Candidate screening in the digital future

In an increasingly digital world, background screening of candidates becomes a vital consideration.
By: | September 18, 2018 • 6 min read


Across the region, there has been an increase in the level of awareness of background screening and its impact on organisational safety and security – both for employees and employers alike.

According to the latest version of our annual APAC Employment Screening Benchmark Report, more than half (55%) of organisations in APAC felt that one of the biggest benefits of screening was more consistent safety and security.

This is up by 11% from the previous year and was second only to ensuring better quality of hires (64%).

The concept of rescreening existing employees is also gaining traction across the region – 56% of APAC organisations conducted some form of rescreening post-hire in the 2018 report, compared to 43% the previous year.

In addition, there was an increase in rescreening across all roles, suggesting that companies are investing more resources in maintaining the quality of their workforce.

What’s more, an audit of background checks HireRight performed in 2017 revealed a downward trend in candidate discrepancies across the region; specifically, from 21.5% in 2016 to 12.4% in 2017.

A candidate discrepancy is marked when information provided by a candidate does not match records of their previous places of employment, education or other relevant organisations and databases.

This could mean that candidates are increasingly submitting accurate data – perhaps a sign that they are more conscious of what background screening entails.


Background screening challenges

Despite some encouraging progress APAC has made, there are two major gaps in background screening across the region – screening senior executives, and cross-border screening.

We found that the gaps in screening senior executives remain consistent with previous years. 42% of respondents in our Benchmark Report knew of people who had hired candidates for high-profile positions based simply on ‘gut instinct’, a figure that is in line with 2017.

Furthermore, 32% said that it was possible people on their board had never been screened over the course of their careers.

There is also a clear lack of consistency in checks. Over a third of respondents disclosed that their organisation had different standards of screening for executives (37%), and fewer tests and interviews for senior candidates compared to entry level hires (34%), when typically you’d expect that to be the other way around.

Lastly, in regards to cross-border screening, it’s alarming to note that only 41% of organisations in APAC conduct checks on international hires – down from 48% the year before – making it easier for candidates with potentially questionable track records to escape their past performance histories.

This corresponds with the pain points HR departments were experiencing when screening candidates from outside their home country – 33% found it difficult to source information, while 30% were perplexed when it came to understanding laws by country.


Re-screening employees

The impact of rescreening employees to an organisation is positive. First, it helps uphold a culture of safety and security in the organisation.

While many aspects of a pre-employment background check are static, that doesn’t mean that the same employee cannot present a future risk, as the organisation, the staff member and his/her role, and personal circumstances evolve and change over time.

The practice also helps to cultivate transparency – notifying employees that they may be required to go through additional background checks at specific points in their career can help set the right tone for an organisation and establish expectations for all staff.

Last but not least, mandating regular rescreening allows organisations to update their records with changes that have happened after the initial background check.

However, it should be made clear from the outset that this is not a monitoring programme developed to dismiss people without a word of warning.

Instead, the company is looking to protect the safety of its employees and stakeholders, preserve its reputation, and build upon already high standards of professionalism.


What HR needs to keep in mind

Internal HR teams should always ensure that their background screening processes comply with legal responsibilities.

Each country has different requirements and limitations around employment background checks, especially when it comes to criminal background, drugs and credit checks.

To mitigate compliance risks, get your legal team involved in developing a hiring policy. Know your legal and regulatory footprint for every location, and put systems in place to help monitor for changes in legislations.

With the landscape constantly evolving, it is recommended that employers assess their programmes through regular self-audits.

While basic checks such as education and employment history verifications should be conducted across the board, background screening procedures do vary according to industry.

For example, employee fraud would be a concern in the retail industry. From the selling floor to the stock room and warehouse, retail employees need to meet high standards of loyalty, performance and credibility.

In such a value-driven industry, criminal record checks and credit history checks may play a major role in an employer’s risk management process.

Financial regulatory checks are usually mandatory in the financial services industry, especially for roles regulated by government authorities such as the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.

Motor vehicle record checks may be needed for the transportation industry or if a company is looking to hire a driver.


The impact of digital disruption on candidate screening

Rather than seeing technology as disrupting the candidate screening space, we believe it allows us to provide more efficient and tailored services to our clients that, in turn, help them better achieve their business goals and objectives.

Within HireRight, we’ve embraced technology in our screening processes to help HR achieve a higher recruiting efficiency and provide an enhanced candidate experience by giving them access to a standardised, streamlined experience via an intuitive and digital platform called the Applicant Centre 2.0.

Technology has also simplified and streamlined background screening practices, especially on a global level.

Conducting background checks used to be particularly challenging for employers demanding global consistency and visibility while seeking to address local laws and regulations, languages and customs for their candidates around the world. To this end, we recently launched HireRight Global, the industry’s first truly global background screening solution that provides a consistent screening program around the world, yet is tailored to reflect local nuances.

Of course, while technology advancements in recent times have been remarkable, this does not mean that technology should replace all HR processes.

After all, in a world where artificial intelligence, technology and automation looks set to become the order of the day, adding that human touch, and having an open, honest and face-to-face communication with prospective employees, may well become a real differentiator in the end.


Steve Girdler is the Managing Director for EMEA and APAC at HireRight.