Born in China, educated in France, working in Australia

Conducting background checks on foreign workers can be as complicated as it is important
By Traci Canning
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/31/2007

Pre-employment screening has become a standard best practice for many Canadian companies. But what happens when the applicant was born in China, educated in Europe and worked for a time in Australia? How can employers possibly conduct a background check on this prospective employee?

HR professionals know employment policies need to be practiced equally with all candidates without preference or prejudice. Such standardization protects both the employee and the company. But, in reality, despite the diligence applied to single-country employee verification, there are often large gaps in the screening of multinational workers. When queried about global background checks, responses HR departments received from local offices have included statements like: “Sometimes we do it. It depends,” “Well, I have a friend at the police station” or “We can’t do that here. It’s against the law.” The reason for this spotty coverage is, as HR personnel soon discover, global background screening is not for the faint of heart.

The screening process varies greatly in each country depending on complex factors such as privacy laws and procedural requirements, company culture and local context. These complexities lead to the cardinal rule of international pre-employment screening — get help. But if an employer is inclined to head down the path on its own, here are some points to ponder.