The Employee that Lasted….

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India is Rising and so are the job opportunities. This positive growth has created a unique challenge for all companies and specifically for HR departments in their effort to hire and maintain talent. The challenges are two fold, the first task in hiring a new candidate is an employee background check be it address, education qualifications, previous employment and/or CTC verification. At this point the HR department usually reaches out to an external agency that specializes in background checks and helps validate the credentials as provided by the candidate. This process though helpful has its limitations as this validation is partially guided by the candidate. In almost all cases the HR department and in turn the background verification  agencies only reach out to the references provided by the candidate, thus providing the candidate with the freedom to furnish references that are likely to provide a feedback that is to his/her advantage.

The second task, beyond the preliminary background checks is to ensure that the candidate in question is going to be a long term player. The HR department tries to get an idea of the candidate’s long term aspirations by looking at the employee background check feedback and by posing questions that may provide insight about the candidate’s stability and long term goals. Then again this rudimentary process is mostly guided by the candidate through canned answers for the posed questions. If background verification is a critical part of employee hire and retention process, then the question arises on the most optimal and efficient path to follow for employee background checks.

Let’s take a look at an alternate background verification method that not only steers away from the conventional but also takes away the candidate’s freedom to influence  background checks. The first thought is to hold the employee background check agency  accountable for the feedback provided by requesting documentation for all the background checks that are conducted. Secondly the process of contacting the candidates references needs to be expanded to include the candidate’s other colleague’s, that are not part of the references provided.

The background verification company that is hired should verify the candidate’s house address by visiting the address provided and should confirm the candidate’s residency by talking to the person available. To have a detailed employee background check the relationship of the available person with the candidate can also be documented. Background checks should also include a visit to the candidate’s educational institutes/universities to validate his/her educational qualifications. Any discrepancies in the candidates educational qualifications need to be reported by the background verification company along with  stamped documents from the university.

The other important aspect of reference verification has conventionally been handled by a company’s internal HR department. This process also needs to be outsourced to an employee background check agency. The agency can start by calling the references provided by the candidate and then needs to expand on the background check by including calls to other employees of the company that worked with the candidate. The background verification company can obtain information about the candidate’s other colleagues via LinkedIn or by calling up the company and asking for people in the candidate’s department. This is a very critical process and can provide completely new insights into the candidate’s professionalism and work ethics.

By having access to this plethora of information, an HR manager can make a better and more well informed decision about the candidate’s fit in the organization.

We at JantaKhoj endeavor to make the background verification  process a breeze. To get a free demo of the employee background verification services we provide, reach us on 040 42007092 or sales@jantakhoj.com

All You Wanted to Know About Database Checks

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Continuing the series, we will explore ‘database’ checks in this post.

In the Indian context, database checks can have different interpretations depending upon the specific verification being done, but typically they refer to checking for adverse records in court judgements, criminal investigations, databases covering terrorists, most wanted criminals, members of parties and groups that are on watch list, among others. There are other specialized databases that claim to cover financial frauds and misconduct too.

So to a certain extent, there is an overlap between these database checks and the criminal checks (which we covered in the earlier post on criminal checks).

Challenges: The biggest challenge in this area is lack of any consolidated ‘official’ (government provided) database covering criminal records, terror suspects, most wanted criminals. While the currently available third party solutions have been created by aggregating information across a variety of sources, they still do not cover the entire spectrum of police stations and court records. This may only be possible once the Home Ministry sponsored Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCNTS) project becomes fully operational on 2012 and beyond.

Our recommendation: Select the database checks depending upon your company’s requirement. If you value criminal and terrorist checks, do consider the databases which cover criminal investigations, terrorists and membership lists of banned/watch-listed groups. If the specific role or the organizational domain requires financial due diligence, do subscribe to those database checks which cover financial frauds and misconduct.

All You Wanted to Know About Reference Checks

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Continuing the series, we will look at reference checks in this post.

Reference checks aim to verify the references for the employee and get additional feedback about the candidate’s performance, capabilities, character, and behaviour.

Employers typically do reference checks by asking the candidate for two to three references (mostly from academic/professional domains) and then either calling up these references or sending a questionnaire over email. The points covered in the feedback can vary depending upon the job profile, seniority, and nature of responsibilities. Some of the points for professional reference check can be:
• Nature and duration of association
• Candidate’s skills
• Candidate’s attitude
• Candidate’s performance, result orientation
• Candidate’s strengths and weaknesses
• Candidate’s behaviour and character
• Any issues encountered

The risk associated with selecting references given by candidate is that the claimed reference may be fake/decoy, planted by the candidate to fool the verification exercise. The recommended way to mitigate this risk is to search for references independently. Business networks like LinkedIn and Ryze can be used for such searches. This approach while being more reliable, adds to the effort and time required to complete the reference checks.

Our recommendation: Verify at least two professional references for every candidate. Try to cover as many bullet points (mentioned above) as possible. Try to get at least one reference through independent means.

All You Wanted to Know About Criminal Background Checks

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Continuing the series, we will look at criminal background checks in this post.

Criminal background checks aim to verify if the employee has been involved in any criminal activities. These checks can be run across two primary sources – police records, court records.

