Background Checks

Managing Background Screening for a Global Remote Workforce

  • March 14, 2022
  • Antique Nguyen
  • Approx. Read Time: 4 Minutes
  • Updated on November 27, 2023

Global background checks are expected to be even more common in 2022 as many employers are taking advantage of a 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 candidates’ countries of origin. In our 2021 report, Cisive Insights: Talent Screening Trends 2021, Cisive asked survey participants if their organization recruits internationally, and the majority (just over 75%) do. The Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) and HR.com’s HR Research Institute (HRRI) released their 5th annual survey of HR professionals, “Background Screening: Trends in the U.S. and Abroad.” The survey found that 72% of respondents, regardless of location, think it is important for companies to have access to global or international screening capabilities. Further, 33% report that they expect to hire more candidates that live or have lived in countries outside the organization’s location in the next five years.

Additionally, 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 employees’ country of residence and be able to access information in that country.

Both of these scenarios can present a challenge for organizations not equipped to handle international background checks.


The Top Three Factors for Global Screening 

The three most important factors for global screening are verification, consistency, and compliance.

Verification: Employers should verify each candidate’s educational background, employment history and other licensing credentials 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.

Applicants may cite degrees from international schools that are not accredited and, in many cases, do not exist other than on a website. Legitimate schools will have a phone number or email address for employment verification, but domestic employers often do not take this step when screening a candidate.

Because remote work has become so common, identity fraud is also possible. According to author Dr. John Sullivan, this “employment impersonation can be called ghost hiring, hiring fraud, candidate impersonation, or candidate identity theft. It is defined as when someone working in a field applies for a job by assuming the identity, the resume, and the work history of a real person that is fully qualified for a job.” Thorough verification can greatly reduce the chance of a fraudulent candidate making it through your screening process.

Consistency: Your company policy around new hires 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.

Compliance. The legal implications of international background screening involve the intersection of U.S. and foreign laws and 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) may 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, current and collected 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.

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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