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Making The Right Choice: Building A Screening Policy For Job Candidates Entrepreneurs should assess the results of a background screening in a manner that does not discriminate and is consistent with relevant laws.

By Steve Girdler

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.


On first hearing that a company is going to do a background screening check during the recruitment process, it's understandable that the candidate may question why this is necessary, and what is going to be "uncovered."

From the cost of recruitment and training, to the effect on staff morale, the impact of a company making a wrong hire can be massive, potentially costing a business over three times that employees annual salary, according to research by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC). It's no wonder then that companies want to have as full a picture as possible of potential candidates.

Before embarking on background screening, companies should take steps to safeguard themselves from future issues that could arise with candidates, particularly if they are unsuccessful and not offered a position. I've included some suggestions below to consider:

1. Be transparent with candidates Ensuring candidates genuinely consent to screening is about holding their hand throughout the process. As employers, take every opportunity to make sure that they understand the screening process, why the company is doing a background check as part of the recruitment process, and the candidate's rights during the screening, including the right to withdraw from the process at any point. It could be that they have cold feet, or they might have something they want to talk to you about before you find out. Discussing the issue and being upfront helps to reassure the individual. From our experience, the vast majority of candidates go through the screening process without any challenges.

2. Have concrete sources Contrary to some common misconceptions about background screening, there isn't a single centralized government database that houses information about you that is accessed by commercial background screening companies. At HireRight, we verify the data that candidates have provided in their CVs, applications, background forms and/or interviews. We can also check public data sources for information that may help the employer asses the candidate's appropriateness for the role.

A candidate's background information can be researched and compiled from many different sources. For example:

  • Education history is usually confirmed by contacting schools and universities directly
  • Previous employers can be contacted to verify employment history
  • A criminal history search can be undertaken for certain roles, using government sources where available, and should be tailored to the job's requirements

The screening company that you work with should be completely transparent with you about where they obtain their information from. This will enable you to explain this to your candidates, to reassure them that information collected about them is accurate and has been gathered lawfully.

3. To store or not to store? Make candidates aware of what happens to their data once the recruitment process is complete– whether or not they are successful and offered a job. Data should only be held for as long as necessary. If you currently hold data for longer than 6-12 months, you may consider reducing the retention period in order to reduce risks associated with maintaining that data. It's worth noting that a candidate may request that you delete their data immediately, and you should have a process to address those requests.

Although the reach of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) does not extend to the Middle East, if you have a client or customer from an EU country and you collect data from them, you are subject to the GDPR's rules and regulations. The regulation covers how companies gather and store personal data of candidates, so background information that is gathered during a recruitment process is applicable. This is why companies need to have a clear policy about how a candidate's information is stored.

4. Discrimination Although employment laws vary across the Middle East, organizations must not discriminate based on protected characteristics, such as race, color, ethnic origin, gender, religion or disability. For example, requesting background checks to include financial histories or criminal record checks for only people of a certain race, gender, or religion is evidence of discrimination, which could have serious legal ramifications for the company.

In conclusion, it is important to engage your legal counsel to adapt your screening program to the laws of the country where you are based, as well as those where your candidates are from or have previously worked. An employment screening company should provide services and information about a candidate that is legally obtained and verified. As an employer, you should assess the results of a background screening in a manner that does not discriminate and is consistent with relevant laws. HireRight pays close attention to legislation relating to screening practices, in order to remain abreast of any changes to regulatory requirements and legislation affecting our delivery of services to our clients.

Related: Follow The Leader: Jean-Michel Gauthier, CEO, Oliv

Steve Girdler

Managing Director for EMEA & APAC, HireRight

Steve Girdler is the Managing Director for EMEA & APAC at HireRight
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