Verifying candidate identity before hire is one of the most important steps you can take in the background screening and hiring process. After all, the threat of identity theft is real, so you need to be thorough in making sure you know exactly who you’re hiring. 

In the new remote work landscape, the steps for verifying the identity of prospective employees can be more cumbersome, because there are fewer opportunities for face-to-face interaction. However, there are specific actions you can take to follow a thorough screening and onboarding process, and gain certainty about individuals’ identity before they arrive—or log in—for day one of employment.

The Importance of Identity Verification in Today’s WFH Environment

According to a report by the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network, there were more complaints filed with the agency about identity theft than any other type of fraud in 2020. Unfortunately, the consequences of identity theft aren’t limited to stolen credit cards and social security numbers. Your hiring process could also be at risk from the actions of “bad actors”—individuals who look for gaps in your hiring process and try to conceal some aspect of their past by using a phony identity.

In a remote work scenario, where there’s no option to meet candidates and review their identity documents in person, you need to be even more vigilant when verifying identity. As Bridgette Klein of Willory, an HR staffing consultancy and Corporate Screening strategic ally, explains, “Knowing the identity of candidates is important even in the early stages of the hiring process. This is a key reason we recommend employers conduct in-person, on-camera job interviews. It’s one good way to be sure the person you’re interviewing will be the person you see on day one.”

Identity verification isn’t just for remote work environments. Inconsistent verifications can negatively affect your workplace whether you have employees working on-site, remote, or a combination of the two. Without a well-thought-out process for identity verification during the hiring process, your organization can fall prey to any one of the following:

  • Applicants with employment sanctions for your industry, for example, healthcare or financial services
  • Individuals who have misrepresented their employment or education history
  • Candidates who have committed crimes or other offenses under a different name than the one they supplied during the hiring process

6 Tips for Identity Verification in the Remote Workplace

Just because you, your candidates, or both may be working from home, it doesn’t mean you have to open your hiring process to the risks of improper identity verification. To uphold the integrity of your screening and hiring process and protect your organization, take the following steps:

1. Understand the basic legal requirements.

One of the key identity verification requirements is completing Form I-9, or the Employment Eligibility Verification Form, required for all U.S. hires. This document serves two purposes: It verifies an individual’s identity and confirms legal U.S. work authorization. All employers must complete Form I-9 no later than three days after an employee begins work.

In an on-site work environment, it’s typical to complete Form I-9 during the in-person onboarding process. But in a remote scenario, you need to have a process for new hires to submit the allowable identification documents, so you can examine them for authenticity and validity. Using a paperless I-9 form with the help of your background screening provider is an excellent way to complete the process and stay in compliance.

2. Develop and follow a consistent policy.

While you need to satisfy I-9 requirements, you should also develop a policy for the additional actions you will take to stay informed about the individuals you hire. For example, your policy can include guidelines for how you will work with your screening provider to verify candidate identity as a part of a complete background check. A clear policy will help you avoid misunderstandings about the provider’s processes. It can also help you to understand how they verify candidate identity for remote workplaces.

3. Work with a reliable background screening company to conduct a thorough SSN trace.

Identity verification is a key component of a background check. However, depending on the company you use for background screening, consistent identity verification may or may not be happening in the manner you think. 

A primary tool your screening provider should be using is the social security number (SSN) trace. The SSN trace can identify all the names and addresses associated with the SSN you receive from the candidate, helping to build a more complete background screening report. Keep in mind that not all screening companies approach the SSN trace in the same manner, which is why it’s so critical to work with a reputable screening company. To obtain the most complete results, your provider should also be conducting background searches on all names yielded from the SSN trace—not just the name provided by the candidate.

[INFOGRAPHIC] Key factors to consider when comparing background screening  service providers »

4. Complement the SSN trace with other verification processes.

In addition to I-9 verification and SSN trace, you can confirm candidate identity with other verification processes, such as employment, education, and professional license verification. Conducting these verification processes in tandem provides assurance you are consistently checking the same person across all aspects of their employment, education, and criminal history background. Moreover, these verification services can help you identify candidates who may have listed diploma mills or fake professional qualifications on their resume.

5. Obtain complete candidate identity information before beginning the background screening process.

The identity verification process will go smoother when you have complete and accurate information from candidates at the outset. Candidates can mistakenly omit small personal details when providing information for a background check, so you’ll need a process for obtaining complete name, address, and other information. For example, before starting the background check process, be sure to ask candidates to provide details such as middle names, maiden names, name suffixes, and any aliases they may have used in the past. 

6. Don’t rely on emailed identity documents during the onboarding process.

In a work-from-home environment, it can be tempting to conduct I-9 and other verifications over email, but such a process can put you at risk for receiving inauthentic identification documents—not to mention the risk of having sensitive candidate information go to the wrong email address. Instead, work with your background screening provider to conduct paperless verifications, which keeps candidate data organized and secure.

Identify and Close Potential Gaps in Your Hiring Process

When hiring talent, you need to be sure candidates fit your culture and possess the qualifications and knowledge required to perform their role. In addition to these critical factors, you also need to be sure you satisfy legal requirements for confirming candidate identity and eligibility for employment in your organization. Without those key verifications, you can unwittingly expose your organization to risks, and put other members of your workforce at risk, too. 

Identity verification gives you the assurance you need to hire with confidence. But in a remote work environment, you can’t rely on manual verification, email, or a background screening company just going through the motions. To overcome the obstacles of identity verification for remote hires, it’s critical to work with a background screening partner with a strong track record for thorough background screening and candidate verifications. 

To learn more about the factors you should consider when comparing and selecting the background check company to meet your needs, read our Competitor Comparison Infographic.

New call-to-action