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If you are hiring right now, you are likely doing so with some urgency. Many hospitals, online retailers, gig economy companies, and staffing firms are hiring at accelerated rates to keep up with current demands. Even organizations that don’t have imminent hiring needs are planning to staff up rapidly as states begin to reopen.

Hiring is likely to move quickly as the lockdowns lift, and employers are now evaluating their screening processes to ensure they can properly vet candidates without creating bottlenecks in hiring. Some companies have even gone as far as allowing new workers to start before background checks are fully processed.

Even under these exigent circumstances, companies should not have to sacrifice safety and thorough background checks for the sake of a speedy hiring process. You can — and should — have both.

If your need to hire is urgent, then so is your need to to make the right hire. While this is especially critical when filling jobs that deal directly with the general public and vulnerable populations, it applies across virtually every role, industry, and profession. As we emerge from this crisis, HR leaders must strive to build hiring processes that reinforce, rather than undermine, cultures of trust and safety.

Do You Know Who You’re Talking To?

When you interview a candidate, how do you know they are who they say they are? This question is even more pertinent today, when so many people are working remotely and so many hiring processes are carried out fully virtually. Furthermore, common identity-related hiring issues — such as information provided by a candidate during the screening process not matching I-9 form information — can be exacerbated by remote hiring processes.

To address these challenges, HR professionals should consider adopting identity verification as a necessary step in the recruiting process. When assessing your identity verification capabilities, pay special attention to a few critical factors: the speed and convenience of the process, mobile optimization, and artificial intelligence backed by human review are especially important in reducing fraud, deterring bad actors, accelerating time to hire, and improving the candidate experience.

Due to court closures, some companies have been unable to execute the most basic criminal checks. However, there are ways to get around this obstacle: Effective screening providers can provide access to court information and the capabilities to process that information in a thorough and compliant manner.

Creating a Flexible Screening Framework

Screening needs and associated regulations will vary from job to job and industry to industry. For example, healthcare worker screening often involves ongoing license monitoring, while financial professional screening must meet certain rules set by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority — and all screenings must move at a pace that keeps up with the intense competition for talent.

The screening strategy you choose for your organization should meet the requirements of your employees, customers, culture, and brand. In addition, you’ll need to adhere to any HR policies, compliance guidelines, and industry regulations that may apply. You should also incorporate a degree of flexibility into your program, especially as businesses continue to navigate these uncertain times.

Do you have the right framework in place to meet all these needs? If not, it’s time to start building one.

The most effective screening strategies are those that easily couple with your existing HR technology platforms. As you build out or revamp your screening infrastructure, look at how possible solutions can work with your applicant tracking system, human resource information system, and other hiring software to support recruiting, screening, and onboarding in a distributed environment.

Ramping Up for the New Normal

Looking ahead, the return of millions of people to work will inevitably make a significant impact on the hiring landscape in general and on your company’s hiring program in particular. As we emerge from the current crisis into a new set of unprecedented circumstances, proper employment screening cannot be a corner to cut. Whether you are bringing employees back from furlough or hiring brand new team members, ensuring the safety of your employees, customers, and communities — while protecting your brand, company culture, and reputation — is critical.

In addition, remote work policies are likely to extend beyond the duration of the current crisis, and that means you will likely be interviewing, hiring, and onboarding virtually well into the future. In that case, you need both a strong background screening program and a strong identity authentication and verification program. Adjusting to the new normal presents an opportunity for you to incorporate these best practices into your hiring process.

Ultimately, despite the uncertainty, the practices and policies guiding your return to work need to be carefully planned. Blank-sheet thinking is encouraged, and agility and resiliency should be key characteristics of your identity verification and employment screening programs. This will allow you to move quickly while ensuring that your company’s people, culture, and reputation rest on a foundation of trust and safety.

Lou Paglia is president of Sterling.

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