Between high-profile incidents of wrongdoing within major corporations and a growing awareness of the need for effective risk management, background checks have taken center stage in human resources. Once a slow and entirely paper-based process, the internet enabled a sea change that led to rapid and detailed background checks from professional providers. For employers, this has been an essential resource for building safety and confidence into the hiring process.
With growing complexity in the workplace and more factors to monitor than ever before, some have begun to consider a "next generation" of vetting. Looking to the potential of machine learning and artificial intelligence, some wonder if it is possible to deliver background checks that examine more factors and "intelligently" assess risk. How does that compare to current processes?
Background Checks Already Reveal Lots of Information
Many only think of the criminal background check when they consider employment vetting. However, this is only a first step in many cases. The best background check incorporates additional research into candidates to determine their trustworthiness and suitability. Modern procedures are already quite robust. For example, professional license verification is vital in regulated fields. Educational verification lets employers know that a candidate's qualifications are legitimate, while other checks can even let a business know if an applicant has been in trouble internationally. Employers can enhance their confidence by adding additional layers to the process beyond the basic criminal check.
Where Background Checks and AI Intersect
Naturally, carrying out all these tasks can sometimes prove time-consuming. Those advocating for AI in hiring processes point out that advanced software could easily search hundreds of thousands of sources for candidate matches. It can process that information faster and output a report more quickly than a human.
In more advanced proposals, vetting AI produces "decision-ready" reports. The AI does not make the final decision, but supporters claim that all the heavy lifting would be done. An employer would only need to read the report and make their choice. While that could be overkill for an entry-level position, it is easy to see how a board of directors, or the C-suite might want such a comprehensive insight.
Is AI the Future of Background Checks?
The growth of AI in this area hasn't been without controversy. Because machine learning models are only as good as their training data, it is possible for the designers of these vetting algorithms to build implicit bias into their operations. Some states and cities have even begun to pass legislation to regulate or even check the growth of such tools.
Even so, it is likely that AI will come to play a more significant role in this process in the future. Already, some major brands and social apps have considered the possibility of using AI to build safer platforms. Whether or not that will come to fruition remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: "traditional" background checks aren't going anywhere, and their usefulness as a hiring tool remains undiminished.
About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is Chief Marketing Technologist at EY-VODW.com and has over two decades of experience in digital consulting, online product management, and technology innovation. He is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments.