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Temp Workers, the Gig Economy, and Work Histories: The Challenges of a New Chapter in Employment

By Michael Klazema on 10/1/2019

Fewer companies are relying exclusively on full-time or part-time staff. Most are adopting “flexible” or “extended” workforce strategies to fill gaps during busy seasons or handle one-off projects that would cost more to do in-house. Temporary workers, freelancers, and independent contractors all exist within this extended workforce. While flexible workforce options bring many benefits to businesses, they also pose challenges—especially regarding background checks for temporary workers and independent contractors. 

There are several inherent roadblocks that companies hit when trying to screen individuals whose work experience is primarily made up of temporary positions or freelance “gigs.” The challenge isn’t exclusive to criminal history, which is at the core of most pre-employment background checks. Criminal history checks will function the same way for an independent contractor as they do for a full-time employee. If you are running the right criminal history searches in the right places (and through the right providers or databases), you can expect useful and detailed results. 

The main hurdle with background checks for temporary workers or freelancers is the employment verification or work history piece of the equation. The resume has always been based predominantly around an individual’s past jobs and accomplishments at those jobs. The work history section gives the applicant a chance to show off his or her professional qualifications. It also gives the employer a way to gauge whether the candidate has the experience necessary to handle the job. Employment verification checks enable employers to verify the validity of a candidate’s resume information, including job titles and employment dates.  

The challenge with a temporary worker or independent contractor is translating this process into one that can cover more jobs over a shorter period. Most employers only explore two or three jobs back when verifying employment experience, which is sufficient in most cases because those two or three jobs might represent five or more years of employment. Gig workers may take on dozens of contracts per year. Temp workers might have one home-base job at a temp agency but experience spanning a slew of different companies, industry sectors, and managers. How should employers handle checking employment qualifications when the scope is so much bigger?

For gig workers or independent contractors, one smart option might be to focus on reference checks. The candidate can point to two or three individuals they’ve worked in a professional capacity in the past and employers can consult them to learn about past employment experiences. For temp workers, the best course of action is often to focus on temp agencies using an employment verification check. In either case, backgroundchecks.com can offer verification and screening services to suit your needs.

The backgroundchecks.com white paper “Background Checks for Staffing Agencies” offers more detail on why background checks for temporary workers matter so much. Contact us today to get ready for gig workers.


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