January 26th, 2023 | Sterling

Background Check Trends to Watch For In 2023

Necessity is the mother of invention, and that certainly was true of the background check industry in 2022. As we reflect on the past year, social media searches, post-hire screening, and identity verification have become top concerns for employers, with identity verification playing a particularly important role in the modern screening process. These areas have been shaped by new technologies, which will continue to evolve and influence the future of the industry in 2023.

Social Media Searches and Post-Hire Screening

In 2022, social media searches have emerged as a new must-have for HR professionals. Recent years have shown the importance of finding employees that are authentic and will reflect their employers’ cultures and values. In an increasingly polarized climate, employers are also on the lookout for signs of prejudice, extremism, and workplace misconduct that might create a hostile workplace environment or harm their reputation. Social media searches can highlight both positive behaviours and possible areas of concern, helping companies take the next step with the perfect brand ambassadors that they are looking for.

Post-hire screening is another long-time phenomenon that has received growing attention in 2022. After the initial background check, many organizations adopt a hands-off approach when it comes to their employees’ and volunteers’ screening. While it is true that certain searches, like employment and education verification, are unlikely to provide new information if completed again post-hire, others, like criminal record checks, drivers abstract, or licensing and certification renewals can benefit from being verified at regular intervals. A lot can happen in six months (or a year, or five years), including the possibility of new and relevant criminal convictions appearing on some employees’ background screening reports.

Identity Verification

In Canada, the concept of identity verification is nothing new. The RCMP has required it as a pre-requisite to obtaining a criminal record check for decades. For years, physical identity verification was the only option available. This required an applicant to provide two (2) valid pieces of identification – in person – prior to undergoing a criminal record check.

In recent years, electronic identity verification has risen to prominence. A substitute for physical identity verification, this method was first introduced to the Canadian market by Sterling Backcheck more than a decade ago. It has since proven incredibly helpful when screening remote workers or in other contexts in which meeting applicants face-to-face is not feasible, such as the gig economy or licensing and regulatory bodies.

When we were faced with the recent pandemic, electronic identity verification stopped being a luxury and asserted itself as a necessity. With social distancing measures in place, asking a candidate to verify identity in person suddenly became a non-starter. As a result, the background screening industry leveraged new technologies to verify identity in a variety of ways, including:

  • Facial recognition with biometric matches
  • Live video chat ID proofing
  • Biographic data verification
  • Telecom and device verification
  • ID document verification

As members of DIACC, we are familiar with digital verification options available in the Canadian market. The current best practice centers around Multi-Factor Authentication, which requires applicants to provide a combination of the following:

  • Something they KNOW, such as a password or security question.
  • Something they HAVE, such as a government- or school-issued ID.
  • Something they ARE, meaning biometric data.

When used in combination, these elements provide a greater degree of confidence than a simple look at a driver’s license with the naked eye. For this reason, the addition of biometrics to the identity verification toolkit is not just a matter of convenience, but one of necessity.

Holding the Line with Identity

When the pandemic arrived, employers adapted. They began to hire remotely and found ways to make things work. When it came to background screening, employers who had once met candidates face-to-face and asked for copies of ID suddenly went to conducting phone screens only, or video chats, while asking candidates to email copies of their IDs.

When employers no longer met candidates face-to-face, fraudsters saw an opportunity. For example, Person A may partake in a phone screen, but email the potential employer Person B’s driver’s license for identification purposes. Once Person B’s background check comes back with a “Clear” result, Person A would then show up to work on Monday. When the employer never sees the candidate, how can they be sure it’s the same person?

As many employers adapted their workflows to ensure business continuity, they unknowingly lowered their standard on physical ID verification, introducing a loophole for fraudsters to take advantage of – and fraudsters took notice.

Over the course of 2022, there have been countless examples of applicants offering identity documents belonging to another individual. If your recruiters are taking on the responsibility of verifying identity with their own eyes, be sure to keep the “physical” in physical identity verification:   it allows the employer to make sure the photo belongs to the person presenting the ID.

Those who grew up watching the Simpsons might remember Homer Simpson using a fake ID to get beer when he was 17. Many fraudsters are smarter than Homer and have access to more advanced technology. Some candidates can present two high quality fake IDs, whose fraudulent nature is undetectable to the human eye. Even physical identity verification policies that call for the provision of two pieces of ID to reduce the risk of fraud are susceptible to being exploited. It’s no longer difficult for fraudsters to obtain two pieces of fake ID. Those policies are often decades old. Given all this, how can employers protect themselves?


In order to avoid the pitfalls associated with older methods of identity verification, the following best practices are recommended:

  1. Use biometrics as the primary source of identity verification to reduce reliance on the naked eye. Biometrics can reduce physical ID verification instances by over 90%.
  2. If physical identity verification is required, the physical aspect should not be abandoned. Meeting the candidate face-to-face is important to ensure the IDs have not expired, the photos match the candidate and the information on the consent forms matches the IDs.
  3. If physical identity verification is required, the naked eye should not be the last line of defense. The driver’s license or passport should be submitted for document validation as well.

Sterling Backcheck is a leader in the background screening industry. Our state-of-the-art technologies and in-house compliance experts can help you update your screening program for 2023 and beyond. If you have questions about how social media searches, post-hire screening, and identity verification could benefit your hiring process, contact us.

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.