September 20th, 2022 | Iain Murray

3 Reasons to Update Your Background Check Policy

A recent poll of Canadian HR professionals revealed 79% of respondents have not updated their screening policy since the onset of COVID-19 in early 2020.  What’s changed in the world of background screening in two years?  Quite a bit, actually.  Let’s take a look at three of the biggest changes.

Identity Verification

While verifying a candidate’s identity has always been a prerequisite to obtaining a Criminal Record Check in Canada, social distancing mandates necessitated more flexible, digital solutions to verify identity remotely.

Furthermore, with the rise of remote work, some instances of fraud increased, where companies would run a background checks on an individual, only to have a completely different individual show up to work on day one.  For these reasons, adopting a more robust identity verification process has become a priority.

Take the recent example from British Columbia, where a woman named Brigitte Cleroux was hired for various nursing positions, despite having no qualifications.  She applied for a job using the name Melanie Smith, which matched the identity of a nurse registered in B.C. at the time.  Cleroux, however, has a long criminal history across the country, including 67 convictions as an adult, and has pretended to be a nurse or school teacher in at least four provinces and two U.S. states.

In this scenario, verifying identity pre-hire could have averted disaster. As it turns out, there are plenty of modern, digital options to choose from.  Biometric facial recognition, Live Video Chat ID Proofing, and knowledge-based authentication (KBA) are just three of the remote ID verification options available to enhance your screening process, while providing flexibility to hire remotely with confidence.

Social Media Screening

Another screening tool on the rise pertains to social media.  While the concept of reviewing a candidate’s online presence is nothing new, the rise in remote work has only increased the desire to learn as much as you can about a candidate pre-hire.  A recent Sterling poll uncovered that 42% of employers are performing some social media screening, with 39% performing screening pre-hire, and 26% reviewing social media periodically post-hire.

Of course, we also live in a very polarized political climate in recent years, and that has likely led to increased interest in one’s social media presence as well.  In fact, one of the key benefits in using a third party to assist with social media screening is that employers can be notified of any concerning items without being privy to sensitive information that shouldn’t enter a hiring decision – such as sexual orientation or political leanings.  However, when those political leanings become extreme, to include threats of violence, hate speech, or participating in criminal activity, it’s great to be aware of the content so you can follow up as appropriate.

On occasion, an example of what information a social media check can yield winds up on full display in news headlines.  Recently, a camp counsellor at a Saskatchewan Bible camp was the subject of an RCMP investigation for an ‘exorcism’ performed on a teen, which greatly concerned other kids and parents. As the CBC first reported, a simple background check would have revealed a series of red flags.  In addition to the counsellor being dismissed from similar roles in the past, and previous police contact that would be uncovered with an employment verification or criminal record check, a quick look into the counsellor’s public social media presence would have provided a lot of insight.

Videos and posts viewed by the CBC showed the man documenting his own violent past, including self-depictions as a “monster” who was exposed to porn early and who later abused his girlfriend after a “drunken cocaine party.” That allegation is what caused him to lose his last role as a camp counselor, he reportedly said.

“In my drunken rage, I sabotaged everything, I physically abused my girlfriend, screaming so loud it woke up the neighborhood, my girlfriend ran out of the house, banging on the doors of anyone who would listen and next thing I knew my parents and the police showed up,” he reportedly wrote on a since-deleted Facebook account.

The man’s struggles eventually continued through the spring of 2020 before he reportedly fell back into a relationship with religion. “God saved me from a life of debauchery. God saved me from a life of wickedness,” he reportedly said in a May video.

Post-Hire Screening

On a related topic, Post-Hire Screening is also on the rise.  While some searches like verification of employment and education make the most sense to confirm pre-hire, and are unlikely to change while employed, other elements such as Criminal Record Checks, Driver Abstracts, Professional Licenses, and social media screening can change at any moment.

In fact, one organization recently re-screened thousands of licensed staff and learned that just over 1% of those re-screened within one year of being hired had a new offence on their Criminal Record.  1% may not seem like a lot, but it represented approximately 60 scenarios where an individual was being placed at a client job site that often required contractors to have no criminal record.

Whether monitoring social media for mentions of the employer’s brand, or periodically re-screening current staff in sensitive roles, Post-Hire Screening is definitely on the rise.

If a background screening policy only addresses traditional elements pre-hire, such as criminal record checks, education and employment verifications, it would be worth evaluating post-hire screening, and the inclusion of identity verification and social media screening to ensure informed decision making to promote trust and safety.

Want to discuss your background screening policy? Our team of experts are ready to answer your questions and get you started on a screening program unique to your organization’s needs and requirements. Click here to start a conversation.

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.