It’s a Small World: Understanding International Background Screening

With modern technology linking us humans closer together, the world seems to be shrinking. This affects employers a variety of ways. The good news is they have gained access to a larger pool of job candidates since many positions are no longer bound by geography. However, with more people living abroad to work or study, how can employers still properly check job seekers’ backgrounds and get a clear picture of a candidate who has resided in across the globe?

The increase in international living has driven recent advances in background screening. Reports containing crucial information are available from a wide variety of foreign countries. Employers just need to understand how to find the information, and how to gain access to it. It’s time to update your background check policy by understanding and executing international background screening.

Some key points you must know before embarking on an international background screening process are:

#1: Expect Longer Turn Times

While checking the criminal history, verifying education and employment, and completing reference checks usually take a few days in the United States, it can take much longer in other countries. Issues with privacy laws and rules vary by country, making it more complex to navigate. Some countries offer the same information as the U.S. while others won’t give out any information at all. And, depending on the country, the government may not keep accurate or thorough records, so some information could return as incomplete.

#2: Plan for Extra Documentation

Foreign countries may require identification and additional documentation in addition to what the U.S requires. With varying privacy laws and information gathering standards, employers may need to have access to more of the applicant’s information and documentation if they want to screen them internationally. It’s a smart practice to have as much information on the candidate as possible on the front end, from their date of birth to the dates he or she resided in the foreign country, to their address, to ensure an accurate international background check.

#3: Identify Country Rules in Advance

A simple mistake we see with employers who order international background checks on applicants who have lived in other countries is they don’t ask questions up front. It’s essential to understand a country’s laws and the type of information its schools, businesses, and courts will and won’t divulge. Otherwise, the background screening process will fail to progress.

Be sure to talk with your background screening provider before you order international screening, so you know what to expect. This helps to proactively plan your hiring strategy.

#4: Maintain Consistent Procedures when Possible

Employers understand that a uniform, consistent hiring process protects their company against discrimination claims and negligent hiring lawsuits. When it comes to international screening, don’t give up on screening your applicants in the same manner, even if it takes a little more effort. When possible, it’s a smart best practice to compare the same information on everyone. So, if you are verifying a job seeker’s education within the United States, make every effort to verify education if an applicant attended school abroad. While it may not always be possible to receive the same in-depth information that U.S. based schools provide (such as dates of attendance, major, grades, etc.) keep documentation showing that you made a valid effort to compare apples to apples when screening applicants for the same position.

#5: Rely on a Trusted Third-Party Background Screening Provider

In an international environment, working with a professional, experienced background screening company is vital. Companies that don’t have tenured screeners on staff or take the time to keep up with each country’s privacy laws and information gathering standards can guide employers down the wrong road. They may report information that is inaccurate and may miss important information that you need to make the best decision.  Ask questions about the company’s background screening practices regarding international screening, from the documents they require, to the level of experience of the people doing the screening, to expected turn-around times and pricing. The company should be able to give you direct, educated answers. If they don’t seem to know the difference between national and international screening or offer broad, vague answers, it may be time to find another screening partner.

An employer’s background screening goal needs to be a complete picture of the candidate so they can make the best hiring decision. This is true whether he has lived down the street or across the world. Preparing for the inevitable situation of conducting a background check in another country is just smart business. Creating a plan in advance and staying as consistent as possible to your overall screening procedures enable employers to successfully navigate the new global hiring climate. And, of course, landing the best people for your open jobs.