'Employee background screening becoming an extremely serious process in India'

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Rahul Belwalkar, is the CEO of Mumbai-based SecUR Credentials Limited which is one of India's first listed employee background verification company. Today, the company covers 39,732 pin codes in the country and has field investigator teams that helps in background checking of candidates. Belwalkar is an HR expert and his core competencies include employee background screening, partner due diligence, pre and post underwriting risk management, insurance claims investigations, client servicing, and back-office operations. He talks to THE WEEK about the seriousness of the situation, the kind of frauds in this space and what needs to be done to have proper background checks or verification of candidates.

How serious is the situation of background screening in India today?

Background screening in India is becoming an extremely serious process. Cases of employee fraud and misrepresentation of resume or employment data have been plaguing the recruitment process for years. In the past it was largely companies with offshore offices, IT or ITeS and private sector banking and financial companies that largely believed in having a reliable employee due diligence mechanism which included verification of candidate details. However, as per the Economic Survey of 2017-18 with an estimated 7.5 crore in the formal sector and the remaining 81 per cent in the informal and agricultural sector, which is largely unregulated, the situation there requires urgent need for a proper background screening process by companies in India. The Indian background screening industry has grown rapidly over the last few years but it is nowhere close to where it should be. Things are moving in the right direction with the formal sector proactively seeking out help from 3rd party verification agencies. Nowadays the informal services sector has opened itself to the verification process as well with the onset of the “gig economy” for example Urban Clap, Ola and Uber, but it is still a long way to go.

How important it is for companies to adopt background screening policies?

It is extremely important for companies across industries, to conduct or adopt background screening policies as it weeds out incompetent candidates thereby protecting the bottom line of a company. Besides this, inflated salaries can bleed a company month-on-month while the candidate is in the system. Additionally, background screening also secures a company or an employer in case of any employee related mishap or liability. Above all, proper background screening ensures the safety of the employees and customers while minimising the risk of damage to the company’s brand.

Have you come across any frauds related to background screening?

Frauds are usually from candidates who submit fake credentials. However, we recently came across a company in Hyderabad that was providing fake employment certificates. It was was a legitimate company that had a separate set of operations. This came to light only because the company where a candidate was about to join asked for a relevant salary slip and subsequent tax records, which were non-existent. Besides this, we came across a senior executive in a manufacturing company who had forged his education credentials which at that level, was just detrimental to the brand. The manufacturing company was left with no other option but to fire the executive. However, the loss of business due to such an event was detrimental to the company.

What are the kind of challenges that companies face while doing background screening?

Once the candidate’s basic credentials are verified at the time of on-boarding, the risk of the candidate committing fraud or indulging in criminal activities is generally reduced but not eliminated. It is recommended that companies should conduct some checks on a regular basis such as criminal checks, credit record check and random drug tests. This makes for a more robust system. These days in India, reference checks are becoming redundant as a direct manager with whom the candidate had worked earlier do not say anything negative about the candidate. It has also happened that some organisations breed a culture of fraud by rewarding candidates who generate value or business through fraud. This greatly increases the risk of candidates committing fraud at work which often goes unchecked. Also verification requires inputs from 3rd party institutes and organisations which are largely outside the control of screening companies. This often delays the process and hurts the employer by having a potentially undesirable person on the company’s rolls.

What is the kind of fieldwork that your company do?

We have a workflow system, that has been in-house developed. Our fleet or field executives reach out to all the pin codes within India. Our team helps us in providing verified data regarding a candidate’s employment status. This is also supplemented by our field executives who physically verify the employment details. Identity checks help us weed out questionable personnel who have a reason to lie about their identity and largely cover the employer in case of liability. Criminal history and court records are a great indicator of the risk that a potential candidate brings to the organisation. Our team goes through millions of digitised court records to weed out criminals and problematic candidates. In some cases a physical criminal check is also conducted through police authorities.