Forecast for Global Background Checks

By Krell, Eric | HRMagazine, April 2013 | Go to article overview

Forecast for Global Background Checks


Krell, Eric, HRMagazine


HR professionals say the outlook remains foggy.

Suppose the recruiter and hiring manager at a London subsidiary of a U.S. accounting company want to conduct a pre-employment credit check on a candidate to head the French division in Paris. The candidate lives and works in France. Happily, the credit check is readily available. Unfortunately, conducting a credit check in this circumstance violates French employment law. Article L.1221-6 of the French Labour Code generally prohibits employers from reviewing an applicant's financial position and, for that matter, past convictions.

To get a rough idea of the complexity of rules, regulations, cultural norms and other challenges relating to international pre-employment background screening, multiply this example by the number of countries your company operates in. Next, multiply that figure by the number of languages and time zones in those countries. Finally, subtract any notion that mature economies pose less time-consuming and less frustrating screening obstacles: Australia, Germany, Japan and Spain are frequently cited as difficult countries for pre-employment screening. Not to be outdone, Brazil, China, India and other countries with rapidly developing economies pose their own impediments.

None of the HR professionals interviewed for this article say they would screen abroad without help from a vendor. "There's no way I could do international background screens outside of the U.S. on a regular basis," says Christine Becker, SPHR, human resources generalist with Torrance, Calif.-based Pelican Products Inc., a manufacturer of watertight protective cases and lights. "You need an extremely reputable vendor."

James Schultz, general manager of corporate and services HR for Chevron Corp., says the resources and costs involved in international background screening "make outsourcing this activity a strong consideration."

HR can, of course, conduct its own global pre-employment background checks-but most HR departments don't want to. Just ask Becker. Although she now uses Employment Background Investigations Inc. for domestic and global screens, she used to spend hours going back and forth with candidates in Australia about legible copies of both sides of their driver's licenses, among other information requests.

Becker and other HR professionals responsible for global screening say they would rather focus on:

* Strengthening vendor selection.

* Managing external vendors.

* Setting appropriate expectations among hiring managers and other internal colleagues.

More Expensive, Longer

The components of global preemployment checks are similar to those of domestic checks. HR professionals say they most frequently review a job finalist's identity, criminal background, employment history and education. Some check overseas applicants' credit or financial records, motor vehicle records, and professional licenses. However, execution of these investigations typically differs dramatically from what happens in the United States.

Netforce Global wholesales international background verifications by providing information to global background-screening vendors. Whereas a domestic criminal background check typically takes under 48 hours, the same check in another country can take two days to two weeks, depending on the locale, estimates Netforce's Chief Executive Officer Ed Etzel.

Verifying employment history usually takes a matter of days in the U.S., while overseas employment checks can take up to several weeks, Becker says.

Some U.S education checks can be conducted immediately online; overseas, these checks can take as long as a month. And more international universities, including many in India, now charge $15 to $45 or more to verify an education record.

It is difficult to put a price on an "average" international screening because the legwork, privacy regulations, duration and cost vary dramatically by country and even by applicant. …

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