Police Records: The police records again can be available at different levels – national (National Crime Records Bureau), state, city/town/district, local police station. While the records are computerized at NCRB and most of the state levels, they may not be available in electronic form at most of the district and local police station levels. The Home Ministry has embarked on Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) project to link all the police stations and offices across the country and the full integrated system is expected to be available in 2012. It is not known to what extent the information will be made available for public access. So in the interim, the criminal records have to be accessed at the state, district or police station level by physically visiting the specific office and requesting the criminal background verification.

Court Records: The Indian judicial system has courts at three levels – national (Supreme Court), regional/state (High Courts), district/town (district courts). Currently (end of year 2010), the court records of Supreme Court and most of the High Courts are available online. Unfortunately, most (if not all) of the districts court records are still not available online. This means that only a limited set of court records can be checked online. The rest would require a physical verification at the associated courts.

Challenges: Theoretically, to get a complete criminal background check done, all the state, district and local police station records need to be reviewed. This would ensure that even if the employee to be verified has moved locations, the records can be accessed. However, this is extremely costly and cumbersome exercise. Till the time, CCTNS gets released with some access for public and/or third party verification agencies, the best bet is to run criminal verifications on the specific locations where the employee has lived.

Our recommendation: Criminal verification should be done at least at the police station levels for the temporary and permanent addresses of the employee. Additional locations for previous addresses should be considered based on the nature of the business, job profile and responsibilities.

All You Wanted to Know About Employer Checks

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Continuing the series, we will look at employer checks in this post.

Employer checks or employment history checks aim to verify the complete or partial employment history of the employee.

Employers typically verify the work history by reviewing the experience letters (including offer letter, experience certificate, relieving letter) and salary slips. Some also verify the bank account statements to cross check the salary payments. In addition, some review the online professional profiles on business networking sites like LinkedIn.

The preferred method is to verify the entire employment history and to review the associated experience letters and salary slips for each of the employers. This means contacting the earlier and/or current employer and receiving verification directly from the HR department. Feedback is solicited on a variety of points including:

• Duration of employment
• Designation
• Salary
• Reporting manager details
• Performance and professionalism
• Reasons for leaving
• Eligibility for rehiring
• Any issues encountered

Doing a phone based check with a reference or a reporting manager is not considered to be reliable as in many cases, the reference or the claimed reporting manager may be fake / decoy which has been planted by the candidate to fool the verification exercise.

Non-existent or closed companies present a big challenge during employer verification. Through independent research, the verification team tries to find out the suitable HR or reporting manager within the company under consideration. Even if contact is established and verification comments received, these have to be taken with a pinch of salt and should not be considered fully authoritative. Thus, employment and experience with such companies may have to be discounted to a certain extent in the candidate evaluation process.

Current employer verification is a tricky area. Many employers try to run pre-employment checks with current employer without taking candidate’s authorization for such a check. We do not recommend such unhealthy practices as they can potentially have a very negative impact on candidate’s career and professional standing with the current employer. Such pre-employment checks should only be done only when the offer has been made to the candidate and his/her authorization has been received for the verification with current employer. For that matter, receiving the candidate authorization is a best practice for any kind of background verification.

Our recommendation: Verify at least two employers (previous and/or current) for every experienced hire. Try to cover as many bullet points (mentioned above) as possible. Also, insist on salary slips and bank account statements.

All You Wanted to Know About Education Checks

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Continuing the series, we will look at education checks in this post.

While education checks in India can cover verifying Class X and XII board certificates, typically, they are focused on verifying the higher education degrees, certificates and diplomas at undergraduate (Bachelors), post-graduate (Masters) and doctorate (PhD) levels.

The layman’s (and most common) method of verifying the academic credentials is to do a physical scrutiny of the original certificates. However, procuring or even producing the fake certificates which are identical to the genuine certificates is not a very tough task. Hence, just relying on the physical inspection and storing a photocopy in the records, is a very crude way of doing education checks.

Unfortunately, only a few of the higher education institutions have placed their graduates’ lists online. Also, the HRD Ministry sponsored National Database of Academic Qualifications is still in the development stage (this project was mentioned in one of the earlier blog post). So the only reliable option left for verifying the certificate is to go directly to the registrar’s office of the issuing university/institute. Doing this over courier/post, phone, email or via any electronic means is virtually impossible (except maybe for a handful of ‘progressive’ universities). It boils down to someone physically visiting the registrar’s office with a photocopy of the certificate (and sometimes copies mark sheets and examination hall card too!). This is the reason why education checks remain costly and time-consuming.

India is a land abundantly blessed with higher education institutions :-). Unfortunately, some of these are bogus or what is called in the industry jargon as ‘fake’ universities (as indicated by University Grants Commission)! If the degree belongs to any of these universities, the employer need not worry about going ahead with the verification process as the verification agencies too will just send back the verification request without taking it further.

Our recommendation: You have the option of verifying certificates across Class X, Class XII, Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate levels. At the minimum, you should aim to verify the highest level certificate for every employee.

All You Wanted to Know About Address Checks

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Focusing on the needs of those who are responsible for deciding about and carrying employee background checks, this post will look deeper into address checks (used interchangeably with ‘address verifications’).

