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6 Tips for PIs Seeking to Offer Pre-Employment Screening

  • April 15, 2010
  • by PInow Staff

If you're looking to diversify your services as an investigator, pre-employment screening is one element you should be able to integrate into your business with relative ease. Private investigators are already highly skilled at gathering background information on subjects, which gives them an advantageous head-start when it comes to pre-employment background checks.

A booming field until recently, the practice of pre-employment screening has been hampered by the economy along with much of the rest of the private investigation industry. When companies institute hiring freezes or even downsize their workforces, there isn't much reason for them to hire private investigators to conduct background checks. As the economy recovers, though, private investigators can position their businesses to do well and even thrive once companies begin recruiting new employees. interviewed two experienced professionals who are highly knowledgeable about the pre-employment screening field, so keep reading to find out what they said about successfully adding pre-employment screening to your business.

1) Know your rules and regulations
Barry Nixon, Executive Director of the National Institute for the Prevention of Workplace Violence, stressed that pre-employment screeners should be aware of all applicable laws in order to stay within the rules while conducting background checks. If you're looking to enter the pre-employment screening field, be sure that you're well-versed in:

* Fair Credit Reporting Act (FRCA)
* Patriot Act
* Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
* Any state legislation that impacts background checks

2) Start small

Maurice Strader, owner of 1st American Investigative Agency, says the best way to get your foot in the door is to start with smaller clients. He explained that it's not possible to start out handling a huge client like Motorola, which might have 8,000 background checks for you to perform. But starting out with several clients that have 10 or 20 employees allows you to fine-tune your processes and establish best practices, so you'll be ready when the economy is improved and larger clients are searching for your services.

3) Consider recession-proof clients

Positioning yourself to grow along with the economy requires some amount of foresight, said Nixon. By anticipating which clients are unaffected by the economy or ready to grow in coming years, you can enjoy a steady flow of background check business.

"It's a matter of reading the economic tea leaves to see which companies will be doing well," Nixon said.

Nixon pointed out that the health care industry did very well in 2009, which meant that pre-employment screeners with health care clients were in high demand. He also mentioned government agencies and insurance companies as clients that usually hire at a regular pace during recessions. Strader added that banks typically hire employees even in weak economies.

4) Leverage new trends in background screening

One relatively new branch of pre-employment screening is called infinity screening, and it is a smart way for investigators practicing pre-employment screening to ride out the economy. Infinity screening is ongoing screening of current employees to ensure that the employee is still meeting the employer's standards. Because companies will always have employees, even during tough economic times, infinity screening can be a steady source of work for your business. In general, by staying abreast of new or changing services you can offer, your business will stay at the forefront of the industry.

5) Invest in new technology

New technology aimed at making background checks simpler and quicker for private investigators continues to enter the market, and your investment in this technology can give you the added firepower to compete with other top pre-employment screeners. Companies such as, TazWorks, National Background Data and FRS offer software that puts most aspects of background checks right at your fingertips.

"If you don't have sophisticated tools that are integrated as part of your employment screening process, then you will be at a serious disadvantage at competing in marketplace," Nixon said.

6) Offer comprehensive background check services

Strader's best advice for investigators looking to add pre-employment screening to their repertoire is to offer as well-rounded a selection of background screening services as possible. Potential clients may be looking for a broad spectrum of services including education verification, alcohol and drug testing, employment history verification and more.

"If you're going to get into this and you want to take this on as another means of income, try to offer a complete package for backgrounds," Strader said. "If you can offer them (clients) everything, there's no reason for them to go somewhere else."

According to Strader, the value of being able to provide a variety of services appeals to employers who might only need specific services. For example, a company may just want to verify a prospective employee's education. Or, an employer could be doing a promotional event and not require a complete background check for temporary employees. Being able to say that yes, you do offer a certain service or a complete package of services, can only enhance your business in potential clients' eyes.

Going against the grain and getting into pre-employment screening during a down economy may seem risky, but it could pay off as the economy rebounds and employers increase hiring. Even the act of diversifying your services is a business decision that strengthens your offering to potential clients. You can use the preceding tips as well as your own research to decide whether it makes sense to add pre-employment screening to your investigative business.

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