How Should Companies Handle Employee Vetting in a Work-From-Home World?

When the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic spurred lockdowns that swept across the nation, many employers found themselves forced to accommodate work-from-home setups. Although some businesses have reopened and opted to bring employees back into the office, many others have announced options for a permanent WFH transition. These include not only major players in the technology and service industries but also an array of smaller companies. 

Some WFH positions still require occasional check-ins at the office, but many more are now untethered. As a result, employees no longer need to live as close as possible to where they work. With pandemic-related uncertainty likely to continue, some businesses are facing the need to hire and onboard new employees. These workers might live anywhere in the country.  

When job applicants and interview candidates don't live a few neighborhoods away, employers may worry about how to hire safely. Do employee background checks hold the same level of importance in the hiring process when workers could live anywhere and may only interact with the business digitally? 

It is essential for businesses to maintain up-to-date vetting procedures for all employees. Most companies won't become completely decentralized, so why apply a different set of standards to workers in the office and those working at home? To maintain fairness in hiring, businesses should continue to background check all prospective hires. 

Companies must also protect their brands from bad actors. It is still possible for WFH employees to have an opportunity to commit fraud and engage in other white-collar crime. Minimizing those risks is critical to every business.  

How can a business effectively background check someone who might not live in the same area as the office? Typically, vetting processes rely on searching local criminal records to find evidence of past wrongdoing. What if your applicant can live anywhere? A multi-jurisdictional search, such as the US OneSEARCH, can reveal useful candidate information. By pulling information from state and local resources, employers can still find the critical applicant data that informs their hiring choices.  

What about the impact of "ban the box" laws on hiring remote workers? Some uncertainty remains in this area, though businesses should always adhere to the laws in their area.  

With less direct oversight of employees and fewer opportunities for in-person interaction, spotting red flags could prove more difficult. Other tools, such as ongoing criminal monitoring, may play an essential role in the future of work-from-home positions.  

Although the long-term impact of the COVID-related shift to WFH remains to be seen, many major corporations and small businesses have embraced it, signaling to other businesses a potential sea change in employment patterns. With the right tools from, businesses can adapt to remain competitive.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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