Understanding global screening

Weighing availability of information and compliance concerns against issues around costs and turnaround time
By Iain Murray
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/23/2016

By Iain Murray

Hiring candidates who work or previously worked in other countries adds a layer of complexity and mystery to criminal record checks. Compliance with foreign privacy laws, the type of information available, budget, turnaround time and how to interpret results are all key considerations for most recruiters.

For example, one Canadian organization historically sent candidates to the local police to obtain a criminal record check — a typical scenario for employers as police services can provide a comprehensive, nationwide search supplying an organization with all the information it desires.

While this process is completely acceptable for Canadian applicants, it is not necessarily best practice in other countries, as this organization discovered when it was looking to hire an individual from the United States.

Similar to the Canadian applicants, the company asked the American to obtain a criminal record check from local authorities. The applicant happily obliged and provided a “clear” result from his local county. 

Assuming it was a comprehensive, nationwide search — as it would be in Canada — the organization looked to place the applicant. Thankfully, someone also Googled the applicant’s name prior to offering him a position working with children and uncovered many news articles naming the applicant as a sex offender.

Confused, the company learned the United States’ process for obtaining a comprehensive criminal record check differs greatly from Canada. 

It is imperative for employers to obtain a complete address history for an American applicant so they can drill down into each state and county of residence.

In this situation, the applicant had a myriad of sex offences over the past six years, but these were in a separate state from where he currently resided. 

This organization managed to catch the oversight before it was too late, but the incident underscores the importance of analyzing applicable law and industry-specific considerations. 

Legal and regulatory requirements may impose obligations to screen employees, even globally, for certain types of processing and in certain sectors and industries.

Generally speaking, there are three types of searches that can be positioned under the “criminal” category.

Comprehensive criminal: Not available in all countries, this involves a background screening company working directly with the local court, police service or other authority to obtain a comprehensive list of convictions or criminality.

Applicant obtained: Not available in all countries, this process requires the applicant to obtain her criminal record check directly from the same authorities listed above.

Criminality: Available in all countries, this search scours various watch lists and adverse media to obtain a thorough background check on a candidate.

A comprehensive criminal search is ideal but is not available in each country. Even when it is available, the cost or turnaround time may be discouraging.

For these reasons, it’s important to not only research what type of check is available and appropriate, but to weigh the availability of information and compliance concerns with your organization’s desire to monitor costs and turnaround time.

It’s also important to remember the definition of criminal activity can vary from country to country, and even region to region within a country. 

Consider, for example, the recent trend to legalize or decriminalize marijuana possession.

To best prepare your organization for global screening challenges, research what level of check is required or appropriate in each jurisdiction, how accessible that level of check is and how the process might vary from your local area.

Iain Murray is a national sales executive at Sterling Talent Solutions in Vancouver. For more infomration, visit www.sterlingtalentsolutions.ca.

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