Even in today’s highly connected, online, cyber-existence, the physical address of an employee still remains a very important credential. Let us look at various reasons which make address a very important credential for employers:
• For carrying out correspondence with the employees in pre-hiring and post-termination phases. This could cover sending out offer letters, application forms, or final settlement documents and dues.
• For ensuring that the employee is locally based. This is important for roles which require physical presence in office, instead of virtual working.
• As a first point for querying in case of absenteeism, disciplinary issues, or any violations.
• Sending out legal notices, if things have gone beyond control completely!
• Helping law enforcement authorities in case of any criminal acts by employees. A verified address supports the police in moving ahead with investigations.

Depending upon the specific requirements, you can opt for verifying either the current address or permanent address. In either case, you will require complete postal address, preferably along with identifying landmarks.

Address verification is conducted through a field officer’s visit to the mentioned address. The field officer will gather information like:
• Does the named person live there?
• If not, did the person ever live there? Has the person moved to another location? When?
• For how long has the person lived there?
• What’s the relationship of the respondent with the named person?
• Does the person rent/lease or own the dwelling?
• If the door is locked, can any neighbour, landlord or guard verify person’s residence?

The cost of such a check will typically depend upon the remoteness and accessibility of the location. In general, the address checks in cities and towns will be cheaper than rural and remote areas. The address checks may be infeasible in certain disturbed areas or may cost extremely high.

Our recommendation: See if any of the reasons mentioned above seem to be applicable to the specific employee or department or company in general. If yes, decide if you want to verify current address, permanent address or both.

Our Local Wiki – Your Learning Centre for Employee Background Verifications

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This post is primarily for those who are interested in learning more about employee background verifications. This will be the first in a series which covers various background checks which form part of employee background verifications.

Employee background verification is not a one-size-fits-all type of solution. The needs of a small retail business owner will be very different from that of an HR Director of a medium sized manufacturing company or the HR Manager of a large outsourcing provider. Only you can decide what works best for you. So the first step is to understand various kinds of background checks which are available to you.

One way to do this is to visit our Local Wiki (Learning Centre) and just browse through the various topics and entries over there. The Wiki acts as a starting point to get high level overview of different available checks, how they are done, and what are the associated benefits. Based on this preliminary review, you can reach a reasonably good decision on what all employee background checks may be useful for you, and for what types of employees within your company.

For example, if you are a software development company that mostly hires fresh graduates, your interest may be mostly on education verification. If you are a BPO/KPO provider serving international customers, chances are that you already have been requested by your customers to include complete criminal record verifications. If you are a small retail business, you may be interested more in address and reference checks rather than education verification.

In the subsequent posts, we will look deeper into various types of verifications and also how to select a background verification partner.

Three Mega-Projects with Potential to Transform Identity, Education and Criminal Verifications in India

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It is a common lament within the employers and background verification providers that India lacks the integrated database to do comprehensive background checks. While to a great extent, it continues to remain true, I see three mega-projects which have the potential to transform how the identity, education and criminal verifications will be done in future.

First: Aadhar – India’s Unique ID (UID) Project: I had covered this in one of my earlier blogs. Aadhaar will definitely lead to instant identify verifications even though the overall database will be off-limits to third parties (including employers) and background verification providers. The first UID numbers have been issued and things will continue to get more exciting as we go forward.

Second: HRD Ministry led project to create National Database of Academic Qualifications: Announced in early 2010, this initiative aims to create a national database of academic qualifications in electronic (or dematerialized) format enabling online verification and easy retrieval of academic credentials, right from the school boards to universities and higher education institutions. As of now, National Academic Depository Bill 2010 has been drafted and placed for legislative review. The depository is expected to be functional in 2011.

Third: Home Ministry led Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS): Conceived in 2008, this project aims to “facilitate collection, storage, retrieval, analysis, transfer and sharing of data and information” within and across 14000 police stations and around 6000 higher offices in police hierarchy. This project will definitely facilitate online nationwide criminal verifications, instead of physical checks at multiple police stations which are required to be done today. The project is fully underway with the completion expected in 2012.

So what will happen to the background verification industry? The need for doing physical address checks, employer, reference and other specialized background checks will always remain. Additionally, the background verification companies will continue to add value by facilitating access to and consolidating the information across all the verifications. In summary, these three mega-projects will allow the background verification industry to move to the next level of efficiency, accuracy, reliability and technology-orientation.

Announcing New Feature – Adding Your Entry in People Search

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We had received requests from some users of People Search that they were not able to find their own entries in the search and would be keen to have their details entered. Till now, we were asking such requests to be sent by mail. And these were then added to the People Search database.

We are pleased to bring the user entry feature online through a web form, doing away with the need for sending details via mail. The option shows up in the form of a message ‘Unable to find your record! Click here to add your details’, just below the People Search entry fields, after a search has been done.

Once the web form has been submitted, the details start showing up in the People Search results after a few hours. The record is clearly marked as ‘User generated record’ in the search results to distinguish it from the publicly available records.

We hope that this feature will make the People Search even more useful. Your feedback is always welcome.