Getting the Most from Your Employment Screening RFP: 12 Suggestions for Maximizing ROI

Posted: April 02, 2019

employment screening rfp

By Mary Poquette; Poquette Screening Solutions, LLC

Before starting my consulting company in 2014, I worked for an employment screening company (legally defined as a “consumer reporting agency” or CRA) for over 20 years. Through those years, I had the opportunity to do most CRA jobs, including responding to employer Requests for Proposal (RFPs) – the good, the bad, and the downright ugly ones!

An RFP is a significant investment of organizational resources – whether you are creating the RFP, responding, or analyzing the response. And like any investment, you seek to maximize your return. The best way to reap RFP benefits is by carefully identifying what you need and want to know and then crafting your questions to obtain the most meaningful, objective information possible. 

Begin with the big picture. I suggest an RFP should solicit information in three categories:

  1. What products and services does the screening company deliver today?
  2. What evidence can the screening company provide to support their claims?
  3. What products and services does the screening company plan for the future?

To be clear, do not ask these three questions verbatim! They are much too broad, and you will receive dozens and dozens of pages of response (all organized differently!) from which to extract needed information. Instead, focus your questions on specifics and consider the following recommendations to get the most from your RFP efforts.

1. Provide Response Instruction for Your Employment Screening RFP

Be explicit about logistics, including as appropriate:

  • Schedule, including response due date
  • Required method of submission 
  • Confidentiality of information you are providing
  • Who to contact with questions
  • Signature of authorized company representative requirement
  • RFP response will become part of contract
  • Your standard terms and conditions; i.e., your right to withdraw RFP, response cost borne by respondent
  • Presentation requirements; i.e., submission via e-sourcing tool

2. Provide Basic Information About Your Organization 

Share basic information about your organization, including your industry and primary products and services offered. Identify your locations, including domestic and international. Identify the number of individuals screened annually and screening services, such as 1,400 background screens and 900 drug tests. The CRA needs to understand your anticipated volume to determine whether they can support your needs. 

3. Number Questions or Items for Response

This seems obvious, but number the questions. Numbered questions (not bullets) allows both you and the respondent to easily reference a particular response.

4. Clearly Identify When a Response Is Needed

Sometimes an RFP will list requirements, but not ask whether a CRA can meet those requirements. If it is a point on which a response is needed, ask a question or clarify a response is needed. 

  • Vague: “We require international background checks.”
  • Specific: “In what countries and territories outside the U.S. do you currently provide background checks?
  • More Specific: Identify the countries and territories outside the U.S. in which you currently provide background checks and the types of checks available by country.

5. Use Multi-Part Questions Cautiously

Example: “For what services do you use subcontractors and, if so, how do you select them and how do you ensure ongoing quality control?” The preceding question is actually three questions. The respondent may skip (accidentally or otherwise) answering one or more parts of the question. In the same way, you may not realize all parts of the question have not been answered.  

Consider breaking up the question so the response will be more manageable. Question 1: “For what services do you use subcontractors?” Question 2: “How do you select subcontractors and then ensure ongoing quality control?”

6. Use Standalone Yes/No Questions Only for “Must Have” Products or Services

Example: “Are you currently integrated with [name of ATS]?” Ask a yes/no question only when the lack of a specific capability will eliminate a CRA from consideration. 

Conversely, do not ask standalone yes/no questions when detail is needed. For example, “Do you provide adverse action services” may garner only a yes/no because that is what was asked. In fact, the information sought is, “Describe the adverse action services you provide, including any locations where you are unable to provide these services.” 

7. Evaluate Whether an e-Sourcing Tool Will Enhance Your Selection Process

There are many e-sourcing and e-procurement tools on the market. Keep in mind e-sourcing and e-procurement tools are designed for different purposes even though they both deal with suppliers and purchasing. E-sourcing generally consists of identifying suppliers, managing RFIs and RFPs, contracts, and supplier relationships. E-procurement is the actual ordering and purchasing of products and services from selected suppliers. 

E-sourcing tools can be very helpful, but keep in mind you are not buying widgets. Evaluate how to best use tool functionality to enhance your selection process. 

8. Consider the Response Format

Some organizations use an Excel document as a preferred format or in place of an e-sourcing tool. Apparently, this is done to facilitate easy comparison of responses by referring to a specific cell. While this may be a useful approach for pricing, a single Excel cell containing paragraphs of text does not lend itself to readability. In fact, the absence of formatting, tables, and illustrations may make a substantive review more difficult.

If an RFP must be presented in an Excel format, consider whether limiting the number of characters in the cell is appropriate for the question. For example, a question like, “Describe in detail each type of criminal record check offered including how the information is obtained and matching identifiers used” cannot be answered in 2,000 characters or less! (It is also a multi-part question which can be problematic.)

9. Involve Your Team Members Currently Handling Screening

Solicit feedback from those who are actually handling screening today. They know the pain points and can provide recommendations to enhance the current process. 

10. Seek Evidence To Support Claims

Respondents will typically claim the best service, best quality, best security, best compliance and more. (Who would say, “We’re pretty good”?) Ask for objective confirmation. Examples:

  • Quality Indicators: NAPBS Accreditation, ISO9001 Certification
  • Security Indicators: SOC II Type 2 Certification, ISO27001 Certification, Certification to the EU-US Privacy Shield Framework, Security Policy, Privacy Policy, Security Procedures Manual
  • Service Indicators: Request service awards, results of client surveys, and performance metrics. Among the metrics many CRAs can supply are: a) turnaround time by component and by report, b) unable-to-verify rates, c) answer time for incoming calls, emails and chat messages, d) first call resolution, and e) consumer disputes.
  • Compliance Indicators: Request examples of compliance-related documents such as client alerts and advisories, regular publications, and document libraries. Ask about qualifications of compliance team members such as law degrees, NAPBS Advanced FCRA Certification, privacy certifications, and ethics credentials. 

11. Ask About Current Capabilities

You may not need a particular product or service at this time, but that may change. So inquire about other capabilities to obtain a complete picture of the provider. Example: 

Which of the following do you currently provide? For each, indicate whether provided domestically and/or globally.

  • Standard background screening (criminal, employment, education, MVR, etc.)
    • Continuous monitoring
    • Driver qualification file management
  • Substance abuse testing
    • Testing types
    • Reasonable suspicion testing
    • Emergency testing
    • Program management
  • Form I-9 and E-Verify services
  • Occupational health services
  • Fingerprinting services
  • Integration services with ATS and/or HRIS systems
    • Identify current integrations by name

12. Ask About Future Development

What does the CRA have planned for future development and in what timeframe? And, ask about the last two or three product or service releases. When did they occur and what did they contain. This will give you a sense of development commitment.

For more information and a sample Request for Proposal, contact Info Cubic here or call us at (888) 925-0922. 

Mary Poquette has almost 30 years’ experience in employment screening. Prior to establishing her consultancy in 2014, she was Chief Compliance and Security Officer for a U.S.-based global screening company. Mary is a recognized industry expert specializing in compliance and process development. She holds the Advanced FCRA Certification from the National Association of Professional Background Screeners(NAPBS) and is a Certified Information Privacy Professional.