With discrepancies becoming more prevalent in employment applications, recruiters need to start running more stringent background checks.
HireRight, a provider of on-demand employment background checks, recently released its latest EMEA Employment Screening Benchmark Report, which found that 73 per cent of companies with background screening programmes have uncovered candidate employment history discrepancies during the course of conducting candidate checks.
Put simply, conducting know your employee (KYE) checks makes good business sense, particularly in a country such as the UAE, where over 70 per cent per cent of workers are foreigners, said Nadeem Maniar, Director of Risk Consulting at Crowe Horwath UAE. “Success or failure of any organisation largely depends on its people; however, many organisations tend to shy away from investing a small amount in knowing their employee. Background screening is critical for making a well-informed hire, allowing your company to focus more on growing the business, not dealing with potential problems. To know what your prospective employee did in the past is the basic requirement when considering someone for the job.”
It is a grey area in terms of the information that an employer requires from a candidate to the information a candidate is obligated to disclose. According to James Randall, Regional Sales Manager at HireRight Middle East, a recruiting organisation will choose the type of information that they require to be verified and only that information will be requested from the candidate. “A candidate cannot be compelled to provide the information, but verifications cannot take place without it. It is recommended that the organisation notifies its candidates of the verification requirement as soon as possible in the process to avoid issues at the last moment.”
From a strictly statutory perspective, a candidate is not legally obliged to voluntarily disclose any particular information to a prospective employer. However, prospective employers may request information around issues such as previous employment history, educational achievements and criminal records. If a candidate provides misleading information, there would be grounds to withdraw any subsequent offer of employment or terminate the employment relationship, according to Luke Tapp, Senior Associate at international law firm, Pinsent Masons.
He added that it would be prudent for companies to obtain and undertake reasonable searches to verify the candidate’s full job history, education and professional qualifications, and any history of criminal records, during the recruitment process.
While a candidate might want to present a resume which contains reputed companies and long term employment, it is important for their references to match reality. “A candidate’s experience, no matter how long- or short-term needs to be realistic. If their references or roles and responsibilities are misleading, it might result in their application being declined even if they could have been the right candidate for the job,” said Marcus Taylor, Managing Partner at recruitment firm, Taylor Sterling.
Finally, Taylor added that when asking for references, candidates tend to list their hiring managers to provide a reference, which in itself is a bias. HR departments, on the other hand, keep records and are far less sympathetic to a glitch in someone’s conduct during their employment.
Maniar added the relationship between the employer and employee is much deeper than it was in the past, as employees are exposed to much more private corporate information than ever before. Organisations are not only investing money in their people, but also time, trust and confidentiality which are key factors for any business to be successful. “A wrong hire does not only lead to loss of cash for the business, but may also may lead to legal litigations, low worker productivity among other staff members, lost time and expenses in recruiting and training another employee and in some cases, may lead to severe negative impact on clients.”
In countries such as the UAE, where figures from Madar Research and Development and Orient Planet put the expatriate population at around 87 per cent, employers have the added challenge of trying to verify a potential employee’s background before relocating them internationally.
“Legally, some checks that may not be permissible in the home location may be permissible in the country to which the candidate is being relocated. There may also be local law requirements in certain regulated industries that may differ between locations. This can mean that your candidate may have concerns if, for example, they are subject to a credit or criminal check. Equally, as an employer, there may be a drive to run certain checks that are simply not available globally due to local law restrictions,” said Randall.
While difficult, screening and verifying potential employees is not impossible. Tapp recommended that the hiring team undertake social media search training. “There are a number of laws in place that establish an overarching framework for protecting privacy and punishing the misuse of information or data breaches. However, depending on a candidate’s user privacy settings, certain information may be publicly available. It is common for employers to utilise professional social media sites, such as LinkedIn, as part of the general pre-employment and recruitment stage.”
Khaled Fathi, Managing Director of human resources consultancy, Inspativity, added that there are a number of ways to leverage technology in an effort to mitigate risks associated with hiring overseas candidates, starting with screening them over a simple phone conversation. The next step is video interviewing, asynchronous or one-way, where pre-recorded questions for technical and behavioural competencies of the job. Line managers are involved in preparing those questions and they are kept the same for each job, to ensure consistency and objectivity.
The final step is a Skype conversation with short-listed candidates to ask more relevant questions, and once satisfied, the client may then offer them the position. By then, due diligence has been done and most risks associated with the candidate’s suitability have been addressed, making employing them a calculated risk rather than a gamble.
Maniar added that Crowe Horwath’s recent discrepancy trends research report highlighted inconsistencies found while conducting KYE checks for clients in the UAE and revealed that nearly three in 10 job applicants in UAE had discrepancies in their applications in the period 2015–2016. In a bid to ensure that foreign workers in the country possess genuine educational credentials and do not have any past criminal record, the UAE Federal Cabinet last year approved a policy to make background screening mandatory for all foreign workers coming into the country.
Fathi warned that some recruiters skip the necessary checks because the candidate conducted themselves well during the interview stage or because they need to fill the position to complete their KPIs. “A proper cross-country background check could take a couple of weeks. A good conduct report would need to be attested by the relevant authorities. It is the responsibility of the recruiter and hiring organisation to follow due diligence. For global organisations with good local governmental ties, the process may be significantly faster, yet it should not be a rushed one.”
Tapp added that it is essential to thoroughly review references, and companies should investigate every avenue to ensure a candidate will be able to perform their role effectively, contribute to the company's growth and development, and have no past transgressions which may frustrate the employment relationship and create tension.
The labour laws of the various jurisdictions across EMEA generally permit employers to dismiss an employee during their probationary or trial period. Therefore, it is essential for companies to have a robust probationary period in place within the terms of the employment contract to provide the company with flexibility during the initial period of employment, added Tapp.
Hire the right candidate:
Map out employment strategy
Categorise different levels of employees and the risks involved with hiring into different levels. Draft a screening policy for each level which can be shown to any candidate/employee on request. Timing of any verification should also be reviewed against local employment laws, as this may differ across jurisdictions.
Inform and prepare candidates for screening
Keeping candidates in the loop helps them prepare for what is required during the checks. It is also key to help candidates understand that the objective is to maintain fairness in employment and safety in the workplace.
Do your research
Ensure companies obtain references from at least two previous employers, with at least one of the references coming from one of the most recent two employers. Ask employees to produce all necessary certificates, which would generally include education and good conduct certificates.
Check their CV against a LinkedIn profile for instance, you would be surprised how many times these do not align. Go through their CV with them in detail; they will slip up if they are off the mark eventually.
Source: James Randall, Regional Sales Manager, HireRight Middle East; Khaled Fathi, Managing Director, Inspativity; Luke Tapp, Senior Associate, Pinsent Masons; and Marcus Taylor, Managing Partner, Taylor Sterling