Screening & Selection

Identity Checked

As remote work and hybrid models become the norm, hiring managers must take measures to protect their organisations from potential threats.

By Simon Kent

After the last two years, there is little doubt that employers are having to deal with a huge amount of disruption in the employment market. Hiring managers are faced with finding and deploying talent as quickly as possible, but in doing so, they still need to ensure that candidate credentials are accurate.

“Technology can be a useful tool to help the accuracy of this process, particularly in a remote environment,” says Steve Smith, managing director, EMEA at screening company Sterling. “The challenge that many businesses have faced over the last year is confirming new hires are the same as the person on any documents they submit when the employer might not be meeting with them in person. The potential to fraudulently amend documents or bypass verifications by submitting a ‘photo of a photo’ rather than of the actual person is a very real prospect in today’s remote recruitment market.”

According to Smith, there are now sophisticated tools that can identify if the documents submitted are not only legitimate, but also confirm if the individual is uploading a real image of themselves to the verification platform. “This is of particular importance for those employers that are often hiring enmass and at speed, during seasonal peaks for example,” he says. “Where new recruits can verify their identity online remotely, artificial intelligence can be used to confirm if someone is really live on the camera.”

“Digital hiring in our post Brexit, post lockdown Britain and our hybrid workforce has made the need to validate job applicants’ identity and credentials even more important than before the pandemic,” says Keith Rosser, chair of JobsAware, a not-for-profit organisation that works against job scams. “Education credentialing, identity verification, and digital checks such as criminal records and credit checks are essential to ensure job seekers are who they say they are.”

Rosser believes the UK’s strategy for digital identity, including plans by the Home Office and DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) for improved digital solutions, will help the UK hire faster and better. But he notes that this does not take the pressure off to take action in ensuring they know who they are hiring and that the person can do the job. He also says that the current pressures on hiring for vacant roles brings added challenges.

“The current staffing crisis makes it crucial to verify applicants quickly or risk losing them to rival companies,” he says, “and workers’ newfound expectations on flexibility and work-life balance means the old techniques of face-to-face interviews and document checks won’t stand up in the face of heavy competition.” Again, the need for digital verification across all areas of the supply chain seems to be the only way to bring swiftness and certainty.

At HireRight, Peter Cleverton, general manager, EMEA, reports that they have seen many customers reconsidering their hiring risk as they grapple with the practicalities of assembling a remote and/or hybrid workforce. “Fully remote hiring and onboarding practices can often leave talent acquisition professionals feeling uncertain about the credibility of their candidates, whom they may have never met in person,” he says.

There is also an international and cross-border challenge for HR. Cleverton says it’s standard practice to verify candidates’ backgrounds across many industries in the UK. In mainland Europe, however, some countries have been a little slower to adopt screening. Despite this, the amount of information held online means checks are still practical -it’s just a question of knowing where to look and how to assess the information.

“When it comes to the complexities and demands of cross-border recruitment, employers can verify their candidates’ credentials wherever they have lived, worked, or studied by working with a global screening provider that operates internationally,” confirms Cleverton. “The screening process is usually completed entirely online, with candidates uploading supporting documentation from wherever they are in the world via a computer or mobile device, making it no more difficult to screen international candidates than candidates from your own country.”

Daniel Callaghan, co-founder and CEO of employee background screening HR tech Veremark, agrees there are greater challenges for international employers. “Checking academic and employment credentials is particularly important for all hires, but especially important for international hires, considering candidates may have qualifications from unfamiliar institutions or memberships to unfamiliar professional bodies,” he says.

However, Callaghan advises screening should go further than this to give a full picture of a new candidate. Social media checks, for example, will help to give an indication of how someone might behave in the workplace while personality assessments, psychometric tests, and pre-hire skills tests can also be useful. “Interviewers can confirm that candidates completed such tasks themselves by asking detailed follow-up questions,” he notes.

Kate Palmer, HR advice and consultancy director at Peninsula agrees that companies should pursue practices which will help them avoid costly mis-hires.

“Without the benefit of face-to-face interviews and office tours,” she says, “accurate checks are proving to be even more important when it comes to making sure a candidate is the right fit for your organisation, has values in line with the company as well as the right work ethic.”

The Great Resignation and the subsequent numbers of employees searching for new opportunities, means technology has a larger role to play, and there is a high standard to reach. “Nothing is as good as in person,” says Palmer. “Actually seeing and handling identification documents is one of the best ways to make sure that they are genuine. This is not always possible when working remotely, so the next best thing is to have a live call with the person showing the document. This can help reduce the risk of pictures of the documents being edited or of poor quality.”

Introducing the right procedures doesn’t just mean there is less likelihood that a mistake will be made. But, they can act as deterrents for candidates who may be considering taking a chance. Palmer concludes: “Making candidates aware early on in the process that this will be a requirement will help deter potential fraudsters and avoid people without the relevant qualifications/documentation from getting too far along in the process.”

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