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Background Screening: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

This post gives a summary of the key findings from EMEA's 2019 Employment Screening Benchmark Report.

September 12, 2019

Each year, the HireRight EMEA Employment Screening Benchmark Report reveals the latest HR trends, challenges, and screening habits of HR professionals across the EMEA region. Here’s a brief summary of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly from the findings in the 2019 Report.

The Good

Business growth is forecast for 2019

Despite Brexit uncertainty, the outlook of the majority of EMEA businesses is still distinctly positive, with over three quarters expecting to grow in size in the next 12 months. However, with this growth comes the challenge of finding new talent and retaining the existing workforce. This was once again identified as the top business challenge, affecting over half of respondents in 2019.

It also seems that attitudes towards hiring in the UK have improved in the last two years, with just 25% of respondents believing the UK is a less attractive place to hire following the referendum, down by almost half from 49% in 2017. The Report suggests that while many companies already have their Brexit strategy in place, other businesses are taking the ‘wait and see’ approach, and are still unsure of how things will turn out for their business.

Companies are becoming more vigilant

More EMEA businesses are performing criminal checks in 2019 than in recent years, the Report found. 78% of EMEA organisations asked are conducting criminal record checks, up from 69% in 2018. Whilst these figures are still below the global average (88% this year), the trend is showing that more businesses are seeing this as a key component of their background screening programmes, overtaking education checks as the second most common check in the region.

With over 70% of EMEA respondents conducting identity, education, criminal and employment checks, it seems that companies in EMEA are becoming more thorough with their screening programmes. Perhaps this is due to changing regulations, such as the Senior Managers & Certification Regime, or maybe it is simply down to companies taking a more belt and braces approach to their pre-employment background checks. Whatever the reason, companies that screen seem to be reaping the benefits, with 58% reporting more consistent safety and security, 50% seeing improved regulatory compliance, and 44% saying that it’s contributed to a better quality of hires.

The Bad

Screening inconsistencies still exist

Whilst many companies are taking a closer look at the background checks they run, who they screen may be a problem they aren’t aware of. The report found that there were a number of gaps around screening the wider workforce, unchecked senior-level hires, and rescreening existing employees, which could be leaving employers exposed to risk.

Non-employee screening was found to be inconsistent at best. Whilst around two-thirds of vendors and temporary/contingent workers are screened, interns and volunteers are likely to go unscreened. Given the potential access that all workers may have to sensitive documents and information, this oversight could be costly for an organisation.

With the pressure on to give a ‘white-gloved’ approach to executive hires, many businesses are taking risks by not properly vetting their senior candidates. Worryingly, nearly 1 in 5 have found candidate discrepancies amongst their senior hires. What else might be going undetected if your senior management team is not being screened?

Lastly, only a third of companies rescreen their workforce, and of those that do, only a handful do so following employee promotions or a merger. Given that the circumstances of individuals may change during the course of their employment, current employees may become a higher risk after they’ve been employed, so it may be wise to consider a periodic rescreening process for your business.

The Ugly (Truth)

Candidate discrepancies are still common

Many applicants are still making false claims, accidentally or otherwise, during the recruitment process. A worrying 83% of respondents have found candidate discrepancies on CVs or job applications. Whilst many of these could be genuine mistakes (for example misremembering dates of employment), it’s also possible that many of these errors could be deliberate attempts to pad out a CV to better the candidate’s prospects.

Nearly half (49%) of employers have found discrepancies in their candidates’ education credentials, and 58% have found issues around their previous employment details. With this vital information often going unchecked by organisations who don’t perform background checks, candidates may get away with misrepresenting themselves on their CVs and could even secure jobs which they don’t have the qualifications, skills, or experience to do efficiently, which could cause big problems later down the line.


Since business growth is on the cards for most organisations in the next 12 months, it’s important not to let new hires slip through the cracks, particularly if they are taking up senior positions or joining your extended workforce.

Employment and education discrepancies are found at all levels, across a wide range of industries and job roles, so it is advisable to check every candidate’s credentials, no matter what role they are applying for.

You may also wish to evaluate your rescreening policy or look to introduce one (if like many organisations your company doesn’t have one yet).

Download the 2019 EMEA Employment Screening Benchmark Report

Release Date: September 12, 2019

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HireRight is a leading provider of on-demand employment background checks, drug and health screening, and electronic Form I-9 and E-Verify solutions that help employers automate, manage and control background screening and related programs.