Background Check for Remote Employees: How Well Do You Know Your Next Telecommuter?

Employees are the face of a company. They uphold the vision and values and have a bearing on the growth trajectory. One wrong move by one black sheep in the family can ruin it all.

It’s been well over two years since the pandemic hit the Indian shores. Much has changed since then. For businesses and startups in India, remote working was once a privilege only dealt out to a handful of employees.

Now, it’s become a standard; the only avenue to ensure business continuity and employee safety amidst crises.

Although telecommuting isn’t what it was once before (and in a good way), there are some major loopholes that need fixing. Background screening when hiring remote employees is just one of them.

The Results Are In, and They Don’t Look Too Good

Employees are the face of a company. They uphold the vision and values and have a bearing on the growth trajectory. One wrong move by one black sheep in the family can ruin it all. Take gig economy workers for instance. They’re invaluable human resources for many consumer internet companies that offer services like ride-hailing, food and grocery deliveries and so on.

Organisations are compelled to invest in background screening services because such gig workers usually find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Often there are reports of workers mistreating customers and committing heinous crimes. To avoid brand murder, organisations with deep pockets —like Swiggy, Zomato, and Amazon —usually spend upto USD 2 million[1] each year on employee background verification.

An added cost for sure, and quite an expensive one at that, but necessary. It’s ironic that a company’s greatest asset, its people, can become its biggest liability.

But not every company can afford to spend millions on background verification. Bootstrapped startups and companies with limited funding know that they have to cut corners. Just last year, the police arrested a 34-year-old man[2] in Pune for landing a job at a private hospital for a year by producing counterfeit medical certificates.

It’s not just smaller organisations or those with minimal funds that are facing the repercussions of employee background discrepancies. Discrepancy has spread across several key sectors and the numbers are soaring. In Q3 (2020) alone, sectors like FMCG, BPO, healthcare, banking, manufacturing and retail recorded higher discrepancy levels than the industry average of 9.4%[3].

Furthermore, sectors like IT, telecom, and retail were all plagued by discrepancies with telecom leading the line with 49.7%[4], that’s 50 out of every 100 candidates; IT with 16.6%[5], eight out of every 100; and healthcare with 12%, closely followed by retail, BFSI and pharma, each recording 10.2%, 9.76%, and 9.65% respectively.

Employee background verification has always been a challenge for human resources. The pandemic and its aftereffects only exacerbated the problem. Hiring freezes —like the one triggered by the pandemic— can arrest the discrepancy figures briefly, but it’s not a viable solution; organisations will (and must) hire, and rogue candidates will stay dishonest and unprincipled.

The only way out is technology. Background screening companies today utilise automation and start-of-the-art, cross-reference systems and databases to give organisations what they want — closure. We’ll get to the ‘how’ in a bit, but first…

Let’s Quickly Discuss Why Stringent Background Verification Should Be Mandatory for Remote WFH Employees

You are a business owner or an HR professional. And it’s your duty to ensure that your telecommuters are protected. Not just that, you’d want to hire someone who can be trusted. Nobody wants to onboard a good-for-nothing, lying, thieving candidate that will put other co-workers in harm’s way, tarnish brand reputation, and steal invaluable company assets.

What’s more, any organisation, small, medium, or large doesn’t want to keep someone on their payroll who has constant run-ins with law and order. These are the principal reasons why employee background verification becomes necessary.

Background screening provides you with all the data you need to earmark a potential employee’s threat level. Since businesses hold a wealth of information — like client files, trade secrets, customer data, business strategies —background screening becomes necessary, especially if it’s being shared remotely with telecommuters.

Needless to say, oversight is key when sensitive information is being passed around. In the case of remote jobs and wfh jobs, apart from stringent candidate vetting, you should give some thought to investing in software or a tool that helps you track employee activity.

It’s just an extra layer of protection for your organisation. Background screening will help you steer clear of bad candidates, employee activity monitoring, on the other hand, will red flag suspicious behaviour.

Both should go hand in hand. Think of it as a before-after potent combination that nullifies threat. The “after” is optional of course, but important nonetheless because you never know when a good employee turns bad.

After all, you can’t predict uncertainty, but you can certainly prepare for it. At least that’s one good, universal lesson that the pandemic has taught us. Right‽

Remote Employee Background Verification Is a Challenge for Two Particular Reasons

Conducting background checks for remote working jobs employees can be a challenge, due to the following pitfalls.

  • The Paucity of Time

Background checks can take anywhere from two days up to several weeks. It totally depends on how long different background verification companies take to contact a candidate before they can distribute the results back with the help of an ATS (Applicant Tracking System).

Even so, it is advisable to get results back as quickly as possible so that decision makers do not have to worry about missing an important step along the way.

  • It All Boils Down To Money

When you hire an employee, the cost of uncovering minute details like their criminal history, and medical background can be a major surprise. However, if you know how much this inquiry will affect your budget, you can plan for it in advance and prepare yourself for what might come.

To address the disparity between what employers should know about their workers and what they are willing or able to invest in knowing more about them, companies need access to affordable background vetting tools that provide insight into risk factors without ruining the overall budget.

The cost factor comes into the picture when your organisation hires a contractor or freelancer, it’s important to consider each candidate’s level of education and experience. But if most applicants don’t meet certain criteria, there’s no sense in spending lots of time and money investigating them.

Background Verification Companies: The Panacea

Background checks are a useful tool for helping startups and established companies learn more about their employees, including the specific skills they bring to the table, their work histories and their individual eccentricities and behaviours.

Background check companies can provide two types of insights into the people who make up your teams:

Employee screening ensures that businesses hire people who are suitable for their jobs. This process includes verifying candidates’ personal information and backgrounds, and checking if they have any criminal convictions or history of drug abuse before hiring them.

Risk assessment, also known as pre-employment screening, is a method of determining whether an applicant has any past criminal convictions so that these issues can be addressed before making a final hiring decision about onboarding them.

The Key Takeaway

Conducting background checks on potential remote employees is one way to mitigate risk and ensure that you aren’t missing out on an opportunity to hire talented WFH candidates.

BetterPlace can help you run comprehensive checks for your remote workforce and help you make a seamless transition to working remotely.



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  1. comment-author

    This is an extremely thoughtful write-up. In very simple language the writer has explained why background verification is necessary for remote WFH employees. The points shared take into account the present scenario in the job market, and how the rising challenges can be addressed with background verification. More such topics would be helpful.

    1. comment-author
      Shalini L

      Thank you so much for your appreciation. Our team makes sure that you receive value from our blogs. We continuously post such content on our website, and for more, you can subscribe to our newsletter as well!

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