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Selecting the most compatible background checking provider for your business

There is much data to show the benefits of background checking potential staff outweigh the investment, and there are many new companies arising in this growing market.  But how do you find the most compatible provider for your business for this crucial role? If people are at the heart of your organisation, then the provider who is charged with uncovering intricate details of the background of your team deserves nothing but the greatest of considerations and there are some simple things you can look for.

Leave compliance to the experts

Gone are the days when background checking could be undertaken based on a sentence included in an employment contract or the candidate’s verbal agreement in an interview! Compliance with the ever-changing privacy landscape is not something to be taken lightly. Select a background checking provider who is focussed on the thorough application of privacy (and other) legislation, not just in Australia but in all regions where you may require checks. Informed consent, the security of data, candidate access and cross-border disclosure need to be seamlessly handled by your provider in a way that does not leave your organisation exposed to expensive lawsuits.

In Australia, the compliance requirements for background checking are complex unless you know what to look for. Your organisation deserves the support of a provider with a detailed knowledge of the requirements of relevant regulatory bodies, including screening for compliance with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act (AML/CTF), Tax Agent Services Act (TASA), Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), Banking Industry Conduct Background Check Protocol and Working With Children legislation. The risk of non-compliance is such that your selected background checking provider needs to offer best practice advice, ongoing updates and recommendations to ensure your organisation is protected throughout the engagement.

Communication here is the key and the old adage “you get what you pay for” rings true. Some providers may appear cost-effective and quick and easy to establish an account with; however, consider whether their service involves initial and ongoing support or are you largely on your own to rollout and maintain this? Will they provide ongoing updates for changes in legislation and products that affect this crucial business process? Will a trained professional answer your calls and discuss the application of results in the compliance landscape when you require this support?

Putting compliance at the forefront of the decision when selecting a provider does not mean you will be lumped with a complex process or reams of paperwork. A provider with the experience you need should take compliance seriously, but consider it their burden and not yours, providing you access to processes where compliance is seamlessly integrated; simple on the surface and yet underpinned by the various relevant legal and regulatory requirements.

Benefits of a “one stop shop”

There is more to background checking than just police checks or reference checks. Not all providers offer a comprehensive background checking service that includes other checks you may need from time to time, or want to integrate at a later point. These might include checks such as identity validation, qualifications and employment verifications, financial checks, pre-employment medicals, drug and alcohol screening and international checks.  When you are selecting a provider, it will save time and resources to have a “one stop shop” that offers a full range of services. This will also ensure consistency as it will avoid a scenario where your organisation ends up utilising multiple providers or relying only on recruitment agencies for the in-depth screening of senior candidates that they benefit from placing.

Considering the cost: It’s not always “apples with apples”

When selecting a provider, it can be difficult to understand the range of prices – after all, isn’t a police check offered by one provider the same as a police check offered by another? Be wary of providers that offer extremely low prices for searches such as police checks; they can generally do so because:

  • Service offerings are very “low touch” and there is little to no support provided for the client and/or candidates – eg candidates may not be provided with support in completing forms to understand how to disclose all names/aliases for the police check to be run accurately;
  • Offerings are a “one size fits all” approach and there is no consideration given to individual clients and/or their candidates – eg some providers require the client to manually enter all candidate details onto an online system;
  • Processes are not candidate-friendly – eg candidates can be requested to provide ID documents when not required, rather than utilising alternative ID verification tools that streamline the process; or print, complete and scan forms rather than completing online forms via their tablet or smartphones); and
  • Quality control is often compromised in the cost-cutting process – eg results can be based completely on data entry of the client or candidate at the time of request, rather than undergoing a review process to identify errors that need to be rectified to ensure accuracy of the search.

So, when it comes to comparing costs, remember that differences between providers go beyond just process and systems; in many cases they can affect the actual integrity of the result of checks!

The balance between automation and accuracy

With the developments in technology, there are many online screening solutions that offer a cheap and completely automated service. Are these solutions offering background investigations, or just clever IT processing systems via computer programming and algorithms? The reality of these methodologies is that they are heavily reliant on the user to input information for it to be “processed” in the back end, saving the provider time and money. For some organisations, the actual process may not pose a problem (even if labourious); however, there are potential risks with this “do-it-yourself” method that are often overlooked.

When a candidate’s personal information is being entered by the client user of these systems, it is not uncommon for typographical errors to occur or other information to be missing that directly affects the integrity of the result – eg alias names or date of birth format confusion (DD/MM verses MM/DD). Having a provider review all parts of the information provided to them and ensure all names and identification are covered before the information is submitted for checks to be undertaken is key.  This thorough approach ensures your organisation can spend more time on crucial business matters, rather than reviewing the name of a potential employee on a database.

