Given the changing landscape of the American workforce, global background screening is quickly becoming an essential element of security measures to help ensure a better qualified workforce and a safer and more secure workplace. It’s very likely today’s candidates may have lived abroad, worked internationally or attended a foreign educational institution.

One of the important questions regarding global candidates becomes: how do you screen their backgrounds for employment? Are employees with global history screened similarly to workers with U.S.-based backgrounds? If not, your organization may have a critical security gap in its screening program.


Global Growth: Evolving Sources of Talent

In HireRight’s 2013 Employment Screening Benchmarking Report, 55 percent of respondents recruit individuals who have lived, worked or studied in another country. Organizations today are competing for talent and looking outside their country’s borders to address the deficit of qualified candidates. Besides filling a need for quality talent, there are other benefits in hiring individuals with international experience. Enterprises value candidates who have developed skills that result from being immersed in another culture. Hiring these workers underscores the organization’s commitment to diversity and introduces a more global perspective to decision-making.


A Troubling Security Gap

There is, however, a cautionary side effect to the trend of hiring individuals with foreign residential, work or educational experience. Employers may expose themselves to unnecessary risk by not thoroughly screening the global backgrounds of these employees. In HireRight’s Benchmarking Report, nearly a third of respondents (31 percent) don’t verify U.S. candidates’ foreign education or employment history, which can increase the risk of an unqualified hire. More importantly, checking a candidate’s criminal history (when available and permitted in the applicable jurisdiction) in the countries where they lived helps further ensure the individual doesn’t pose a security risk.

The reasons employers don’t conduct global screening are diverse, but are often based on common misconceptions. Employers may believe that “global background screening” only matters when an organization has offices or locations in other countries. As we have seen with many employers, screening globally also includes performing checks on those domestic-based candidates who have lived, worked or studied in another country.

Even if we isolate the data to only those individuals currently working in the United States who were born in other countries, the statistic is remarkable: 15.9 percent of the total U.S. workforce, or 24.4 million individuals, were foreign-born.

While global screening has many unknowns, employers can take steps to help make the process more manageable.  A first step is to identify and establish the organization’s goals and priorities (e.g., improve security, hire top talent). Second, it can be important to conduct a cost/benefit analysis by assessing the risks of not screening against the effort required to build an effective screening program.


The Benefits of Thinking Globally

In setting goals for global screening, organizations should consider the positive impact that global background checks may provide. They include:

            1. Verifying a candidate’s experience

Some candidates believe that employers don’t conduct thorough global background verifications. As a result, these individuals may try to “cheat the system” by claiming fake degrees from foreign universities or citing false employment histories, hoping that employers will not check their claims. Verifying this information helps ensure that candidates have the proper qualifications and experience. Another concern is the proliferation of so-called “diploma mills” outside the U.S., which makes it even more important to verify a candidate’s foreign education history.

            2. Ensuring consistent hiring practices for all job candidates

One of the potential downfalls of not verifying the foreign experience of job candidates is the risk of inconsistent hiring processes. For example, if there are two candidates, and one claims a degree from a foreign institution and the other from a university in the U.S., there could be a situation where one candidate’s domestic degree is verified and the other’s foreign education history is not checked. In this scenario, the employer could potentially be exposed to unnecessary and expensive litigation regarding claims of an inconsistent hiring process. By verifying all candidates’ experience in the same manner, employers can better protect themselves from potential discriminatory hiring practice claims or liability.

            3. Protect against negligent hiring claims

According to the Benchmarking Report, 46 percent of organizations conducting global background checks cited protection from negligent hiring claims as a primary reason for doing so. A negligent hiring claim could arise when a worker causes harm to another individual on the job. If an employer can’t demonstrate it exercised reasonable diligence when evaluating an individual’s fitness for the job, the organization could potentially be faced with negligent hiring claims and potential liability. Average settlements in these lawsuits are approximately $1 million, according to data reported by HR Management. Verifying the critical aspects of every candidate’s background in the same manner – even those candidates with foreign experience – can help reduce the risk of litigation.

            4. Improve your overall quality of hire

Just as in the domestic market, global background screening facilitates a better quality of hire. Global screening helps to substantiate qualifications and experience, identify any possible concerns in a candidate’s background and assess an individual’s integrity.


Global Background Screening Best Practices

            1. Comply with laws and regulations

The access to and types and amount of available consumer information can vary by country, and a global screening program must account for and comply with the laws of applicable jurisdictions. For example, in some countries, an employer cannot access a candidate’s criminal history, but the candidate may voluntarily obtain a “good citizen” document and supply that to the employer. In Latin America, criminal history may be found under a candidate’s mother’s maiden name. Countries may also have regulations on how the information they provide should be stored by the employer. Other countries require the reported data be deleted immediately or stored for a limited time. Security professionals must be aware of these guidelines so the screening program complies with each country’s requirements.

            2. Understand the culture

The cultural environment of each country should be considered when conducting global screening. For example, a candidate’s former supervisor in a country with a repressive government was contacted and reported he didn’t know the candidate because the supervisor was apprehensive of investigations. The supervisor told the candidate: “A company called asking about you, but don’t worry, I told them I didn’t know you and that you never worked for us.” This example illustrates the importance of the employer understanding the local culture of countries where they screen.

            3. Automate with technology

While global screening is complex, current technology introduces simplicity, efficiency and affordability to the process by automating many steps in the screening lifecycle. Background screening programs often include global sanctions and enforcements check (GSEC) and a passport verification, both of which are accessible online for fast results. Global employment screening can be integrated into applicant tracking systems (ATS) or other recruiting solutions, which streamline processes for greater efficiency, improved accuracy and faster time-to-hire.



With the war for talent, the desire for workplace diversity and globalization, it’s more critical than ever to implement policies and processes to check the histories of any candidate who has lived, worked, or studied abroad. Global employment screening will help verify all candidates consistently, help protect against negligent hiring claims and help improve your overall quality of hire.  


About the Author:

 Dan Shoemaker is vice president and general manager of international business for HireRight, a provider of on-demand employment background checks, drug and health screening and electronic Form I-9 and E-Verify solutions. More information from the HireRight Benchmarking Report can be found at