Global Challenges of Background Checks: Background Checks Are Not Only More Important Because of Globalization, They Are Also More Difficult. (Preemployment Screening)

Article excerpt

At the peak of a recent hiring surge, the security director for a Fortune 1000 company (we'll call her Carol) faced a challenge. Her company was in a growth mode and needed to hire hundreds of employees and contractors for jobs throughout the enterprise. As many as 1,600 applicants were being interviewed each month; in security terms, this represented 1,600 opportunities for the wrong person to become part of the company's work force.

Fortunately, Carol's company routinely conducted background checks as part of its preemployment screening process, and applicants with criminal records or falsified resumes were eliminated early. However, as the demand for workers grew, the company found itself interviewing increased numbers of candidates who either were educated abroad or had lived outside the United States. With this change, the difficulty of verifying even the most basic information increased dramatically.

In today's global business environment, many companies are facing the same challenge. So great are the complexities of completely and accurately verifying international resumes that an article in Fortune declared the task "virtually impossible." This view is wrong: When conducted by professionals who are well versed in global customs and laws, accurate verification of information provided by multinational job applicants, consultants, and vendors is possible.

But it is not easy. A common but dangerous assumption is that if an applicant has a valid work visa, he or she is a safe choice for employment. This is not the case. While the visa process has a certain degree of security built in, the fact that a person is awarded a visa does not guarantee that he or she is telling the truth when applying for a job or preparing a resume. This is also true for the "good citizen" certificates that are provided by the governments of many countries, including Taiwan and Japan.

Regardless of the certifications or credentials provided by an applicant, it is incumbent on a company to check the backgrounds of all prospective employees.

A company may decide to contract out its preemployment screening function, especially the international portion, but to be able to select the right vendor, and to properly oversee the process, the security or HR department must be well versed in the intricacies of conducting background verifications and must understand the issues associated with confirming employment, education, and potential criminal activity outside the United States. Among the issues are who gets screened, what the application should cover, and what laws apply.

Who gets screened. The company first should develop a corporate policy regarding background verification processes. The policy must have top-level support and the involvement of appropriate legal counsel. It should apply equally to candidates regardless of whether they reside locally or in another state or country. And it should spell out which job classifications are to be subject to background checks and what information is to be verified.

For example, many companies verify employment and education information for all employees but run detailed criminal checks only when discrepancies are identified or other red flags, such as gaps in employment, are found. Others conduct a full background check, including a criminal records review, for all finalist applicants. Regardless of which approach is deemed best for a particular company, in all cases any negative finding must be corroborated and multiple indicators--such as names, birth dates, and Social Security numbers--must be consistent to avoid misidentification.

In addition, if a company is going to do background checks on any part of a group, it should do the same kind of check on the entire group to avoid exposing the company to potential charges of racial profiling, prejudice, and other unfair and illegal hiring practices. That approach also makes sense from a security perspective. …