Modernizing Background Checks: The Impact of Technology

By Michael Klazema on 8/25/2020

Though it's hard to imagine now, employee background checks are only a few decades ahead of tedious, paper-based processes and records that were only partially computerized, or not digital at all. The instantaneous results that you can obtain through modern products such as the US OneSEARCH by make faster, safer hiring a reality for many businesses. The impact of technology on how employers evaluate and select candidates is just beginning. 

With current and future advances, the landscape of employment vetting could change dramatically in the coming years. Which changes might be on the horizon?

Machine Learning Comes to the Background Check Sector

AI powers many technological applications across industries today, and developers are exploring how to apply machine learning concepts to background checks. Potential applications include rapidly comparing criminal records, correlating background info with other known data about an applicant, and even producing suggestions for hiring managers. 

The technology isn't perfect. Algorithms can produce erroneous conclusions or misinterpret information that would be clear to human eyes. As a result, most businesses still consider AI-enabled background checks to be an experimental product that is worth watching but not adopting. 

Vetting as a Part of Advanced Risk Analysis

Controversy surrounds background checks as predictive tools. Opponents fear that predictive analysis based on background checks and publicly accessible information could further entrench bias in the hiring system. Developers claim that it will improve the quality of every hire and reduce the risk of hiring an employee who later does wrong. 

Using machine learning and a set of criteria defined by employers or software creators, predictive tools would seek to determine which individuals pose a larger liability risk to businesses. While some services claiming to offer these tools have reached the market, their value and future remains uncertain. 

Ongoing Monitoring Is No Longer a Challenge

What happens when an employee commits a crime months or years into their time on the job? If they try to keep their criminal behavior a secret, what can employers do to protect themselves? 

Previously, there was no easy answer. Today, employers can use tools that connect to law enforcement databases to receive a red-flag warning when one of the names on their watchlist appears. Already an established industry service, continuous monitoring is popular in many industries.

A Global Future for Background Checks?

Looking even further ahead, there is the possibility that background checks may one day become a global undertaking, particularly with worldwide immigration trends. Currently, technological, legal, and logistical hurdles remain in place, but innovation in the field of global vetting is ongoing. 

As with the rapid developments in machine learning, increasing global digitization could one day lead to more in-depth background check products. Though change often comes when we least expect it, employers should take care to closely monitor any new developments in the tools that they use to make smarter, safer hiring choices every day.

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