With the global economy struggling, candidates’ tendency to embellish their resumes may be on the rise.
by Mark Braund and Wayne Tollemache
To remain competitive in today’s global economy, many U.S. companies have either expanded overseas or will in the future. Multinational companies and local companies hiring foreign nationals face numerous challenges when they are conducting background and pre-employment checks.
With an economic crisis and unemployment rates rising worldwide, applicants have a greater impetus to embellish or falsify information on their applications, and employers need to scrutinize applicants more carefully than ever. At the same time, shrinking budgets and layoffs are leaving HR professionals with less support and resources to perform this task.
A clear and comprehensive policy on background checks and pre-employment screening is imperative for all companies hiring abroad. This is an additional challenge because corporation-wide screening policies should be tailored to take into account overseas screening regulations and data access, both of which can be surprisingly complex between countries and regions. Some key regulatory screening differences between the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) include the availability of financial and criminal data and privacy issues surrounding their use. This data can be much less readily available in EMEA and Asia-Pacific countries where employers need to follow strict processes to access that information.
First Advantage has found that on average, three in every 10 candidates in the EMEA region have application discrepancies. Occasionally the discrepancies are so serious that candidates are not extended an offer. In these more serious cases, falsifying or embellishing educational qualifications account for about 50 percent of application-related discrepancies, 30 percent are related to falsifying or embellishing one’s career history, and the remaining 20 percent are related to financial status and/or criminal records.
The prevalence of falsified information is supported by the recent explosion in the availability of fake qualifications, especially in China, India, and the Philippines. The Chinese government estimates that there are at least 600,000 more degrees in circulation than degrees awarded. Since high-quality fake diplomas from virtually any regional institution can be inexpensively purchased online, in-person authenticity checks are no longer sufficient.
Companies recruiting talent for overseas operations also need to consider additional pre-employment screening challenges. Cultural differences can be a major complication for U.S.-based employers. In certain countries, particularly in EMEA, background and pre-employment screening is considered a foreign practice and is viewed by employee prospects with suspicion and even received with offense. In these areas, applicants feel as though their integrity is being questioned. Some cultures even believe that the screening process brings shame to individuals and, at times, the family name. In China, Japan, and Korea, for example, a strong emphasis is placed on face-to-face meetings and referrals. Applicants in this region often feel that background checks and screening are disrespectful to this custom and imply that their credentials and experience aren’t a fit for the company.
Beyond regulatory and cultural screening challenges, time and language barriers often present another hurdle for businesses looking to hire abroad. Turnaround time for international background screening is much longer abroad because many emerging countries do not have the infrastructure to support the comprehensive requirements of background screening. Many countries lack digitized records and require HR managers to manually retrieve missing information, which can slow the background screening process by weeks.
The international background screening process results in an overwhelming amount of work and responsibility for HR managers. In response, companies of all sizes are recognizing the need for automated solutions to efficiently aid in the screening process. Some HR vendors have created a bundle of resources that support their efforts to comply with the continuing regulatory changes and can help a business emerge into new markets and regions. While the global HR market has numerous employment verification programs, many of them are not sophisticated enough to effectively meet the needs of large, multinational companies.
The most cost-effective way to support the overseas hiring process is to partner with a company specializing in international screening that uses local resources to ensure best practices are always applied. In addition to knowledge of local regulations, these companies will understand a country’s cultural and technological challenges and can develop a comprehensive program that can reduce the length of the screening process, getting overseas operations up and running as quickly and efficiently as possible. After all, any delays in placing needed talent in an emerging market can have dire consequences on the business outcome.
Mark Braund is managing director and executive vice president, EMEA, and Wayne Tollemache is executive vice president and regional managing director, APAC at First Advantage, an outsourced screening service provider.