Background checks are even more essential today with work-from-home arrangements

Remote working works best if there is a high degree of trust and communication between employers and their staff. But what if your trust has been misplaced, and how can you prevent it?

Without being physically in office, the temptations to cheat or commit a wrongful act can be high.

Take the case of an employee who was unhappy with his firm and proceeded to upload over 100,000 personnel records online. When the affected parties – the employees (and ex-staff) who had their data leaked online – filed a lawsuit, the courts ruled that the employer was to be held liable.

In such lawsuits involving vicarious liability, the defendant is required to show due diligence had been exercised.

As HR professionals who serve as the gatekeepers of our companies, assessing candidates to qualify who will be a good fit and who can be trusted to carry out their assigned job scope in full confidence, how can we demonstrate this due diligence?

The answer is one so simple that it might just surprise you: background checks.

After you’ve reviewed your candidate’s resume and interviewed them, the last step to do is to conduct a background check before they’re formally allowed to step into your firm.

Are reference checks good enough? Bear in mind that most candidates usually provide positive references, and unless you take the extra step to verify their referee’s identity and relationship, the result may not be useful. No, simply asking the candidate and the referee directly will not suffice. How do you know they are telling the truth? Consider the case of a Singapore employee who got his best friend to pretend to be his supervisor for a reference check, where the lie was uncovered after the background screening company checked with the HR of his former company.

Do not assume your recruitment firm will cover this for you. After all, their expertise is in recruitment, and not trained as investigators in background checks. While some recruitment firms have partnerships with background screening companies to offer this service, make sure that you check with your recruitment agency to confirm if this is indeed included.

Making assumptions that it is, and thus overlooking this vital piece of your hiring processes, could end up being a costly mistake in the future, as many companies have realized.

What background checks should I conduct?

Most companies have different levels of background checks for blue-collar, junior, middle-level and senior hires. How extensive the checks conducted will be dependent on the seniority and access of the role involved.

For instance, a Finance Manager would be expected to pass screening for criminal and civil litigation, credit check, bankruptcy history, education (was his finance degree obtained from a degree mill?) and employment history at minimum.

In this age of the online public mob and a dangerous “cancel culture”, one would also be wise to consider conducting a global media and internet search to identify if any adverse information about your candidate exists in the public domain.

“I did not know that” and “He seemed like a trustworthy person” will not suffice in cases when further investigations commence.

What do I need to be careful of?

Be sure that you remain complaint with the local laws of the country where you’re hiring your candidate to work in, as well as the countries that you search in their background.

If you hire a senior executive who has UK nationality and worked in Philippines prior to his current role in Singapore, you will need to make sure the background checks you conduct are legal and fully permissible for employment screening purposes in these three countries. For example, a criminal record check may be available in the UK and Philippines, but not in Singapore. You can still collect NRIC numbers in Singapore for employment, but data legislations in South Korea now prohibit this.

Make sure that you also ensure the accuracy of results and that the processes you undertake to conduct the check is legal and compliant. Accessing data through illegal means is never acceptable.

Lastly, be careful of false positives. There’s nothing worse than being rejecting a talent for a crime he did not commit but was a case of mistaken identity due to sharing the same name.

How can I do these checks?

Conducting background checks can be easy in your home country, especially if you are familiar with where or how records can be accessed.

For instance, most Singaporeans would know that ACRA hosts directorship and company records. If you want to check whether your employee has external involvements in other owned companies, you can search and pay for records on the ACRA public portal. Credit checks can often be done with the local credit bureau, although not every country has one.

The difficulty comes when the background checks are to be done overseas, where you may not be familiar with the local laws on what can and cannot be done. Often times, even a Google Search may not even give you the answer.

Language barrier is also another challenge, as you may not be able to have a conversation with your candidate’s former employer in France if they do not speak English.

Consider how much time you have to carry out these tasks, as following up with former education institutes and employers can be a tedious affair. This is why most companies choose to outsource their background checks to a global background screening provider who can conduct checks regardless of where your candidate is from.

Use technology to help you

In this age of technological tools, you can make use of online platforms to make the job easier for you. Need to check whether a foreigner has the right to work in Singapore? Simply use the SGWorkPass app and scan the QR code on your candidate’s Singapore-issued identity card. A MRZ reader can check if the passport in question has been tampered with.

Some of the more innovative background screening companies also offer facial recognition tools that can verify your candidate’s identity through artificial intelligence – the same ones used by immigration and governments.

If you find it a hassle to conduct all these background checks by yourself, look for a qualified, global background screening provider like Cisive to help you.

Expect background checks to be the new normal as more companies embrace the trend and get used to remote work arrangements.

This is a guest post by Fiona Cher, who is the Account Management Lead for Cisive Global – one of the leading international background screening providers helping Fortune 500 companies on their hiring processes. Inspired by how technology has changed the way we live, work and play, she believes in constant upgrading and lifelong learning.

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