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How will technology support background screening in 2021?

Background screening is an area ripe for automation and technological innovation. Conal Thompson looks at some of the emerging trends in this area.  

Employment background screening will always be heavily dependent on technology. It impacts nearly everything the screening industry does, including the products we offer, the way our operations teams work and the delivery of the candidate experience.

And, as new technologies are being developed, it’s of paramount importance that screening providers are at the forefront of tracking and applying these technologies to ensure that we can continue to innovate how we work to best support our customers.

A number of emerging technologies are influencing the background screening industry around the world – and ultimately are helping to lay the foundation for the future of screening in 2021 and beyond:

AI will fulfil machine learning

When fulfilling background screening requests, machine learning has great potential for application in several areas, including natural language processing (NLP), text classification, and quality assurance.

We have already begun using deep learning models for all three of these purposes and our investment in this technology will continue to grow.

If we look at text classification, for example, in the US each local court may use its own vocabulary and free-form text when documenting criminal activity. This could result in inconsistent documentation of the same classification of crime and could ultimately result in two candidates with identical criminal records being handled differently.

Text classifications can be used to standardise free-form text containing different terminology into a consistent set of responses, which can also help to improve turnaround times for these checks and may reduce the number of manual errors that can occur.

Blockchain and verifiable credentials

One of the main delays in the background screening process is caused by chasing down former employers and educational institutions to verify a candidate’s employment history and academic qualifications.

However, these delays may soon become a thing of the past as game-changing technologies, including advances in cryptography, blockchain and verifiable credentials, are being utilised to create an encrypted, tamper-proof digital wallet where the candidate can store their own pre-validated credentials.

They can then share these with their future employer, via a background screening provider, without the need for them to be verified again with the issuer (such as the previous employer or educational institution), resulting in faster turnaround times for these checks, reducing the risk of human error and creating a better candidate experience.

In the near future, it’s likely that all paper-based credentials like birth certificates, citizenship papers, university degrees, licences or other certifications will become digital and each individual will have the power to safely share their credentials with an organisation via their own digital wallet.

Empowering individuals to manage their own information aligns with the spirit of regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and similar privacy-protection legislation.

However, this of course requires a careful review from a legal and compliance standpoint as the potential for deploying such technology evolves.

Cloud technology

Cloud technology offers several benefits to businesses, including improved accessibility, reduced upfront and running costs, outsourced security and maintenance and scalability to be as flexible as your business demands.

There have been significant improvements made to the major cloud platforms that we have used over the past few years. What used to require the coordination of multiple departments within IT can now be accomplished by small teams or sometimes even individuals.

This allows technology departments to develop, test and deploy new products far more quickly – a process which often took years of investment in the past. In addition to new screening solutions, product updates can also be released at a much faster pace than would have been possible before cloud technology, ensuring any necessary updates can be swiftly made and deployed.

Another benefit of cloud technology is that it can be accessed anywhere in the world with an internet connection, minimising the disruption of remote working during the pandemic.

This has enabled new products, such as our Covid-19 Screening Services (currently only available in the US), to be developed, integrated and deployed, all while our teams have been working from home, in different locations all around the world.

Biometrics and identity proofing technology

Identity proofing technologies are a way to help validate someone’s identity through their mobile device. By taking a picture of the individual’s government ID, new technologies enabled by AI can verify if the identity document is valid and not tampered with.

Additional biometric-based checks, such as face scans, could then be performed to compare the ID to and ensure the person is scanning their own identity document. The same selfie-check could also be used to authenticate the individual as an additional layer of security.

These technologies, when lawfully utilised, also have the scope to improve the candidate experience, making it easier than ever for candidates to upload their supporting identity documents, without the need for photocopiers or scanners. They can also give employers greater confidence that the background check they have requested is being conducted on the right individual.

However the global employment landscape evolves in 2021, the need to get new hires into businesses safely yet quickly will continue to grow. These recent technology innovations, among others, have the scope to drastically change the way that background screening is conducted – which, in turn, could impact the whole onboarding process.

Improvements to the candidate experience, a reduction in human errors and fewer verification delays are just three of the benefits these technologies can offer, all of which contribute towards something for which employers and background screening providers are constantly striving – a quicker time-to-hire.

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