In part one, we took a look at some of the key questions that will help you outline your fingerprinting needs before sourcing a private vendor. This follow-up piece will provide an overview of major points to consider while making that selection of the right fingerprint vendor.

Know Your Options

Depending on what your research has uncovered, your options for choosing a vendor can vary at this point. In some cases, you may not have any option as the governing agency has contracted with one preferred vendor and you are forced to use them if you want to remain compliant. Others may have a list of approved vendors from which you may choose or it may be that anything goes as long as the prints are received by the correct party.

If you do have a choice, make sure to consider the following questions before you commit to a vendor:

  • Can they do what you need? If you are selecting from an approved list, this may not be in question as much, but it is always better to confirm first before you find out that you wasted money on something you cannot use. Whether the prints were sent to the wrong agency or background check results were returned in a form that is not accepted for the purposes required, the likely outcome is that you will be paying for a fresh set of prints all over again.  
  • How do you register and pay for the service? This can vary from fingerprint applicants being able to walk in off the street and pay cash for printing on the spot to your company needing to sign an agreement to set up an invoiced account so your applicants can schedule appointments online. Your needs will particularly depend on how frequently you will need these services and how much you want to leave up to the person being fingerprinted. Is online or phone pre-registration required and, if so, is the fingerprinting by appointment only? Does payment need to be made in advance or do applicants pay at the time of the printing? You might also look into whether there are account set-up options with the vendor that would allow you to handle any or all of this for the applicants so that they need only show up at the right time and place with clean hands.
  • Where are they located? If you have many employees going through this process and they are not all in one place, you want to make sure that your vendor has locations that are convenient to everyone. Keep in mind that many vendors only collect fingerprints during regular business hours, so your employees may need to leave work to have it done and the farther they have to go, the more time they are away from the office.
  • What do they charge? As mentioned earlier, a portion of the cost often goes to the state or federal agency and you do typically pay that amount to the vendor along with whatever they decide to charge for their services, so make sure to subtract that agency fee when comparing pricing. Some vendors may offer reduced rates to client companies that anticipate a very high annual volume of fingerprinting. You also want to be sure to ask about other fees. If appointments are required, it is very possible that other charges may apply every time an applicant is late, misses an appointment, or decides to reschedule with short notice. There may also be maintenance fees to keep a client account active with some vendors.
  • How can you follow up? Depending on the specific process required, the vendor’s involvement beyond collecting the prints may be minimal, but you want to know that you can follow up with them if any issues arise from either the quality of the collection (some fingerprints are “rejected” as illegible and most vendors should offer free collection of a new set) or technical problems with an electronic submission (do they have a means of confirming that the submission went through or re-submitting if the agency didn’t receive anything).

Another option that is sometimes available (for DOD contractors who need printing for the SWFT program, for instance) is to buy your own fingerprint scanning hardware. If this form of collection is allowed by the requiring agency, the obvious advantages are convenience and control. As you might imagine though, this is not a cheap option. It should only be considered if you expect to have a very heavy and regular volume of applicants needing prints and they are all local to the office where the hardware will be kept. Other downsides include the fact that you will need to have staff trained and available to handle fingerprint collection and you may still need to employ a vendor for some electronic submission requirements.

Education is Key

Once you have made a choice and are ready to begin using your vendor’s services, there is still one last crucial step: keep your employees informed. As with any sourcing initiative, ensuring compliance can be one of the biggest hurdles. All of your efforts may come to nothing if your applicants misunderstand what is expected of them in this process or they just decide to ignore your dictate and go rogue with another vendor. You may not want to bog them down with intricate details, but they should know enough to be able to confirm what they need and understand why it is in everyone’s interest to follow the plan as outlined.

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Joan Booth

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