Identity Verification and Remote Hiring Amid COVID-19

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, an estimated 16 million U.S. knowledge workers shifted to working remotely, according to Slack. COVID-19 effectively ushered in a change that many predicted years ago: a world where remote work is prevalent. This was unprecedented and likely would not have been possible on such a massive scale as few as 10 years ago.

A Remote Work Future

Although most companies that made the shift to remote work assumed it would be temporary, many are seeing business continue and their employees remaining productive, with some organizations reporting productivity increases of up to 30%. Many employers have realized that when their teams are equipped with the right tools, they can remain productive regardless of where they work. Benefits of a remote workforce include real estate cost savings, reduced commute times, fewer office distractions, and flexibility for employees.

It seems the remote workforces that were predicted years ago are clearly here to stay. Many large technology companies are offering employees the option to work remotely indefinitely, and 98% of respondents to a recent Buffer survey indicated a desire to continue working remotely, at least a portion of the time, for the remainder of their career.

While we’re fortunate that technology advances enabled this incredible transition, with change comes new challenges, not the least of which is hiring remotely.

Navigating Remote Hiring

Embracing remote workforces leads us to reconsider hiring processes. A certain level of trust and connection is established when you interact with someone face-to-face. When in-person meetings are not part of the hiring process, we no longer have the luxury of reading subtle cues, such as body language and voice inflection. Video interviews can mitigate this to a degree, but we’ve all been in situations in which we felt differently about a person during a video call compared with when we interacted with him or her face-to-face.

This highlights an important issue that takes on new importance with the increase in remote hiring: How do you know the people you’re interviewing are who they say they are? While most people don’t lie about their identities or falsify details on their résumés, it happens more than you think.

According to a Resume Lab survey, more than a third of respondents (36%) admitted to lying on their résumé. A recent high-profile case of this was reported in December 2019 when it was discovered that a woman lied on her résumé, used a photo of Kate Upton as her LinkedIn photo, and landed a $185,000/year government job in Australia. Her deception included lying about education and employment and even posing as a previous employer to provide a reference and review about her own performance.

Deceptions like this have been occurring even before the crisis, even in face-to-face hiring situations. In the end, do you really know people are who they say they are? Do you know whether those individuals have brought in their own, untampered identity documents on their first day of work to complete the I-9 process? Were the documents they presented the same as those that went through the background check process? Are your HR professionals trained to detect discrepancies?

For most companies, the short answer is no. These are all important questions to ask, particularly when operationalizing remote hiring practices.

Trust matters, especially when hiring someone you won’t be regularly interacting with in person. You need to trust the identities of employees joining your company, but it goes beyond that. Your new hires need to trust that you do your due diligence when vetting candidates, and the rest of your employees need to trust that you’re bringing someone into the company who has been thoroughly vetted. Safer workplaces, remote or otherwise, start with identity verification.

Expanding the HR Toolkit with Identity Verification

Identity verification helps the HR world evolve with the times and helps companies gain confidence in the identity of the people joining their teams—whether they sit hundreds of miles away or will work side by side in a physical workplace with your other employees, now or in the future.

Here’s how identity verification works: Using their smartphone, candidates snap a photo of their identity document, such as a driver’s license or passport, which is evaluated to ensure it hasn’t been tampered with or altered in any way. They then snap a selfie, and a process commonly known as a liveness test verifies that they took a photo of a live person (versus a photo). The selfie is then compared with the photo on their identity document. It’s that simple and takes only a couple of minutes, yet it’s a crucial step.

You don’t want to waste your time going through an interview process with someone who is lying about his or her identity. And you certainly don’t want to wait until after a candidate has joined your company to verify the person’s identity.

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