What actually goes into different screening services globally, such as verifications, criminal records, etc., can vary a lot from country to country and vendor to vendor. Historically, consumers of these services often took them at face value with little diligence done on them. However, as the importance of conducting robust screening has increased, there has been an increased desire to actually understand how the sausage is made.
This 4-week blog series is focused on explaining what can make up different background screening searches globally and why they vary. The ultimate goal is to make you an educated consumer of global background screening, so that you can make informed decisions in selecting, using, and selling these services.
The goal is NOT to explore compliance issues or tell you which services you should or should not use.
Last week, we covered factors impacting what goes into a search. This week, we start looking at search types.
Criminal record checks are one of the most frequently requested searches. They are also one of the searches with the most variation in how they are done and what is actually searched and returned. The reasons for this are varied but essentially come down to differences in interpretation of what is ‘correct’ and what sources a vendor can access. When we say ‘correct’, we mean a vendor’s interpretation of what information can be legally obtained, how it can be obtained, and when it can be used for employment screening. Even within the U.S., where background screening is a well-established industry with a lot of case law, there are still grey areas of compliance.
Outside the U.S., especially in countries where background screening is done less frequently, there may not be clear regulations or case law defining exactly what can be done and how it should be done. As a result, vendors are left to interpret the regulations and make their own decision. Because the decision is not always black and white, it is important that you understand the process which a vendor uses in making their decision and that this process aligns with how your organization would make such decisions.
Beyond this, there are frequently variations in the actual search offered. Here are descriptions of the most common ‘criminal offerings’, and the pluses and minuses of each.
A national criminal check, as the name implies, is a check at the national level, which generally covers all records within that country. The source conducting the search will determine what to report to the vendor—in some cases this may contain more than just conviction data. It is important to distinguish between a federal-level criminal check and a national-level criminal check. A federal-level check is similar to a check of PACER in the U.S. It searches for federal crimes but is definitely not a check of all reportable criminal records within that country. Brazil also offers a similar type of search, where records can be searched at the federal level or at the state level. Some vendors may also offer a hybrid search of both levels.
National-level checks are frequently, although not exclusively, seen in Europe/European-based legal systems.
The great advantage of a national criminal check is the ability to confirm with a single search if a candidate does or does not have a reportable criminal record in the country being searched. This can reduce the complexity of the background screening and reduce costs and turnaround time.
As with everything, there are downsides to this as well. In some countries, the process can actually be more complex, sometimes requiring fingerprints to confirm any records before they are reported. Canada and South Africa both require the fingerprint process before returning any records.
Local-level criminal checks are similar to county- or state-level checks in the U.S. They are based on some sort of address history (residential, work, etc.) and are only a check of the specific jurisdiction. In some cases, this may be only a court jurisdiction, such as in India, and in others, such as Mexico, it might be a search of an entire state.
Local checks can sometimes be done faster and with less paperwork than national-level checks. They do not typically require fingerprints to return detailed results. For example, in Canada, both local- and national-level searches are available. The national-level check, usually referred to as a CPIC search, requires fingerprints before reporting a criminal record. The local search, done at the province level, will return results with basic biographic identifiers only. This can make the process much simpler and faster.
To conduct a comprehensive screening, multiple local searches may be required. This can raise costs. In some countries, the permissibility and process for conducting local-level checks can also vary across jurisdictions, which can make the process more complex.
Typically a country will have either the national- or the local-level check available, although this is not always the case. Canada is the most common exception, but there are others.
Next week, we will continue with a look at “criminal” databases.
Andy Hellman – VP, Special Projects
Andy runs ClearStar’s special projects group, focused on delivering industry-leading, innovative solutions for ClearStar’s customers. Andy brings over two decades of experience to this role in organizations ranging from venture-backed startups to Fortune 100s, including over a decade in background screening. Prior roles include running the business analytics team for ChoicePoint and the Global Screening business for LexisNexis. His international experience includes study abroad in Japan, working for an Italian technology company in Milan and working for LexisNexis in London while managing teams in London, Chicago and Singapore. He has a BA in International Economics and Leadership Studies, and an MBA in Finance and Entrepreneurship. He also holds CIPP/E and CIPM certifications.