Screen before you hire!

Screen before you hire!

Pre-employment screening is a necessity to mitigate any risks of hiring a wrong person. Sudipta Dev focusses on the process of verification

Fudged CVs are common in today’s corporate world, making it a challenge for hiring managers to ascertain the identity claims of the candidate being recruited. That his CV is authentic…his qualifications, work experiences stated are true…that he is not a spy sent by a competitor to steal sensitive company information, etc. The risks of hiring without proper background verification are too high for an organisation, but are often ignored.

Perceptive hiring managers should be able to spot any discrepancy as they have to be cautious while investigating the background of candidates. They must not be carried away by the details on the CVs. Due to shortage of time, most hiring managers call up the referrals provided by the candidates themselves, which is of no use and should be avoided.

“Statistics prove that it is important to check backgrounds of employees being hired so that the potential reputation and financial risks associated with a ‘wrong hire’ are mitigated,” says Ashish Dehade, Managing Director (West Asia), First Advantage. The company is Asia Pacific’s leading background screening company. The company does pre-employment screening for almost all industries, including the pharmaceutical sector. “Interestingly, with more and more organisations in this sector requiring background screening of their potential/current employees, it is evident that things aren’t too different in the pharma industry as well. India is emerging as an R&D hub. This industry is sensitive in nature because of patented formulae,” adds Dehade.

Need for background screening

“Haven’t we heard about many resumes that have exactly the same content, including same spelling mistakes? People claiming to have worked with organisations that didn’t exist”

– Ashish Dehade Managing Director

West Asia

First Advantage has found that one out of every five resumes has some kind of misrepresentation related to employment, education or criminal background. The company has exposed senior level profiles faking IIM-Ahmedabad and IIT-Mumbai degrees. “Haven’t we heard about many resumes that have exactly the same content, including same spelling mistakes? People claiming to have worked with organisations that didn’t exist, having graduation/post-graduation from educational institutions that don’t exist. Degree mills from where degrees can be bought galore all over the country and the internet,” states Dehade. The truth is that no organisation would like to be associated with individuals who have questionable
backgrounds. It is not just the fear of a potential fraud, but the risk to reputation of an organisation. “Brand equity/value can be very adversely impacted if it is known that an organisation didn’t do enough due diligence before recruiting a certain individual with such background,” adds Dehade.

The outsourcing wave has necessitated verification for Indian companies who are servicing global clients. Most of the Fortune 500 companies have a formal policy of background screening their employees. “Global players consider outsourcing service providers (Indian companies) as their extension and would like them to have strong business practices including background screening. Background screening has become a part of the standard outsourcing contract and therefore Indian companies have proactively adopted it as a part of their business process,” points out Dehade.

Pharma industry is a high turnover sector, particularly in case of field staff. High attrition makes it imperative for organisations to do backdground screening. “Moreover, many firms in pharma industry are known for their sharp practices. So it’s all the more important that necessary due diligence be put in place while selecting the candidates in this sector,” states Ullhas Pagey, a well-known HR and organisation development expert, who is also a visiting faculty at the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai. The targeted professionals in the pharma industry are across all levels-from the sales to research professionals, anybody who handles sensitive client or company information.

What to verify?

The types of verification vary from organisation to organisation and is determined by the need (and often the budget set) from ascertaining whether the permanent address given on the CV is actually true to finding out other details e.g. the nature of work being done by the candidate; performance standard, verifying qualifications, whether he was sacked from the previous company or left on his own; any criminal records; investigating entire family background; whether an alcoholic/womaniser; et al.

The basic verification is focussed on address/educational qualifications and job responsibilities. As far as the pharma industry is concerned, the best process, according to Pagey, is to verify with the former immediate boss to get reliable data regarding the candidate’s competency profile and behavioural interventions. “Though many organisations are seeking the assistance of third party agencies, my personal experience is that most of these agencies lack the requisite competency and are unable to add value to the process. Hence its better to talk directly to the earlier employers,” he answers.

Many feel that pre-employment as well as post-employment screening being a specialised job, requires the services of background screening. Dehade points out a few advantages that a credible agency like First Advantage possesses, “As a result of our experience in the field of background screening, we have created strong networks that help us resolve otherwise complex issues. The knowledge and experience that our team members have can help us interpret and resolve many situations which many others with lesser exposure and experience can’t. Most organisations we contact are our clients and they understand the importance.”

There is no conflict of interest when a specialised background screening organisation is involved in this process, which could happen when a recruitment agency or even team members from the recruitment function get involved. The company insists on authorisation from the candidates. Dehade is quick to point out the difference, “We don’t investigate, we only do background screening.”

Ensuring that a detailed employment form is filled up by the candidate which provides information that has specific details in it:

  • Specific months of start and end of previous employments
  • Specific designation/function
  • Specific months of start and end of educational courses undertaken
  • Full name/designation of the person reporting to
  • Complete name and address of the previous employers/ educational institutions

The employment form must be so designed that the candidate has no opportunity for omitting information about his/her background. Availability of such information makes the process of checking the background of the candidate easier and more accurate.

Source: First Advantage

Overseas hiring

“The company could actually be at even greater risk of getting a shady character from overseas if they think that distance and a

different culture might give them ‘cover'”

– Nina E Woodard Director-Business Development

SHRM India

Background screening across geographies is a tough task for most hiring managers. The checks, which range from verifying educational qualifications from universities to different employers and salaries is an arduous task. The distance and time constraints often result in hiring the wrong personnel overseas.

“Overseas candidates can say anything about their experience and education. Just because they are from overseas doesn’t mean they are more honest. The company could actually be at even greater risk of getting a shady character from overseas if they think that distance and a different culture might give them ‘cover’,” warns Nina E Woodard, Director-Business Development, India, SHRM India. She believes that everyone should be reference checked as thoroughly as possible. The applicant should know that its a part of the process and should also be aware that if they lie on the application and it is uncovered in the verification process, they will be fired. This will help stem the tide of falsification on the resume or in the application process.

Focussing on the difference between India and the US regarding background screening, Woodard, states, “Here, it is very difficult to get information since there are few ways of tracking people and no real credit bureau or central police records. Still university reference and places of residence can be verified and references should be given of people from former work environments so that they can be also checked and verified.” She points out that it is a little difficult in the West too since there are laws about what can and cannot be said. But one way to verify past employment beyond dates of employment and position is to ask for a performance evaluation from the former employer. Also it is easy to check credit and police records in the US because of the social security numbering system there.

“Statistics overwhelmingly demonstrate that any organisation anywhere in the world could be at risk. This is more relevant particularly in today when movement across geographies has become relatively easy,” says Dehade. He informs that a research conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in the US shows that close to half of all resumes and job applications contain misrepresentation of facts.

A few key statistics are:

  • The US Department of Commerce estimates that employee theft causes 33 percent of all business failures

  • According to the US Bureau of Justice statistics, workplace violence accounts for 18 percent of all violent crimes

  • 66 percent of negligent hiring trial cases in the US result in jury awards averaging $600,000 in damages

Interestingly, screening consultants are also called in when an employee, who has signed a contract with the company for a certain period, absconds and has to be traced to his current work place. Whether pre or post-employment screening, the job of an agency is limited to submitting the report. They are only the fact-finders not the judge or moderator.