Why Background Screening is crucial in Remote Hiring

Why Background Screening is crucial in Remote Hiring

18th May 2020

The practice of hiring employees remotely is not a new one; it’s been growing steadily for the past few years. However, the Covid-19 pandemic (and resulting lockdown) is forcing more companies to recruit in this way. With this sudden change, and little time to prepare for it, how can you make sure you’re doing it right? What does best practice look like?

A rigorous interview process is the best way to establish whether a candidate is right for the role, alongside some of the profiling tools we also recommend. But background checks are essential to ensure all their experience, education, and other qualifications are listed correctly and that the candidate is trustworthy enough to bring into your business. 

While background checks are already key when you’ve met a candidate face to face, they become even more important when hiring remotely. 

The cost of a bad hire

The Recruitment & Employment Confederation estimate that a bad hire at mid-manager level (earning £42,000) can end up costing their company a whopping £132,015

This huge cost snowballs from a number of places. First up are the usual logical costs associated with recruitment – agency fees, advertising, portions of the salaries of senior employees interviewing candidates and time spent by HR on the hiring process, and the onboarding of a new recruit. In-house training comes at a premium too. 

High staff turnover is disruptive, time consuming, and expensive. Of course, if you have to repeat the process because of a bad hire, your costs will be at least double what they could’ve been. 

This is no real surprise to those used to recruitment. But other, less tangible but arguably more impactful costs stem from choosing the wrong candidate. Sub-standard staff performance, for example, costs companies dearly. 

“IT professionals take, on average, 29 weeks to reach optimal performance.”

According to Oxford Economics, there is always a period of lost output when staff are replaced, as it can take up an entire year for a new candidate to reach their Optimum Performance Level (or OPL). The study shows that IT professionals take, on average, 29 weeks to reach optimal performance.

During this time they will be receiving their full salary, but may not be playing their part in generating revenue for the company at the same rate. 

This is only exacerbated when the wrong person is hired. They may never reach their OPL before choosing to leave or failing their probation. Then someone new will have to be found to replace them, who in turn will take time to reach their OPL. 

While background checks don’t guarantee that you’ll find the perfect candidate, they do mitigate against a number of risks, giving you much better odds. The cost of re-hiring and employee training are one thing, but there are other ways in which a bad hire can cost you. 

If an employee contravenes safety regulations or acts negligently, you could see your insurance premiums rise or even face litigation. What if they have a history of criminal behaviour? You could experience theft or other crimes on your premises which incur costs. 

If you’ve hired someone untrustworthy, they might be regularly absent from work or their behaviour could impact on others, leading to decreased productivity. All of these potential problems ultimately impact on your bottom line, which is why it’s so important to get it right the first time. 

The lockdown enforced in the UK and many other countries in response to the Covid-19 outbreak has proven that the majority of employees are able to remain productive when working from home. But when hiring a remote worker, another level of trust is usually needed in order for the recruiter to feel comfortable that they will be able to work responsibly and at full capacity. 

“At the end of the day, you should be doing the right level of background checks for the role and candidate anyway,” says Adam Rudd, EMEA Sales Director at First Advantage. identifi work with First Advantage to offer background checks – more on the different types of checks we recommend and how deep recruiters should go later. 

“There isn’t really a check out there that gives you the factual information to show whether this person can be a trustworthy work from home employee. It’s more important now that you actually do the core checks, which allow you to understand whether this person is who they say they are, and whether the education and work information they’ve given you is correct.” 

The importance of in-depth background checks 

The umbrella term ‘background checks’ can be split into two areas – verification vs a record/database check. 

A verification merely checks the information provided by candidates, verifying employment history, education records, and ensuring candidates required to have professional credentials for a role – such as a chartership – actually do. 

“We offer many more important background checks.”

Record/database checks include standard criminal background checks. While many recruiters and employers running background checks may stop here, though, we offer many more important background checks. 

Checking global sanctions databases (international police and crime databases like those held by Interpol and the FBI) will show whether candidates are on any sort of watch list but have yet to commit a crime. 

Media checks (against databases held by major, public funded organisations like the BBC) will show whether a candidate has been in any news articles – suspected of fraud, for example, but never successfully charged and therefore without a criminal record. 

Passport and ID verifications are more widely used. Credit reports might be important for someone who will have access to cash, business accounts, or client/customer accounts. This is usually a soft search that doesn’t impact a candidate’s credit history and is largely used in tandem with other checks to build a larger picture. 

“If someone has a poor credit rating it doesn’t mean they’re a criminal,” says Adam. “But if they also worked for a company for six months say and didn’t disclose it, I would want to have a conversation with the candidate.”

A driving license check will reveal whether a candidate has any points, which is important if they are to be given a company car. Allowing them to drive one without knowing they have too many points to do so could invalidate the business’s insurance and leave the business liable if they get into an accident. 

While we recommend background checks in all scenarios, the depth of checks required depends on the level of responsibility the role entails and the type of candidate you’re looking to hire. 

“There’s no standard package,” says Adam. “There is a British Standard Recommendation, BS7858, brought in a number of years ago for the security industry, government offices, etc – not as a law but as a recommendation for these types of roles. This became a baseline for other businesses to and is worth considering. 

When to carry out background checks 

The question of when to carry out background checks “is another balancing act.” Adam says. 

“99% of our clients run checks post-final interview – some do it prior to offering and some post offer subject to..” 

“The best option would be to do it early in the process to let you know if a candidate was even worth interviewing. But then you’ve got the costs associated with running checks on lots of candidates can add up.” 

The cost of interviewing candidate after candidate to find the best for the role, only to discover they lied about a certificate or their reason for leaving a company, is huge. We believe that the cost of running background checks on multiple candidates at the beginning of the recruitment process pales in comparison to the larger cost of hiring and the negative impact of a bad hire,. 

However, you hire employees – whether in person or remotely – background checks should be considered as vital as the interview itself. But, in remote hiring, the absence of all the benefits of face-to-face interviewing means background checks play an even more fundamental role. 

Get in touch to find out more about the background checks identifi is able to offer. 


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