Demystifying Background Checks
At some point in our adult lives, most of us will be subjected to a personal background check. Maybe you’re chasing that “dream job”, perhaps you’re hoping to volunteer within your local community? Regardless of the specific life circumstances, somebody, somewhere will try to confirm that you really are who you say you are.
In a post-pandemic world, the concept of the workforce is changing with digital transformation forever altering how we collaborate, where we work and the critical dynamic of the employer/employee relationship. With teams now located across different cities and time zones, employers are under more pressure than ever to source and onboard reliable talent in an increasingly unpredictable labour market. And it’s not just our professional lives that are feeling the increasing presence of digital verification. Tinder announced this month that it will introduce a screening tool that lets users run background checks on their potential matches before even going on a date. This is a strong social indicator that background checks are increasingly common in all walks of life, not just career development.
It’s also clear that the concept of risk avoidance is at the heart of any background check, regardless of the context. Typically, the company performing the background check is seeking transparency and trustworthiness in a person. Frequently, the history of skills verification has placed instinct ahead of proven competency. In the new reality of the digital workforce, employers can no longer afford such risky human resource practices.
Now that we have established exactly what’s at stake, let’s examine the basic elements that a typical Canadian background check contains.
What is a Background Check?
A background check is a process that a person or company uses to verify that an individual is who they claim to be, and this provides an opportunity to check and confirm the validity of someone’s employment history, education, criminal record, and other activities from their past with a variety of certification issuers. The frequency, purpose, and legitimacy of background checks varies among countries, industries, and individuals. A preemployment background check typically takes place as part of the hiring process, but it can also happen at any time the employer deems necessary. A variety of methods are used to complete these checks including comprehensive database searches, contacting professional and personal references, as well as verifying data directly through human resources department.
Types of Canadian Background Checks
Within Canada, there are numerous legal and cultural nuances to consider. The process of conducting background checks within each province or territory can vary greatly with the information obtained, languages spoken, privacy regulations and human rights laws requirements different, depending on where you live. Canadian law emphasizes the principle of minimum data collection when collecting an applicant’s personal information during the application process, which means the application process for a candidate in Alberta is different than it is for a candidate in Ontario, for example. The most common types of a background check in Canada include:
- Employment Verification
An employment verification confirms a candidate’s employment history, skills and qualifications by contacting companies’ Human Resource and payroll departments.
- Educational Verification
Educational verifications examine student records via schools’ registrar offices, databases, or guidance counselors and typically confirms the dates of attendance, certifications, achievements, course of study, graduation and degree obtained.
Professional and personal reference checks are commonly used by companies to evaluate the skills and character of an applicant directly through supervisors.
- Criminal Records Checks
Criminal Records Checks fall into two different categories: one is a national search, and the other is a local, provincial search. A national search is conducted through a database that is managed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) containing fingerprint-based records linked to indictable offences. A provincial search is a local court search based on the applicant’s residence history that returns a summary of any indictable offences found in the province being searched.
- Credit Checks
The individual credit report conducted in Canada includes insolvency, bankruptcy information and bad payment history. While credit checks are available in Canada, they are generally only used when required by a specific industry, such as financial services or loan procurement.
As the list above details, the specific requirements of a personal background check can dig deep into our identity history in highly personal areas of our employment, education, credit rating and, if applicable, even criminality. It can feel intrusive and intimidating for anyone – even law-abiding citizens. Who we were in the past becomes just as important as who we are today. And, as the tidal wave of Digital Identity starts to impact ever-expanding areas of our lives, the need to truly own what we know becomes, not only important, but the recommended foundation of our own self sovereignty practices.
For individuals, the ever-present prospect of identity theft requires heightened methods of protection and security in today’s world. Since becoming law in 1998 with severe penalties attached – five years maximum sentence for indictable dispositions, while the maximum sentence for summary dispositions is two years in jail and/or a $5,000 fine – criminals are still willing to take the risk. So much so that, since the start of the pandemic, digital identity theft attempts have risen by a staggering 218% in Canada. Storing your verified credentials in a secure digital wallet, reduces your personal liability and risk of identity theft.
For employers, working with Credivera and Mintz can help reduce fraud, increase security, and drive administrative efficiencies through improvements in workflow management. We eliminate the sometimes-tedious back-and-forth communication between verifier services and the issuers of professional credentials, removing a series of significant manual re-verifications, due to the nature of distributed ledger technology while creating a win every time for the employee, the employer and the background information issuer.