Background check can mitigate a plethora of risk

According to the US Department of Commerce, poor hiring practices are responsible for 30% of all business failures in the US.

Ina van der Merwe

06 June 2014


Locally, in 2013, Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE) carried out a survey that showed nearly 20% of all job seekers in South Africa represented some degree of risk.

The hiring of new employees is akin to walking a tightrope. While it is important to find the right candidate with the necessary qualifications and integrity to do the job, it is not always easy for businesses to accept potential candidates at face value alone.

For optimum hiring results, companies need to delve into the backgrounds of all applicants to get a better idea of their expertise and employment performance. This, however, needs to be conducted with a deep respect for privacy and must always comply with relevant laws and regulations.

Evaluating an endless heap of resumes can be daunting for any employer. There could be several applicants with seemingly outstanding qualifications, making it difficult to determine which candidate truly stands out.

National register

At a basic level, the background check is a way to determine if the information provided by an applicant is accurate. It also helps paint a picture about the applicant beyond what is on paper or omitted in a short interview or gleaned from former employers. The National Qualifications Register (NQR) is South Africa's first commercial aggregated qualifications register.

Owned and operated by MIE, the register was established in an ongoing effort to optimise the accuracy and speed of qualification verifications. The NQR is an electronic register of all qualifications issued by the subscribing institutions. It is updated regularly to reflect the most recent graduation status for each institution, and enables near instantaneous verification feedback for resident qualifications.

The background check can be viewed as a pre-emptive measure to bolster the integrity of the organisation and the safety of employees. Individuals may not be appropriate for certain positions due to certain aspects of their history. For example, someone with a criminal history may not be appropriate for a security officer position. Importantly, if the potential candidate does not offer this information in the interview, it can only be discovered via a background check.

Collecting information

Before a background check is initiated, it is important to establish why it is being conducted. The hiring organisation needs to take special care in collecting information without violating the privacy of applicants. Certain information, such as criminal and credit history, requires written consent from the applicant.

In 2013 the Department of Education discovered that there were 173 teachers in KwaZulu-Natal with fake qualifications. This was done through an investigation that dated back to 2005. Clearly background checks can help companies save thousands of rand and mitigate a plethora of risk. Because placing the wrong person in your business can have devastating reputational, financial and productivity effects.

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