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January 30, 2024 | CRA Advice

Are Hidden Hands Holding Your Reputation? Why Researcher Testing Matters

Note: This is part of a blog series about the critical role a background screening data provider plays in the success of your organization and the importance of thoroughly evaluating key areas of your potential partners. In this blog, John Hanks, InformData’s Director of Vendor Partnerships, shares his insights on the importance of rigorous researcher testing processes.


You made a commitment to your clients: speedy results, quality data, and customized formatting. These promises fuel your Consumer Reporting Agency's (CRA's) reputation and drive your success. But delivering on all three of those promises, especially with a tangled web of third-party vendors, can be difficult.

The culprit? Sheer geographical sprawl. Criminal records aren’t neatly centralized; they’re scattered across countless jurisdictions, far beyond your direct reach. So, you lean on third-party data providers, making their quality and performance your own. This is why your choice of data provider is so critical. It’s not about just finding the cheapest option but protecting your brand and honoring your promises. If their procedures for researcher performance are flimsy, you could receive unreliable data, leading to missed deadlines, frustrated clients, and potentially bad hiring decisions.

Evaluating your data providers' researcher quality is critical. Who are the hands behind the data you receive? Are they rigorously vetted and continuously evaluated? Researcher testing procedures aren’t a “nice to have”; it’s a make-or-break requirement to ensure you can meet your client’s demands.

Why Rigorous Researcher Testing is Crucial

Conducting thorough background checks requires covering thousands of jurisdictions across the country. While the easiest method of performing criminal record checks is utilizing automation, unfortunately, not all jurisdictions are automatable. Researchers play an important role in filling this gap.

I’ve found that most criminal background data providers typically employ very few – if any – full-time researchers (unless they’re a direct-source data provider… more on that later). Instead, they pay local, regional, or national third parties to conduct the research on their behalf. The quality standards and processes of third-party criminal background researchers can vary wildly, so background screening data providers must implement robust vendor/researcher testing processes to ensure the highest quality data, fast turnaround times, and enhanced customer satisfaction. This assessment is a critical component in ensuring the reliability, security, and compliance of services provided by external partners.

Consider these scenarios:

  • The data provider only cares about getting the best deal, so they utilize the cheapest-priced researchers they can find and conduct no testing. The result in this scenario could be very poor quality, consistency, and turnaround time.
  • The data provider tests the researcher initially to ensure they can do the job but doesn’t perform ongoing, regular quality testing. In this scenario, quality can dwindle over time due to employee turnover or lack of ongoing monitoring.

Unvetted third-party researchers can pose many risks, such as security vulnerabilities that compromise sensitive data and inaccurate or incomplete data, leading to flawed decisions and even legal repercussions. Ultimately, the consequences can result in eroding trust and tarnished brand reputation.

These risks highlight the importance of a data provider who invests in robust vendor/researcher testing processes. It's about ensuring the highest quality data, service, and consistency. And it’s up to you to make sure your choice of partner can deliver.

Direct-Source Data vs. Third-Party Maze

While researcher testing is crucial, some data providers go the extra mile. Consider seeking a partner who utilizes a direct-source approach, eliminating the layers between you and the data you need. In other words, minimizing the reliance on third-party vendors. This ensures greater transparency (you know exactly where your data comes from), unmatched turnaround times (direct access to data sources means fast results), and consistent customization (better control over the data and formatting, allowing you to meet your client’s specific needs consistently).

Data providers that use a direct-source methodology are rare, but the advantages are irrefutable. No more worrying about the third-party hands behind your data or the consistency and accuracy of your services. Embracing direct-source empowers you to deliver on your promises and become the gold standard of reliability and client satisfaction.

InformData’s Approach

At InformData, we developed a three-tiered approach to criminal records research, stemming from our mission to get CRAs as close to the original data sources as possible (aka Direct-Source Data®). Our strategy encompasses background screening automation, our proprietary research network, and certified third-party research partners. Approximately 90% of county-level court data in the U.S. is covered through our Direct-Source automated court research solution and proprietary network.

Our primary research network comprises researchers who work exclusively for InformData. They undergo rigorous certification programs and are subject to ongoing monitoring and evaluation to ensure productivity, accuracy, turnaround time, and other key metrics.

The remaining 10% are areas where automation isn’t possible or up to standard, and full-time researchers are impractical. We partner with reliable, highly qualified, fully vetted third-party researchers in these jurisdictions. Each third-party researcher undergoes a thorough certification process and regular quality testing, ensuring adherence to our standard screening guidelines and our criteria for responsiveness, accuracy, and turnaround time. Our Quality Assurance Team meticulously reviews all results to ensure consistency and quality of the data.

We prioritize rigorous researcher testing and collaborate only with those who share our commitment to preventing errors, minimizing turnaround time, and serving our customers with thoroughness, adaptability, and transparency.

Evaluate Your Data Provider

Don't settle for anything less than the best when it comes to your background screening data. When evaluating your current or potential data partner, ensure they utilize vetted and certified researchers and have rigorous researcher testing and quality assurance processes in place. Ask questions like:

  • Do they utilize vetted and certified researchers?
  • What testing procedures are in place?
  • How do they monitor and maintain the quality of research?

The answers to these questions help you choose the right data provider for your CRA. This ensures that potential risks are mitigated and the data provided is reliable, secure and compliant, ultimately safeguarding your business and reputation In the process.

Up Next: In the next part of this weekly blog series, Nick Kelland, InformData’s Chief Technology Officer, will explore the importance of your data provider having cybersecurity and data security practices in place.

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