November 21, 2020 | Automation

3 Advantages and 4 Disadvantages of DIY Background Check Automation

Note: In December 2021 SJV Data Solutions and Wholesale Screening merged to become InformData.

Consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) that consider automating some or all of their criminal background screening research face a choice: build their own automation solution or partner with an automation provider.

If your CRA finds itself in this position, rest assured, you’re on the right track. Automated background checks are an excellent business decision for several reasons (all of which we explain here). Most notably, automation can help your company scale while keeping your labor costs low.

But which is the better background screening automation option: do-it-yourself or working with a vendor?

In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of developing a background check automation platform in house.

3 reasons to create your own background screening automation platform

1. No Per-Search Cost

Background screening providers — whether they use automated tools or not — typically charge fees for each search you order. In most cases, this won’t be a concern once your DIY background check automation feed is up and running. You can, in theory, run as many checks as you like for no per-search cost.

2. Complete Control

If you have the right developers, a homegrown automation platform represents the ultimate in control over what information is reported and what is omitted. For example, if you have specific guidelines regarding the case types you’re looking for, you can set a filter to align with those guidelines (because you built the software yourself).

3. Continuity and Independence

Relying exclusively on a single vendor is always a risky move in business. Suppose the vendor goes out of business, experiences a failure of its systems, or is bought by another company. In that case, you may need to find an alternate source-- and quickly. Some of this can be mitigated by having back up vendors for this very reason.

Building your own automated background check platform puts business continuity in your company’s hands. It also puts you as close to the data as you can get, with no third-party between you and the court records.

4 reasons to use a third-party provider for background screening automation

1. Zero Development and Maintenance Costs

While third-party background check automation providers typically do charge on a per-search basis, there are many other costs associated with creating your own automation solution.

First, it involves an investment of time. Developing and testing fully-functional automated background check robots can consume a year or more. This includes the time to build the overarching architecture of the platform, as well as programming the individual bots that scrape information from court websites.

The work may involve complications to which your development team is not accustomed. For example, many courts try to block individual parties from accessing information in bulk. To get around this obstacle, your team will have to devise a way to mask your DNS address.

Maintenance costs can also accumulate. When something goes wrong with your home-built feeds or updates need to be made, you will not be able to outsource that work.

Unless your organization is big enough to dedicate a full-time team to software development and maintenance, it may be more cost-effective to partner with a third-party vendor for background check automation.

2. Access to the Most Qualified Subject Matter Experts

When we built our industry-leading background check automation product at InformData we relied on a highly experienced lead developer that had done this before, plus a team of engineers working on building the infrastructure, monitoring, programming the bots, and other critical tasks. It was hardly a one-person job.

To quality-check and refine our solution, we drew on the millions of records InformData had compiled over 20 years in the background screening industry and test known search results against the automated results we received

Does your CRA have access to the same level of subject-matter expertise and a similarly deep historical archive? If not, working with a vendor may be more efficient, reliable, and affordable.

3. Fully-Vetted Sources

Building your own automated background screening platform involves quite a bit of vetting, sifting through county-level websites to ensure each source can be counted on to provide the information you require reliably. It comes down to judging the quality of a source and knowing what to automate.

For example, some websites may only allow you to pull three years’ worth of data. Others may omit traffic cases, upper-level felonies, or non-conviction cases.

When court websites do not provide access to certain types of information, the only alternative is to send a researcher to the court itself.

However, you wouldn’t know when to assign a researcher without the historical archive or expertise to test your automated software and vet your sources properly. And therefore, you would risk inadvertently reporting bad data.

A high-quality vendor for automated background checks will have rigorous quality-control standards in place to ensure they never provide their customers with incomplete results.

At InformData, for example, we send known-positive results through a site three times a day to make sure the site is functioning correctly. If a site proves unreliable, we will step up our testing to every 15 or even five minutes.

4. Liability Protection

Anytime a CRA reports inaccurate, incomplete, non-reportable, or out-of-date information, it exposes itself to risk. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) allows candidates to dispute the findings of a background screening report. If discrepancies are found, the CRA can be subject to lawsuits and regulatory enforcement.

There are no absolute guarantees in the background screening industry. But when your business’s revenue and reputation are on the line, you want to be confident you’re working with the best, most reliable information available.

In terms of automation, that means a system that is continuously maintained, thoroughly tested, and backed by years of expertise and experience. In some cases, this may be a homegrown solution. For most, though, a proven third-party provider is the most dependable option.

Are you thinking about a DIY background check automation system? Check with us before you start development. We may be able to help you save money, time, and stress with the industry's most trusted criminal background screening solution.