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 “criminal” databases. In the finale for this blog series, we conclude the series with a look at verifications, non-criminal records, and sanctions and watch list search types.
Verifications (Employment, Education, Credentials)
There are a couple of areas in which verifications can differ from vendor to vendor. The first is in the diligence done to contact the correct source. The first step in this process is finding the school/company, hereafter referred to as the source. Some vendors may simply use the contact information provided by the candidate. However, this leaves open the possibility that the candidate has provided contact information for someone posing as the source, such as a friend or relative. To avoid this, some vendors will only use candidate-provided information as a last resort. Instead, they will conduct their own diligence in an attempt to locate the source. They will also develop their own contact at the source.
The other area that can impact what the customer receives is the language used for the verification. Some vendors may always use English as the language of their first attempt and only revert to a local language speaker if necessary. Other vendors may instead always use local languages when possible and only revert to English when necessary. English as the first contact language may be less expensive and sometimes faster—for some clients this may suffice. At the same time, using English may result in the source not completely understanding the request or having certain information “lost in translation.” If the customer is hiring for specialized jobs or skillsets, having something lost in translation could be critical.
Records (Credit, Civil Litigation, Bankruptcy)
Credit reports, as they are available in the U.S., are not as common outside the U.S. While there are a number of countries that do have true credit files, and are serviced by Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, et al, the full report is often not available for background screening, if at all. In many other countries, there is no national credit service. As a result, vendors will often substitute a civil litigation and/or bankruptcy search. These are not the same as a credit report though, because an individual could have credit issues but not have any associated civil litigation records or bankruptcy filings. Because of this, it is important to understand exactly what you are getting in each country so that you can assess the value to your screening program and properly interpret the results.
Sanctions and Watch Lists
These searches are generally done from an aggregated database of lists. Vendors will often say how many lists are in their database, often ranging in the hundreds. This number can be misleading though, as lists are often duplicative. For example, the export.gov website provides a consolidated screening list, which combines over a dozen separate lists. A vendor could count this as 16 lists (15 individual lists plus the master), or as 1 list for the master only. Either way, their database would be just as comprehensive.
Vendors will have different search logic for accessing their data. Sometimes they may search using an exact-name-match only. Other vendors may use partial matches or fuzzy logic. This could have a material impact, especially when searching using foreign names that can vary a lot in format, such as Arabic names.
As with all the other services, what is important is to make an informed decision as a customer to ensure that the screening you are purchasing is appropriate for your needs.
Assessing the thousands of searches available globally can seem a challenging proposition. It can help to remember the 80/20 rule—most of your orders will likely come from a small set of countries. Focus most of your diligence efforts on the 20% of searches comprising the 80% of your volume. Make sure you know what you are getting and how it is being done. Then spend the rest of your diligence on your global screening vendor(s) so that you can trust their guidance on the other 80% of the searches that only comprise 20% of your volume.
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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.