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Private vs Public: Where to Draw the Line for Employment Screening

Private vs Public: Where to Draw the Line for Employment Screening

Hiring employment screenings is a recommended practice for recruiting and talent acquisition teams to mitigate risks, especially when looking for high-profile candidates.  As international private investigators, we are frequently asked with these questions: where is the line between private and public information? How thorough should a background check be?

“Social media has blurred the lines between private and public life in an unprecedented way” says John Wallace, Director of Background Checks at Wymoo International. It’s only natural for people to doubt because in our current world the meaning of privacy is fading away. We have gotten used to share where we are, what we do, what we like, who we spend time with, thoughts and opinions with the world; but this doesn’t mean that all we can find about a candidate online is reliable or relevant information.  Most of information online is not verified or reliable.

The above two words are key to understand where the line is. An employment background check is meant to obtain reliable and relevant information about a candidate, data that can prove whether a person is the best fit for a position, not to meddle in people’s private lives. With this in mind, it is easier to know which information is important for the hiring team.

What investigators view as relevant information

Unfortunately, employers often consider criminal records the only relevant information. However, although important, this is not the only nor necessarily the most important thing to consider.

In the first place, an employer needs to confirm the identity of a candidate. Impostors are more common than people think, and identity checks are greatly overlooked. Sometimes people have a common name, or out of luck they happen to be named the same as a brilliant researcher or a renown professional. It is easy for impostors to take advantage of such situations to land a job, so identity verification is definitely one of the most relevant pieces of the puzzle.

Work experience and education history are relevant to an employer too. It is important not only to verify higher education and previous employment references, but also if the candidate has any experience as a consultant, volunteer, researcher, public speaker, etc, or if they hold any certificates other than formal education degrees. A lot of people develop extracurricular activities that can be of great benefit or a deterrent for an employer. For example, if a candidate advocates and is a public speaker for a cause that is in direct conflict with the employer’s values, that might be something you want to consider before making an offer.

Publicly available is not necessarily relevant

A major concern with social media and online screening is how much the information learned about a candidate will influence an employer’s final decision, even when the information uncovered has nothing to do with the role. So what if the candidate likes that singer you hate? The main purpose of a professional international employment screening conducted by a trained investigator is to make decisions based on whether someone is suitable for a role. Is the information found on social media assisting us to make that decision or biasing the decision? If a candidate shares their life online and parts of it are not to our liking, but don’t affect the person’s ability to perform well in the position, then it’s definitely not relevant.

Reliable information is important evidence

Finding something online doesn’t make it true. An employment screening investigation does not have to interfere in a candidate’s private life, but it is important to verify those pieces of information that are relevant to the job position and that are sometimes uncovered online or provided by the applicant. The evidence provided by a professional private investigator will come from reliable sources, like government agencies, known references likes previous employers, schools, etc. Sometimes there is data that needs to be investigated a little deeper, but it is necessary as long as it is for the sake of important evidence.

If you need to plan your employment screening process, we can help!

C. Wright

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