Tuesday, 23 December 2014

More firms doing checks on short-term staff

By Amelia Tan, The Straits Times, 22 Dec 2014

MORE firms are getting background screening specialists to check the personal and employment history of short-term staff.

These workers are usually involved in business and support functions, and include IT staff, accounts and finance executives, cleaners, security guards, food caterers and bus drivers.

Three major background screening firms told The Straits Times that in the past two years, they have seen a 10 per cent to 20 per cent rise in companies in Singapore doing checks on temporary staff.

Together, the three specialists have more than 1,500 Singapore-based clients, including local and foreign banks, multinational corporations and international schools.

Mr Nick Roberts, chief executive officer of background screening firm Risq Group, said his staff verify job candidates' qualifications with educational institutions and trawl the Internet for negative references regarding the candidates.

Several of Risq Group's multinational clients go to the extent of verifying the educational qualifications of cleaners and security guards, although schooling history is less crucial for these jobs.

"As long as you lie, you have an integrity issue. It doesn't matter what job you are doing. You can potentially harm a company," said Mr Roberts.

Multinational conglomerate General Electric (GE) spares no effort in screening all its staff. It checks the educational qualifications, job record and criminal history of all permanent, part-time and contract staff.

"Employees have access to our buildings, our technology and systems. It is important that we protect not only our reputation, but our employees who work here," said Mr Mark Staglieno, GE's talent recruitment leader for Asean.

The background screening experts said their checks show that permanent and temporary staff lie about the same things.

Common lies among job candidates include inflating their salaries and job titles, and faking their educational qualifications.

Contract workers, in particular, may fib about being hired directly by previous employers. Mr Edward Hickey, Asia-Pacific managing director of HireRight, said some do this to stand out, as most temporary staff go through recruitment agencies for jobs.

Regional sales director of screening specialist First Advantage, Mr Kannan Chettiar, urged bosses to screen candidates for all types of jobs.

"It doesn't matter if the job is for the short term or if it is a high-level or junior position. To get ahead of the competition, some people will do all it takes and misrepresent information," he said.

While employers have the right to check the background of candidates, these checks should be done with their consent, said Member of Parliament Zainal Sapari, who specialises in labour issues.

He also does not think background checks on rank-and-file staff are necessary. "Employers must be fair to workers and ask for background information that is relevant to the job," he said.

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