The recent episode of Uber asking a senior executive to resign because he had withheld information about complaints of sexual harassment against him in his previous organization, merely highlights what has been SecUR’s experience over the past decade – employee misbehaviour is not restricted to front-line or less educated employees, but is pervasive across organisations, industries and ranks. Employee background checks across organisation ranks enable companies to thoroughly scan educational, personal, and professional background of an employee, saving the company from such credibility threats.

What is the Significance of Employee Background Screening?

Every employer needs to understand the significance of a stringent background screening process to promote an honest work environment and maintain credibility of the organisation. Recently, an entry-level executive in India lied on his CV, claiming that he scored 78% in his PG course, while in reality he only scored 58%. The employee had already spent six months working in the organisation before the background screening results unearthed his lie. Despite proving to be a useful resource, the company decided to let him go as he clearly lacked the principles of integrity.

Which is why, today, almost every company considers a stringent background screening process before hiring employees. The largest amount of discrepancies found in CVs are related to education and employment history. Our own findings show that close to 20% of resumes have fake and misleading information. About 14% of candidates lie about their past employment in their resumes. Candidates even at mid and senior levels have been found fudging information in their resumes.

How Did the Story Unfold?

The aforementioned Uber senior executive, who had been asked to resign, was (on paper) an “ideal candidate” with a resume that organisations would drool over. The media described him with words like ‘highly regarded’, ‘engineer in Silicon Valley’, ‘senior vice president’, ‘engineer from IIT-Rourkee’, and ‘University of Minnesota’. However, in spite of these attractive credentials, the fact remains that in his earlier senior position with a respected brand, the executive behaved in an unacceptable manner that made a female employee feel sexually threatened. And when Uber was reported about the same, they conducted an extensive background check again to ensure they hired an employee whose resume was above reproach. When they found out about the executive’s misbehaviour in his previous organisation, they decided to ask him to resign, notwithstanding his seniority and caliber that most organisations often quote while avoiding tough decisions.

What happens to the said individual’s career is a matter of conjecture. But, this incident clearly highlights the importance of background screening before hiring candidates across ranks and designations. Organisations owe employees a safe and healthy work environment, free of predatory behaviour. While past behaviour may not guarantee future threats, it is definitely a lead indicator. Employee background screening acts as a filter to weed out any potential threats to your employees as well as your organisation’s credibility.

Does your Organisation Follow the Principles of Integrity?

There is, however, one more subtext to this entire Uber sexual harassment incident, which organisations must pay attention to. It now appears this employee’s former employer had not recorded the real reason for his exit, and in fact, had tagged it as a ‘resignation’. Too many organisations, both in India and abroad, use this convenient route, to end a rather inconvenient situation. It behooves them to remember that what goes around, comes around – and they could one day end up to be at the receiving end of such a delicate masking of facts.

So, the Uber sexual harassment incident actually occurred because essential background information of the senior executive was withheld by the previous employer. As a result, Uber wasn’t really aware of the background of the senior executive they had hired.

Which is why, organisations have to be honest if they really want the entire background screening process to be flawless and beneficial. Additionally, when organisations follow and practice honesty, they indirectly influence their employees to be honest. It is only when organisations are honest to themselves and their employees, that the whole process of background screening before hiring can become useful and profitable. In this Uber incident, had the previous employer of the accused candidate explicitly shared the necessary details, Uber could’ve been in a better position to decide whether they should hire or not. The whole point of performing employee background checks is to help employers hire the right candidate.