Screen globally like a local

Employment truly is a global undertaking nowadays. But it’s also something that can be fraught with danger for an unwitting employer venturing into the world of international background screening for the first time.

The catalyst here could be that you want to bring staff in from other countries; to recruit for satellite offices or subsidiaries abroad; or to streamline existing recruitment and screening policies worldwide.

Whatever the motivation, you soon come to realise that the challenges associated with background screening on an international level are significant.

Language, culture, local laws, protocol and etiquette are just some of the factors that can add huge complexity into the screening process. Being unaware of – or unable to cope with – these factors can be, at best, a source of frustration and delays. In the worst-case scenario, it could result in you employing an unsuitable candidate (the sort of person who would have been exposed with ease in your home country) or acting illegally.

Language is the most obvious barrier to effective international screening. Being unable to communicate effectively may oblige you to take a candidate’s documents at face value, unable to investigate or validate them correctly. This can expose you to issues around diploma or accreditation mills, fake references or qualifications which are incorrectly passed off as an acceptable equivalent to a UK qualification. Clearly, having native or multi-lingual speakers involved in this process is therefore essential in order to appropriately challenge candidates, documents and data sources as well to correctly interpret check results.

Then there’s the loss of your typical reference points to bear in mind. The bodies who you approach for information in the UK might not have an equivalent in the countries you’re dealing with. The way they handle documents may be different – and the processes for handling the whole enquiry almost certainly will be.

That’s one reason why background screening best practice can vary wildly from one country to another. Furthermore, local laws will affect the checks you can or cannot ask for, how you’re supposed to phrase the questions you ask, what you can do with the results and how you handle the data you generate.

While this can be challenging, screening in countries without a developed legal framework can be even more of a minefield. In such cases, the degree to which you understand the cultural niceties around how checks are conducted can make all the difference between a successful outcome and the shutters being politely but firmly pulled down. Even something as simple as abusing the usual etiquette of not constantly chasing for results – if that’s frowned upon in a particular country – could be all that’s needed to bring the process to a shuddering halt.

Whatever the motivation, you soon come to realise that the challenges associated with background screening on an international level are significant

The usual mantra of your checks only being as good as the sources they rely upon most definitely applies to international screening. But it’s equally important to be well briefed on, and respectful of, the many ways in which screening in other countries differs from your own.