: $7 – $15

How Much Does It Cost to Run a Credit Background Check?

A credit background check also known as a credit check or financial record check is typically utilized when hiring for any position tasked with handling money. The average cost to run a credit background check is $5-$20.  Credit checks incur no access fees.

While credit scores are not reported for employment, the results of this check can provide insights as to how responsible the individual is with their finances.

Additional Background Check Cost Factors

The following factors can usually affect the cost of a background check:

1. Amount and Type of Information

The amount of information requested can have a major impact on the overall cost of the background check. The more information requested about a particular candidate, the higher the costs are going to be. For instance, a background check including MVR records, drug testing, credit, and criminal history is going to cost much more than a simple criminal background screening that only includes a basic database search.

When speaking about verifications, most of the data ultimately procured by a screening company is not available on any public database and requires independent verification. These products tend to add cost to background checks since they are time-consuming.

2. Access Fees

Access fees refer to the amount charged by the state, county, or data provider to access information. This fee varies depending on the state, jurisdiction, and type of information requested. Many states offer online database searches. However, many of these online sources come with a fee as well.

Typically, a statewide criminal repository access fee is between $3 and $65. MVR records access fee is between $2 and $25. Some county fees, particularly counties within the New York State Office of Court Administration (NYOCA) charge up to $95 for access. These fees are inherent to the industry and will confront all screening providers.

In short, fees vary and will depend on where a search is taking place and what information is being requested.

3. County Court Record Searches

The cost of background verification can increase depending on the number of county court record searches required. Some employers elect to supplement county searches with database information. This helps to unearth additional results about a candidate without the need to order high numbers of county searches per report. Any and all hits must then be verified with a county search later on.

Benefit Analysis

There are several background checks benefits, making them worth the cost to most organizations:

Is it worth it? Check box with yes/no

1. Peace of Mind

The costs associated with background checks are a small price to pay when considering the peace of mind they offer. Organizations can make confident hiring decisions by knowing more about their candidate’s background. This allows hiring managers to choose applicants that they know are a good fit for their company.

2. Reduced Attrition

Background checks can help organizations reduce the costs associated with employee attrition. By hiring a candidate that is the right fit, the risk of employee turnover is reduced. The US Department of Labor states that a wrong hire could cost your organization at least 30% of the employee’s annual salary.

3. Reduce Wastage

Whenever a new employee is hired, there are many costs associated with onboarding and training. Valuable resources are allocated to get the employee up to speed with operations. Wrong hires tend to affect many within the business or organization in some way or another. They can reduce the morale of coworkers and can impact the efficiency of supervisors and managers. Time spent on rectifying the poor performance of an underqualified candidate can be costly.

4. Improve Brand Reputation

Background checks act as a measure to help ensure that new hires don’t negatively impact company image. Background checks can be especially important for customer or client-facing positions. The cost of a background check is minimal when compared to the expenses associated with reclaiming brand reputation.

Peopletrail Pre-Employment backgrounds Check Costs

Peopletrail is less costly when compared to industry standards. Feel free to visit us online to learn more about our screening solutions and get a custom quote for your background check needs.

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