Background checks are a vital part of recruiting, yet it can be stressful and time-consuming for new joiners to supply all the necessary documentation, especially for roles that require more than simply proving their identity and supplying references.

New technologies are needed to ensure that employers can source documentation automatically, safely and efficiently from a number of digital sources, meeting the background checking requirements for security and compliance while offering speed and convenience to them and their new recruits.

Documentation is an important part of the background checking process that must be done whenever a candidate accepts a job offer. Hiring organisations must mitigate the risk of taking on undesirable employees who could pose a danger to their colleagues, commit fraud, steal intellectual property, damage the organisation’s brand or reputation - or simply not be competent for the role that they’ve been offered. And they have to comply with regulations around fairness and responsible hiring practices that protect their customers and people.

Unfortunately, many people see background checks and the requirement to source and submit documents as a roadblock to applying for a role. In fact, studies show that as many as 80% of candidates abandon the application process mid-way - and the need to supply documentation is a key factor1.

The move towards digitising documentation sourcing is speeding up because people have less physical access to institutions during the Coronavirus pandemic. It’s not currently possible to go into your university admissions office and request a hard copy of your academic record, or to travel to another country to secure embassy documents in person. Even getting an official to sign a document is extremely difficult when everyone is working from home.

But this trend started before Covid-19. In an age of fast digital experiences, people want the convenience and speed of sourcing and uploading documents online - and for that process to be sorted out for them in the background if possible, as part of a smooth onboarding process.

Hirers and screening companies have long been looking for ways to create a more efficient digital process that still meets legislative requirements and mitigates risk. They’re seeking the Holy Grail of automated processes and interoperable databases. Long after the pandemic is over, demand for a fully automated, secure digital background checking process will continue to increase.

Unfortunately, there are still many stumbling blocks to making this vision a reality for organisations and their new joiners, despite the urgency introduced by Covid-19 lockdowns.

Firstly, institutions, departments and countries have different standards and rules about which documents they will accept in digital format. And these rules are changing all the time as the documents’ suppliers and users change their policies in response to societal pressures. For example, the Disclosure and Barring Service will only accept documents in a certain format as proof of address. And some universities have fully digitised their processes for providing academic records but others haven’t.

This requires teams of experts to constantly review the landscape to determine what’s available from suppliers and what will be accepted by users, and for changes to then be made to procedures and workflows in light of the updated policies.

Secondly, some sources of documentation still don’t offer access to their data through an application programming interface (API), which is an intermediary that allows two software applications to talk to each other. APIs are the concierges of the digital application age, allowing applications from the likes of Facebook and Google to talk to each other and enabling all the wonderful and convenient services that we take for granted on the internet.

Thirdly, even when sources offer APIs, users of the documentation must still develop an interface that allows their team members to access and work with the documents in a ‘human’ fashion. This means hours of specialist development work and overcoming myriad complications created by suppliers’ differing technical approaches. It also means ongoing maintenance, adapting to changes in the source APIs as suppliers update their systems.

Thankfully, there are technological solutions being developed to address these issues. eBulk from Capita is an automated criminal record checking service that interfaces with sources such as DBS and Disclosure Scotland and automates document sourcing and checking, with accuracy, speed and consistency. It also combines with Capita’s Volti-4 onboarding solution to create an end-to-end service that integrates background checking into a smooth overall onboarding process.

Even though background checking is a serious business, it needn’t be a stressful experience. eBulk’s new user interface offers ease of use in a simple and modern design that is optimised for phones and tablets. The latest release achieved an AA compliance rating for accessibility and screeners can now get a bird’s eye view of applications in progress with a range of new dashboards.

eBulk is a major step forward for new recruits looking for easy and convenient onboarding and for hirers looking for efficiency and accuracy, all without compromising on security and compliance. So, what’s next for background checking? One day we can hope for a digital screening passport that candidates can present each time they take up a new position, and that’s universally recognised and accepted. But that’s another story…

Read our guide to best-practice onboarding

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