In the first part of the series, we look at how companies use stringent background verification
Akhilesh Mishra (name changed), who had applied for a senior management position at an engineering major was stumped when the recruitment firm told him that his social media posts were an issue with his prospective employer. Mishra had openly praised an activist group that had threatened the same corporate house in the past.
Background verification, which was till recently was used by a handful of companies is slowly becoming the norm. This not only includes the standard verification of basic information like address, education and past employer, but also other parameters like creditworthiness and ideological leanings.
Leading credit information company TransUnion CIBIL’s Head-Direct to Consumer Interactive Hrushikesh Mehta said there is a growing demand for candidate and employee credit verification.
“In light of recent events in the banking sector, employers across industries are more cautious than before. They are seeking reassurance that their candidates and employees are not just talented, but trustworthy too,” he added.
Mehta said that credit checks can be used to understand a candidate’s or employee’s financial position, credit activities, and repayment history, but can also underline financial stress. Explicit consent is sought from the candidate and only after that the CIBIL score and report is shared with the employer. The candidate is also provided a copy.
“The intense job competition prevailing in today’s market, has resulted into candidates providing fabricated profiles and hiding or embellishing their skills or experience to appear more appealing to the recruiters,” said Anshul Prakash, Partner, Khaitan & Co.
Being a good culture fit
Besides basic credentials, companies also check if the candidate will be able to fit into the culture of the particular organisation.
Ruhie Pande, Chief Human Resource Officer, Godrej Properties said that they conduct exhaustive background verifications that include candidate data from past three employers, academic details, legal issues and reference checks with past supervisors. “In case of senior candidates, we also tap our formal and informal networks to gauge their strengths and culture fitment,” added Pande.A 2017survey by background verification firm AuthBridge found that around 15 percent of the candidates had fudged or omitted important information from their resume. In FY15, the his figure was around 10 percent.
With aspiration levels rising faster than the industry’s ability to create jobs, candidates are increasingly misrepresenting information to employers, say recruiters.
Captain (retd), Partha Samai, senior vice president and group head-human resources, AGS Transact Technologies said his firm has contracted three organisations for background checks.
This tightening of the employee screening process can be seen as a reward for credit-disciplined individuals, according to Mishra. Just like updating their resume and portfolios in preparation for a career change, candidates should continuously track their scores, monitor their credit activities and work towards better credit health and job opportunities, Mishra said.
Corporate leaders agree that prospective employees should disclose as much relevant information as they can so that they do not get into trouble at a later stage.
Disclose as much as you can
Kaustubh Sonalkar, President-HR, Essar Group and Chief Executive Officer-Essar Foundation says his organsation follows a uniform verification process across the group. The checks include previous employment, education, salary and perks, skills, criminal and civil records, among others.
In case they find any discrepancies during the background checks, they give the employee a fair chance to explain and rectify.Digital and social media understanding is also becoming important. At Essar, Sonalkar said that they also verify a candidate’s knowledge, relevant education, presence and participation on social media just to be sure of any misrepresentation. It, he said, helps them understand the candidate’s liking and bend for certain topics that will be important for the business.
Among smaller companies, a lot of hiring is done through references thereby eliminating the need to engage external agencies for background checks.
Varun Gupta, CEO, Goomo, a travel -tech startup said that taking the agency route had its own disadvantages. It takes the agencies about a month to get all the details and that could affect hiring timelines.
“In such cases, reference checks are a quicker, effective and efficient option. Going by what we do at Goomo, we hire a lot through references and that eliminates the need to conduct background verification for most candidates. For others, we do reference checks,” he added.
Risk assessment of new joinees
Each new employee brings certain risks and expertise to the system of the new organisation.
Rahul Belwalkar, CEO of background verification firm SecUR Credentials said that it is important to have a complete background verification across roles. Apart from the checks of the address, past employers and educational qualifications, he said that court records, drug tests and social media offer the human resource teams a view of the liabilities that the candidate might bring to the organisation.
He added that credit checks are a norm in some private sector banks so as to safeguard from fraudulent employees who are managing their clients’ money.
Employers also want to steer clear of major controversies wherein globally they have had to penalize employees making insensitive comments online. Francis Padamadan, Senior Director-Asia Pacific, RPO & BPS Practice, KellyOCG said that these days employers analyze quality of updates, followers, posts or comments or exchanges, participation in professional and voluntary forums, communities.
According to Padamadan, employers can also look for culture fit candidates through social media analyses of LinkedIn, Quora, Reddit, GitHub, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Quick fixes to save timeBut the time consuming activity can also be a deterrent to some companies which are now taking the help of the internet to quicken the process.
Vikas Bansal, Chief Human Resource Officer, Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance said real-time checks using data sourced from government recognised and regulated entities are also being done to cut down time.
“It takes close to 3-4 weeks and in some cases 6-8 weeks to get a full report by which time the organization has invested into the employee. There is a clear need to segment the employees and use rule engines to determine the need and scope for background verification. We have been able to develop models where 30-40 percent of our employees would not require background verification, thanks to Aadhaar, CIBIL scores, PAN validation which are available online,” added Bansal.
Reference checks from past employees is also being preferred to save time and costs for the companies. In some cases, there is a situation of a just-in-time hiring which means that a company has very little time to fill the position. Here, extensive use of basic KYC tools and checking with past employers, bosses, alumni network is used.
A lot of roles are also customer-facing and would require transactions that could be sensitive, cash-heavy or both. If any company’s employee is accused of any data leak or financial irregularities, clients have the right to sue them.Sanchi Bablani, Manager-Recruitments at e-pharmacy portal PharmEasy said that it becomes a responsibility of a recruiter to ensure that the employees associated with the company do not have a questionable past which can potentially harm the business, its clients or other employees.
“Additionally, this will ensure that only qualified individuals are considered for the role, and there are reduced terminations later on which could have increase the overall hiring costs,” added Bablani.
Way aheadCandidates can no longer fudge data on the sly without being questioned by employers. With resume farms providing fake credentials for a few thousand rupees, the problem of misrepresentation has become rampant. As more Indian companies go global, they prefer to invest a few lakhs in getting the right hires, than risk crores in reputational damage later on. The downside for employees is that no longer will their private space online will be fully private and they could be asked to justify some of their views on topics seemingly unrelated to work, during the recruitment processes.
This is the first part of a series looking at how recruitment has evolved.Tomorrow, the second part of the series will look at how companies are using psychometric tests to judge a candidate better.