Global Criminal Background Screening: 3 Essentials for Success

June 8, 2021 | Shannon Shoemaker

Global background check programs are necessary for both international organizations as well as U.S. organizations that hire a diverse set of candidates. With remote employment broadening your talent pool from your immediate geographical location to nearly everywhere in the world, global background checks are expected to be more common. This can present a challenge for organizations not equipped to handle international background checks.

For example, if an employer has made the decision to keep its workforce working remotely for good and employees move out of the immediate vicinity to another country, domestic background screening isn’t sufficient for continuous background checks. Employers will need to abide by the laws of their employee’s country of residence and be able to access information in that country. Additionally, more employers are taking advantage of a productive remote workforce to expand talent pools so they can recruit and hire citizens of other countries and will need to be able to conduct background screening in their candidate’s countries of origin.

In June 2020, the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) and released the 4th annual industry survey entitled “Background Screening: Trends and Uses in Today’s Global Economy.” The survey found that 85% of organizations said access to international background screening capabilities was important, with 57% of them saying international screening was important to their organization directly. Furthermore, 24% said their organization conducted criminal background checks for candidates both within and outside the United States. The PBSA – which has councils in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Asia Pacific – recognizes the value of international screening and rebranded from its former name of National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) to be an international organization.


Top Three Considerations for Global Background Checks


Global background screening isn’t just for organizations that have offices or locations in other countries—it also refers to performing background checks on domestic-based candidates who have lived, worked, or studied in another country. With the sharp rise in remote working and the number of companies choosing to retain a dispersed workforce, your formerly U.S.-based employees could relocate anywhere in the world. This complicates a number of things for employers (including payroll), but especially for continuous screening on a global scale.

The following are the three most important areas to focus on when developing a policy for background screening: verification, consistency and legal compliance.


Verify candidate experience and education.

Employers should know who they are hiring by verifying the candidate’s educational background, employment history and other licensing credentials.  Employment verification is done in the U.S. and globally. This includes both long-term and short-term work history. It also includes start and end times and reasons for leaving employment. Employment verification can be one of the hardest things to pre-screen, as sometimes past employers may not be easy to reach or they might have closed operations.


Develop consistency in hiring practices.

Your company policy around new hire or continuous background checks should have a consistent set of requirements and standards supported across the organization, and should be developed with an understanding of all the regions in which they will be implemented and supported. Not verifying applicants’ foreign experience creates an inconsistency in your hiring process and may lead to claims of discriminatory hiring practices. For example, if you run a domestic background check on two applicants for the same position and one of them claims to have a degree from a foreign institution, you will end up checking the educational claim of only one of the candidates, potentially exposing your company to litigation. Additionally, negligent hiring claims can arise when an employee causes harm to another employee and your company cannot demonstrate that it exercised due diligence when evaluating that worker’s fitness for the job. 


Ensure legal compliance.

The legal implications of international background screening involve the intersection of U.S. and foreign laws and they can be extraordinarily complex. It is important to understand both the laws that apply in both the U.S. and the relevant foreign country. For example, the obligations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) still apply for international screening. If you’re working with a vendor partner to outsource international screening, the vendor has an FCRA obligation to take reasonable procedures to ensure accuracy. If there is a negative public record, such as a criminal-record “hit,” then the firm must make sure the information is correct and up-to-date and supplied in a way that does not violate any data- or privacy-protection rules.

It’s also important to know and understand the country’s data-privacy regulations, such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), because the background screening process involves collecting and transferring personally identifiable data. These complexities are the primary reason many companies choose to work with a third-party vendor that has particular expertise with international background checks and hiring employees globally.

International background checks, while challenging, are not impossible. Working with a reputable vendor partner familiar with the resources and laws of each country of origin can overcome liability, time and accuracy concerns. Cisive offers a single global platform and a flexible solution to support international and domestic requirements including multi-language capabilities.


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