The rising instances of workplace infractions/violations will necessitate background screening to become a necessary component of HR manuals in India. In order to preserve its reputation and protect valuable assets, it is important for a company to evaluate the credentials of the candidate it is hiring. For this purpose, employment background screening acts as one of the most valuable processes through which such information could be assembled. There exist a number of checks which could be conducted on a candidate prior to their hiring, namely educational, reference, criminal, employment, drug abuse, among other checks. A robust and formally written screening policy enumerating the scope and limit of each check and the protocol to which the investigators should abide by must be formally introduced.
1- The background screening policy must include an introductory and a purpose statement that should cover each individual under the workplace premises. The individuals covered might include all the employees, vendors, business partners, board executives and frequent visitors to the organisation. It must also emphasise the resources the policy deems to be most protective about;
2- The next step involves clear defining of the scope of the background screening policy. The scope must define the boundaries and limits to the policy with respect to the screening of a prospective candidate. Depending on an organisation’s size and core functions it performs, the policy might, for example, advise on the extent to which a social media screening could be performed on a candidate (we will discuss the social media screening policy in a separate blog as it merits a topic of its own). Furthermore, the scope should also designate the duties and responsibilities of the screening investigator. Certain hiring decisions call for the spontaneous judgment on part of the investigator, and in such cases, it becomes necessary that there is a single person responsible for making such decisions;
3-The scope should also clearly inform about the department accountable for implementing and handling the policy’s provisions and propose guidelines for coordinating with other departments, for e.g. the department handling the security of the company;
4-The policy should clearly identify the most important but at the same time the most vulnerable and sensitive positions in an organisation; positions that pose a high-risk potential to organisation’s resources. After such positions have been identified, the policy should then lay down the procedures on how to gather and interpret information obtained through the background screening of such positions. The intent behind treating such positions differently is to minimise the risks associated with them. To this end, the policy should identify such organisational positions, determine the standards on which the identification is based and then justify the merits of treating the background screening information of such positions as a special case. Typical job positions that could be considered to be highly sensitive to the management may include: That requires direct interaction with the masses or with high profile individuals,
- Field officer positions,
- Vendor/dealer/supplier managers,
- Where employees handle large amount of cash and/ or other valuables, or where the employees deal with financial/accounting matters,
- Positions where individuals draw a considerable influence in the workplace (senior management),
- Those that bear significant responsibility for the security of an organisation, internal or external. For e.g. medical practitioners or security force;
The policy should also provide a rough guide to choosing from the various number of checks and determining their applicability depending upon the position applied for by a candidate. As such, now even the Indian corporations have started developing robust screening policies whose thoroughness vary on the basis of the position applied for (whether an entry-level position or a senior position) in the company;
5- Clear pronouncements should also be made with regard to the manager’s responsibility in treating the final background screening report. It is in the manager’s and the organisation’s interest to consider employee background screening report as a key component in the hiring process, and it should, therefore, have a significant bearing on the hiring decision. In order that this attitude among the managers becomes universal, one should have the support of senior managers who could constantly reinforce such attitude among junior managers in their respective departments. The importance of considering background screening report cannot be stressed enough. Not accepting it could create the situation of negligent hiring for an organisation;
6- Finally, the policy should emphatically state that, for the purpose of conducting background screening in the most ethical manner, it ratifies the contemporary organisational standards as set out by, for example, NASSCOM (The National Association of Software and Services Companies). Since employee background screening is a time consuming, though a highly necessary, process, most of the companies outsource such work to other companies that specialise in such services. In this case, the policy should make sure that the background screening company complies with one or more organisational standards, such as that of NASSCOM, ISO-27001 standards (information security management system), etc.
A background screening policy cannot ensure flawless hiring process. It can, however, significantly reduce the risk of harm to an organisation from the viewpoint of human, financial and technological wellbeing.