For most companies in India, background screening of employees is not a legal requirement and hence this industry has not yet fully developed. The competitive landscape may change as the industry evolves. For example, the rigor related to security and compliance, especially around protecting personal information, is significant. First Advantage is among the world’s leading providers of background check and screening solutions. It conducts more than 66 million background screenings annually around the globe. In India, the most popular screenings conducted by companies include employment screening, education screening, address verification and document and criminal checks to name a few. The company provides identity and information solutions that give employers access to actionable information for faster and accurate decisions. It also claims to help customers around the world in building fully scalable as well as configurable screening programs to meet their needs by leveraging state-of-the-art technology. Muqbil Ahmar (DC), Executive Editor, Grey Head Media interacted with Ron Douglas (RD), COO, First Advantage on issues ranging from leveraging data to Artificial Intelligence tools.
DC: As Indian enterprises take the digital path, do you think this expands the scope for automation to boost the hiring procedure?
RD: India has a high potential for background screening services and since this industry is not fully developed there is a possibility of a large number of discrepant cases in India going unnoticed and undocumented. Hence, every enterprise has the potential need to adopt background screening to ensure they are hiring talented and honest candidates. Most Indian enterprises are taking the digital path and this expands the scope for automation to boost up the hiring procedure. We have worked on automation of our processes which will not only help speed up this process but also reduce the potential hiring risks.
DC: What are the various possibilities of hiring getting automated through the use of technologies like Blockchain? How can the blockchain technology help the hiring process become more transparent, reliant, and trustworthy?
RD: In recent years, the background screening industry has evolved fairly rapidly from a distant, esoteric concept to something companies now believe is real and tangible. There are new technologies that are significantly changing the industry landscape. Emerging technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence and blockchain are creating waves across multiple industries today. These technologies have the potential to reconstruct the future of work – making some roles obsolete and enhancing others, while at the same time, creating new jobs, and even spawning new professions. Blockchain continues to evolve across the globe at a rapid pace and we are engaged with our clients, industry and the regulatory authorities to continuously develop and deploy options to facilitate blockchain technology. Moreover, the background screening industry has started leveraging data significantly, to improve, speed up the process and also reduce the potential hiring risks.
DC: There has been a lot of buzz on how AI can remove bias from recruitment. What are your thoughts?
RD: Coupling a skilled workforce with AI can reap multiple benefits for companies, especially in the areas of time management and productivity. Companies around the world are recognizing how investing in AI can help the company speed up processes and ensure higher quality output. New automation technologies are available in the market, which offer more efficient ways to modernize as well as streamline recruiting efforts. The hiring process is becoming increasingly automated and robot-assisted interviews will soon become commonplace. For example, Swedish recruiting agency, TNG, has been using an artificial robot head called ‘Tengai’ to conduct test job interviews in place of a human recruiter, with the goal of eliminating human bias in the hiring process. Processes such as screening as well as interviewing could be automated through technologies which analyze candidate voices for emotional cues and recorded phone interviews which rank them to match the best candidates with the jobs.
DC: Do you think automation and robots will soon replace majority of the workforce in most industries?
RD: People commonly support the idea that automation and robots will soon replace majority of the workforce in most industries. The fact is that a significant percentage of the workforce will need to be reskilled and switch to new roles over the next few years. A major challenge of transformation is availability and access to talent, such as data scientists, a strong supplier and technology provider ecosystem, the infrastructure to reskill and upskill the existing workforce, the ability to adapt business processes and systems to embed the technology inside organizations.
DC: What are the various challenges faced as far as hiring industry is concerned, particularly in the context of a growing economy like India?
RD: In India, background screening is a nascent industry which is only beginning to demonstrate real growth and achieve a proper level of recognition. The number of checks carried out in India are significantly lower when compared to other countries. Even though India has historically and rapidly embraced digitalization initiatives, the world’s youngest and second most populous nation still faces a significant unemployment concern. While many large MNCs believe sincerely in the notion of background screening as an investment, most Indian employers on the other hand, have tended to view it as an additional and unnecessary expense. Companies often fail to realize the negative implications of a bad hire and unsuitable candidate – that points to a lot of opportunity here in India for the background screening industry to mature and grow. First Advantage has invested millions in those and related capabilities. Not every company is capable of doing that or necessarily knows where to start. Those companies will likely fall out of the competitive set and new players may emerge. Likewise, we may start to see the larger global entities invest more in India.