5 Tips for International Background Screening

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If your firm is like many companies today, workforce globalization has fueled growth and brought great value to your organization. But along with these new opportunities come an array of new challenges for the global security and HR departments.

In the spirit of inclusion, global companies sometimes survey their offices worldwide to learn the current situation around employment screening practices and procedures. And when asked about background screening practices, it's not uncommon for foreign offices to respond with answers like:

  • "Sometimes we do it. It depends."
  • "We do it ourselves."
  • "I have a friend at the police station who…"
  • "We don't do it here because it's against the law."

Needless to say, this range of answers can leave security and HR professionals scratching their heads over how in the world to get all these folks on the same page while ensuring there isn't someone, somewhere in the world, compromising the company assets.

If, during the course of the next year, your firm is planning to take your background screening program global, here are some items you can address to improve the chances that your global screening program, and your company, will meet its strategic goals.

1) Understand the Regulations
Each country has its own laws and processes to govern what information can be legally obtained, how it can be transmitted and what information is required to complete a particular background check. Generally, these regulations are designed to protect the applicant and his/her personal information from privacy invasions, but that noble purpose adds complexity to program development. For example, in Hong Kong, third parties, including employers, may not request a criminal history from the police authorities, but applicants may get it for themselves.

Even in countries where criminal history checking is done for pre-employment, the ways in which records are stored can vary. The variance may be one of geography–some countries store and report locally, others by state or province, and still others, nationally. And, there are still other nuances. Go to parts of Latin America with an applicant's name and date of birth and you may come away empty-handed.

2) Get Familiar with the Culture
Language, culture and political environment are all as important as laws governing employment screening. A good example of how local context comes into play is best illustrated by a verification we performed last year in a country that had recently had a change of government. When the applicant's former supervisor was contacted, he said he didn't know the applicant and that he'd never worked for the company. The supervisor then contacted the applicant and told him: "A company called asking about you, but don't worry. I told them I didn't know you and that you never worked for us." The supervisor was simply leery of investigations of any kind based on the practices of the former government. Fortunately, the applicant was able to clear up the issue, but this indicates the importance of understanding the local context when checking references in different countries.

3) Be Consistent
To maintain a consistent level of security and control throughout your organization, a global background screening policy must be applied evenly in every country you do business. Although the types of background checks you can perform may vary by country, it's worth every effort to maintain consistent screening procedures wherever possible. This will help you establish tighter controls for a program that is more clearly understood and embraced around the world.

4) Take Advantage of Screening Technology
The demands of international background screening may be complex, but the challenges are not insurmountable–or cost-prohibitive–when leveraging technology in the screening and review processes. Many international screening resources, including in-country research experts and databases, can be accessed via the Internet, through a sophisticated screening provider. Technology is also improving screening program efficiency and control as web-based employment screening solutions are integrated with leading applicant tracking systems streamlining security and hiring processes to ensure consistent policy implementation.

5) Leverage the Local Experts
Technology also enables one of the most important components of international screening–a platform that can facilitate a worldwide network of in-country expert researchers. An in-country provider is most familiar with the local laws, culture and research procedures and can best navigate the local system. A global-platform technology can efficiently bring those country experts into your screening program without losing the value of consistency, audit or control.

As organizations build out their global workforces, security and HR professionals must also fine-tune their screening practices to keep in step with this growing opportunity. Ensuring a safe workplace and protecting company assets are global concepts; by keeping these tips in mind, organizations can get a good start in building a screening program that reaches as far as their company's workforce.

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HireRight is a leading provider of on-demand employment background checks, drug and health screening, and electronic Form I-9 and E-Verify solutions that help employers automate, manage and control background screening and related programs.

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