Universal Background Screening review

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(Image: © Universal Background Screening)

TechRadar Verdict

Universal Background Screening offers a variety of background searches to screen candidates fully prior to a hire. We appreciate that the info is verified, but are frustrated by the lack of more transparent pricing.


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    Plentiful direct support options

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    Verified information

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    Choice of searches

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    Drug testing available


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    Opaque pricing

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    Missing advanced support methods

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    No smartphone apps

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    Additional fees for drug tests at outside facilities and with some searches

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Universal Background Screening is based in Scottsdale, Arizona, and it operates as a licensed private investigation firm under the state laws of AZ (they even provide their license on their site). It offers a number of services that start with employment background checks, but also related items such as employment physical exams, physical exams, income verification and compliance management solutions. While they are 100% US based, Universal Background screening provides its services worldwide in about 200 countries- everywhere from Albania to Zimbabwe.

Universal Background Screening evaluation

Universal doesn’t publicize its pricing information, so it’s best to request a quote directly (Image credit: Universal Background Screening)

Plans and pricing

The pricing for Universal Background Screening is opaque, and not revealed on the site. Rather, business credentials need to be exchanged, and a custom quote can be provided. The price is based on the anticipated volume of use, and the package of services chosen. Needless to say, we would prefer to see some more upfront transparency in pricing that some of its competitors provide.

We searched for a price for this service, and did not find one as it is seriously opaque. However, we did find some complaints of some “Hidden drug test fees” when an applicant goes for the drug screen test, and with limited locations in a remote area goes to a less than preferred location, and the price of the test goes significantly higher than expected.

Universal Background Screening evaluation

Universal accepts candidate information through an online straightforward form that can be pre populated by your ATS (Image credit: Universal Background Screening)

How it works

After you’ve reached out to Universal Background Screening through the Contact Form, a member of staff will put together a custom screening program matched to your specific circumstances. To assemble that tailor-made program, Universal will take into account specific liabilities associated with your industry to figure out which screening services are required. 

Once you and Universal have decided which checks are relevant and you have subscribed to the company, you will be able to order background searches whenever you are about to make a hire.

Because Universal follows a paperless system and is HR-XML certified, you can place a new order with a single click from within your Applicant Tracking System (ATS) of choice. Alternatively, you can add a candidate’s details through a portal on Universal’s website.


Universal Background Screening offers a number of services to its clients. One shortcoming is that there are no smartphone apps for Universal Background Screening.

Criminal Record Search

Universal Background Screening allows you to easily search court records for previous criminal activity (Image credit: Universal Background Screening)

Criminal Record Searches from the cornerstone of the offerings. The most local one is on the county level, the so-called County Court Criminal Record Search. It covers a minimum of 7 years, and encompasses court convictions for both felonies and misdemeanors. It gets conducted on-site at the local court house, with a turnaround time of within 2 days in 97% of cases. When a conviction gets identified, it includes the relevant case number, and the other details of the case such as any prison time or fines that the court ordered, and how the applicant was identified.

Expanding the search takes us to the Statewide Criminal Search that is offered, and covers 42 states. The results vary by the state, but often include the offense, court document number, and other relevant details should a conviction be found. In some cases there is an additional charge for this search, depending on the state, from a low of zero dollars in Alabama, to a high of New York that imposes a $95 search fee.

These county and state searches often get directed based upon the addresses that the individual has lived at, both currently and previously. Sometimes, the approach needs to be more widespread, such as with an individual without accurate prior address info. Universal Background Screening has this covered as well, starting with the USA CriminalSearch, which covers “Criminal history data from statewide court repositories from 22 states and Department of Corrections records from 45 states.” This reportedly covers 94% of the US population. The search can even be expanded further with a USA OffenderSearch that covers a nationwide sex offender registry. Finally, there is USA SecuritySearch, a national security database and antiterrorism database with fourteen sources.

Another differentiation point of Universal Background Screening is that this is verified information. This means that it is not merely the results of a search of a database, which can often be inaccurate due to unconfirmed hits, particularly with a common name. Rather, these searches are a curated result, with confirmed hits that can be trusted, and “Fully compliant with Section 613 of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).”

Drug Testing

Drug testing for employment purposes is also available (Image credit: Universal Background Screening)

Beyond criminal background checks, there are also additional services available. First is the search of motor vehicle driving records, which captures data going back 36 months, and includes traffic violations, and license suspensions. Then there is the Employment Credit Report, that is tailored for employment purposes. It is a PEER (Pre-Employment Evaluation Report) from TransUnion, and gives a complete credit history to identify applicants that are potentially overextended, or not financially stable. It does not include account numbers, nor adversely affect the applicant’s credit score. Finally, there is drug testing, through a network of over 8,000 sites at SAMHSA-certified labs, that even can meet the stringent Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements.


We can sum up that options for support with Universal Background Screening are direct, but not excessively plentiful. There is a postal address, but it is doubtful how many want to receive their support that way in our modern connected times. There are also direct phone numbers, with extra kudos for being toll free, and dedicated for service, but most folks don’t really pay for long distance these days anyway. We also found a fax number, and a direct email address. The final option we found was a support portal, where you enter the required fields, and you can essentially send a message for contact, although we would criticize the shortcoming that there is no option to include an attachment, which can be useful to send a marked up screenshot to detail the difficulty encountered.

In terms of the more advanced options, there really are not any to be found. We did not find a chat box, whether live nor an automated chatbot. Nor are there any self-serve options such as a FAQ, predone articles, webinars or a community forum.

The competition

Although Universal Background Screening is our top choice for the best employee background check service, it isn’t a great option if you need to order a low volume of screenings quickly. GoodHire is a service that offers pre-made screening packages and which may be worth checking out if you don’t want to waste time setting up a customized screening system, as you have to with Universal.

Sterling is another background check provider that sells custom solutions for clients in certain industries. Depending on your sector, you may find that Sterling has services that fit better with your specific sector than Universal’s screenings do.

Final verdict

Universal Background Screening is a serious player in the search market for candidates, prior to hire. We highlight the number of possible searches, the ancillary drug screening, and the direct support options. The lack of smartphone apps is an area for improvement, and lack of more transparent pricing is frustrating, along with the hidden additional fees, such as for some searches and using an out of network center for lab testing. Still, it should be on the list to consider for organizations that need pre-employment screening of its candidates.

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Jonas P. DeMuro

Jonas P. DeMuro is a freelance reviewer covering wireless networking hardware.