Why Strict Background Check is Essential For Senior Hires At the time of hiring, senior candidates must be enquired about how they have responded in the face of specific business challenges

By Deepak Bhawnani

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Having the right leadership in an organization is every shareholders and promoters obligation. This is why leadership is not always about title; it's about taking the onus to steer a company in the right direction and build a foundation for future generations. For senior management selection, a cookie-cutter practice is inadequate. Gathering industry perceptions of the potential hire is important but undertaking a comprehensive background check should be the cardinal rule. While hiring parameters for senior leadership differ based on nature of business, some core value systems must be consistent. If an employer is conducting a background screening, they are likely to have the person on board. Any kind of "guilt' or "glitch' in the personal or professional background should be disclosed with supportive reasons. Any potential red flag should be introduced early on, instead of the company finding it out later.


As a senior executive, candidates should be a role model for people working with them. As a result, it becomes crucial to assess if the level of integrity and values that the company stands for are met. While one must speak to potential senior hire's references and ask basic questions of how they have performed in their tenure, they must also enquire about how they have responded in the face of specific business challenges. So asking questions that evoke responses along the lines of their value system will help glean meaningful insights. Integrity and right set values warrant one to make the right choice even when there is no personal gain from the outcome. There is a tendency to put personal agenda aside for the greater good of the organization and the employees. Such qualities help create an organizational culture that makes it safe for employees to perform at their peak with openness and freedom. Besides, as a senior team resource it is their responsibility to build a legacy system based on strong morals and ethics for others to follow.


Top management hires should be equally picky of being associated with an organization as much as the organization is about hiring them. They play a crucial role in an organization's growth and direction – and therefore it is vital to look at their professional record, relationships, academic record, social media and online presence, and economic issues like bankruptcy, court cases and criminal records. Getting a trend analysis of the senior team hire's past performance, both quantitative and qualitative, helps verify stated and unstated facts. Extracting excellence from the inside-out, instead of thrusting values from outside-in help understand innate human virtues required to mesh with the organization's culture.


As time passes, law and regulation change. It is therefore important to validate integrity levels by random monitoring via discreet discussions with current and ex-employees. Some countries have a gift-giving as a customary tradition as part of festivals, from centuries. However, under India's Prevention of Corruption Act, there is a fine line between a gift and a bribe, especially to public officials. Indian entities of multinational companies falling under statutes of FCPA or UKBA have stricter compliance standards, making employees accountable. Some companies have set limits of nominal value for such gifts consistent for employees, vendors and clients alike, which needs to be transparent and documented. Additionally, every organization should conduct "Ethics Training Workshops' starting with and emanating from the senior management. This can become a channel for raising pressing issues like perceived corporate fraud, poor management, malpractices and possible non-adherence to company policies. It is advisable to frame a clearly defined zero tolerance policy focused on ethics, which is communicated across all levels. Remember that a leadership team's outlook reflects the organization's working philosophy, vision and mission, which in turn cascades to all stakeholders.

Deepak Bhawnani

Founder and CEO, Alea Consulting

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