ADVO Group interviews Oran Kiazim, Vice President of Global Privacy, SterlingBackcheck


SterlingBackcheck works with more than 20,000 companies worldwide to help them hire the best talent. This ranges from small local businesses to FTSE 100 companies. In fact, more than 20% of the FTSE 100 rely on SterlingBackcheck for their employment screening. The company recently released the findings from a study which found that only 58% of organisations conduct any background screening checks on new hires. In this interview, Oran Kiazim, Vice President of Global Privacy at SterlingBackcheck, provides his expert insight into the findings of the study. Oran previously worked at the Court of Justice of the European Union as the lead UK law specialist, advising on EU Justices on various aspects of UK law. He has consulted on data protection and privacy issues for companies operating in EMEA as well as the United States and Canada.

Your recent research found that only 58% of organisations conduct any background screening checks on new hires. Where you surprised by how low this percentage was?

While we wish there were even greater adoption rates on employment background checks, we are making progress. If we would have asked this same question just 5 years ago, I wouldn’t be surprised if the rate was half of that number. And if you look at our finding that 25-30% of those not currently screening, intend to do so in the coming year, it is clear that organisations are increasingly appreciating the benefits of background screening. we’re making significant progress. Slowly but surely employers in the UK are beginning to see this as a hiring imperative to ensure they have done everything to protect their employees, their clients and their businesses from those that pose a risk.

The study also found that that over a third of UK employers don’t check whether their potential staff have the ‘right to work’ in the UK. Why do you think so many employers are currently failing to check such a fundamental aspect of the hiring process?

I really believe this is more of an awareness issue than a concerted effort to flout the law. Failure to ensure your employees actually have the right to work in the UK can lead to heavy penalties and fines. At SterlingBackcheck, we make it easy by performing a visual analysis of both the physical and logical components of the ID documents, as well as checking reference numbers against official algorithms and databases to ensure their validity.

Our government needs to engage in a widespread awareness and education campaign to ensure employers understand their responsibilities. We make sure that our clients at SterlingBackcheck are well-informed, but we can’t take sole responsibility for this action.

The study found that smaller firms (with fewer than 100 staff) are most likely to fail to undertake the necessary employee checks. Why do you think smaller firms are more inclined to neglect these checks?

Smaller firms don’t have the same resources or subject matter experts to understand the importance of performing comprehensive background checks. Many small employers lull themselves into the false sense of security that they won’t be preyed upon because they are a small business. Or perhaps they are hiring a friend of a friend or family member and don’t believe someone they trust would do anything to harm them.

In fact, small businesses have the most to lose. The cost alone to hire and replace someone can range from 1 to 3 times their annual salary. And of course, that doesn’t cover loss, damages, litigation etc, let alone the impact on your brand and reputation.

Aside from abiding with legal requirements, what are some of the other key benefits for companies in undertaking full employee checks?

Aside from the liabilities referenced above, employment background checks provide solid peace of mind that you have exercised proper due diligence so that you can make informed hiring decisions. They can confirm you faith in your candidate’s ability to get the job done and to exhibit ethical behavior as they represent your brand. It also sends an important message to your existing employees and your clients that you care about their well-being and best interests.

Do you think the importance for companies to undertake staff checks has increased over time, and if so, why?

Yes, we have seen a steady increase of employment background check adoption over the years. This has occurred for a number of reasons. First, we live in a scary world right with random acts of violence occurring throughout the globe in any given day. Unfortunately, we’ve seen attacks within our own country. Security is top of mind for everyone. So, while background checks may not necessarily most likely won’t prevent terrorist events, security remains top of mind for everyone and employers want to know that they are doing everything to protect themselves and their employees. Second, we’ve seen a steady increase in litigation against employers for not conducting proper due diligence in their hiring process where employers are being held to the standard that “if you could have known, you should have known”. And lastly, government regulations such as the legal right to work verification requirements or the changing hiring regimes within the financial sector, are on the upswing and will only become more prevalent. Couple all of that with the fact that background checks are more accessible, cost effective and streamlined than ever before and I expect to see significant adoption rates for the foreseeable future.