Having a team of trained professionals who know what to look for reviewing candidate data also minimises the risks associated with candidates who intentionally omit information in their application in order to hide their background; something that a client inputting information into the system directly would likely miss.

In selecting a suitable provider, consider a balanced approach by focusing on those that provide a solution that hinges on accuracy and customer support, coupled with automated processes that make the overall process efficient.

 Look for flexibility and support

There is no one-size-fits-all screening process for background checking; just as there is no “standard package” of checks that fulfils the HR, risk, budget and compliance requirements for all roles. Avoid the temptation to favour providers that appear to offer simple solutions and standard approaches, it is unlikely these will have your organisation covered or work in with existing processes.

Consider providers that offer a flexibility of service; where packages and processes from both a client and candidate side can be customised based on what your organisation needs and how this will fit in with existing procedures.

Discount providers may put forward a process that appears to tick the box in most situations, but make sure that there can be exceptions to the rule for candidates where a standard may not apply. For example, a senior candidate for an executive role may require a more sensitive approach in early stages of gathering personal information and their case may require more telephone contact from member of your provider’s management team. Or more mature candidates may need assistance navigating the online system or request manual methods of providing personal information which deviates from the standard process.

It is also important to ensure that packages can be tailored to suit varying screening requirements and the inherent risk associated with different roles. Once packages are customised to suit your requirements, the ability to add or remove checks from these packages is also crucial. If you take background checking for role-specific risk seriously, your provider needs to offer a model where you can easily add a driving history check for an employee with access to the company car, or a basic credit check for a junior staff member who does not warrant your full “Financial Roles” package; however, has access to a company credit card.

Likewise, ensure that your provider will not charge for package inclusions that are not relevant in all instances and that this is tailored to individual candidates. For example, if a package for professional roles includes a qualification verification, ensure that a candidate who is screened under this package but did not complete tertiary studies will reflect a deduction for this check that was not required.

It is crucial to ensure you do not unwittingly select a provider based on factors such as cost to later discover there is no ongoing flexibility to amend your account or provide support throughout the engagement. Check up-front that aspects such as new users, training in IT systems, amendments to packages, process adaptations, telephone support, disputes by candidates, urgent requests and any reporting requirements can be accommodated and ascertain where any additional costs may apply.

 Weight of the candidate experience

Until a background checking program is in place, the candidate experience can be something that is given little or no consideration, and yet this really is core to the success of the entire process. The fallout from the trend in the past decade towards online solutions has been the candidate experience – without the correct management, candidates can feel confused and unsupported. Candidates often view their screening as an extension of the recruitment process, so it is important to select a provider who has the same approach to candidate care as you.

When assessing providers, ask questions about what the candidate will experience when their information is collected for screening, what supporting documentation they will be asked for and what support they will be provided with. If a provider offers automated and online solutions for candidate liaison, ensure these are backed by good old-fashioned customer service, with someone who will answer the telephone when your candidates need it!

Police checks – Maintain control

In recent years, there has been a movement towards minimising administration on the part of the organisation by accepting information provided by candidates as a background checking source. In particular, some organisations encourage candidates in high-risk jobs to source police checks, references and degree certificates themselves and then provide the results. The fact that these automatic processes rely on the details input by candidates to produce a certificate or background checking report means that this should be avoided. Placing the control of the data on which a check will be undertaken into the hands of the individual themselves in the absence of context for its purpose and a formal review of an experienced third party exposes your organisation to great risk.

Some business models demand a background checking solution where the cost of the checks is to be covered by the individuals

themselves, such as in contractor arrangements. However, your organisation not covering background checking costs is no reason to surrender control of the process or the consistency in approach. If this scenario applies to your organisation, look for a provider who can facilitate this payment methodology, whilst maintaining commitment to involvement in the quality control process.

A recent case undertaken by PeopleCheck involved a candidate who tried to avoid their criminal past showing up by providing false personal information. When completing online forms for a Police Check to be undertaken, the candidate provided a false date of birth which was identified by the team through the complementary document and identity review process. The check result was returned with an extensive criminal record! Similar cases studies can be quoted across industries and products.

PeopleCheck are observing more and more cases of candidates providing false personal information through online portals, such as missing middle names or alias names, including nicknames. For example, Benjamin may also be known as and recorded as Benji or Ben in relevant records and background checks need to be run on all names for thoroughness. It is crucial that your selected provider reviews all personal details against ID and other pertinent information. A thorough reviewing processes will ensure that attempts to falsify data are exposed so your organisation is presented with an accurate representation of a candidate’s background.

More information

For more information on the ways in which PeopleCheck can provide your organisation with a best practice background checking solution underpinned by customer service, knowledge and flexibility, please contact us via telephone on +612 4023 0603 or email at

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