It’s a fact that some of the most talented and promising job candidates possess the most disturbing pasts. Such deception can lead to a perilous future for an employer. This is the primary reason businesses are strongly advised to conduct background screening investigations before hiring seemingly well-qualified managerial candidates.
In every region and jurisdiction in the world, there are different regulations that govern what background screeners can and can’t do in regards to providing pre- and post-employment screening services. The laws in the United States, for example, are not the same as those that affect investigations in the Middle East. The concern over individual privacy and data protection are hot discussion items globally.
Companies that engage background screening firms for the Middle East need to make sure those investigators are following all rules and regulations in regards to privacy – or else they might face liability along with the screening provider.
Examples of Privacy Laws in the Middle East
While reputable screening firms in the U.S. comply closely with the Fair Credit Reporting Act to conduct domestic background investigations, foreign investigations are much more complex.
Middle East countries have no prohibitive legislation that governs the employment screening process. At the same time, there is no cooperative legislation and regulation to support background screening services for employee due diligence. However, background screening industry professionals must adhere to strict data protection requirements (such as the GDPR, local Data Protection regimes specifically DIFC Data Protection, ADGM Data Protection and QFC Data Protection regulations) to process consensually based personal information.
In UAE, local police departments provide “Good Conduct Certificates” for employees for immigration purposes, while Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Data Protection standards allow for the processing of sensitive personal information, such as criminal history, with signed consent from the data subject for employee due diligence requirements.
In the United Arab Emirates, data protection laws permit investigators to process sensitive personal information such as criminal history data. As a DIFC-licensed entity, the Corporate Research and Investigations Limited “CRI Group” (as well as other reputable background screening firms) must maintain strict adherence to the region’s Data Protection Law in order to fulfil our ongoing DIFC licensed status. As in the United States, the procurement of personal data in this region – and any subsequent transfer of data outside of the DIFC – may only be attained with the written consent of the individual being investigated.
Reputable screening firms in the Middle East will also comply with regional privacy laws (such as the GDPR) by appointing an internal Data Protection Officer (DPO) whose primary responsibility is to conduct independent audits of the firm’s various information processing operations which handle customer and employee data. The DPO ensures that personal data is handled in accordance with all relevant data protection provisions covering online and offline data procurement while complying with local and regional regulations pertaining to individual privacy standards.
The Urgent Need for Background Checks
While all guidelines and regulations must be followed, the absolute need for comprehensive background screening in the Middle East cannot be disputed. The region has a labor force of over 150 million individuals serving in all capacities and industries (World Bank, 2019). Those statistics can be quickly put into context when considering that deception in the employment process, such as résumé fraud, is believed to be rampant and widespread: One report estimates that 80 percent of all job applicants intentionally mislead potential employers on their résumé or application (Security, 2017).
To help understand the problem, consider this case study: An international company was hiring to fill a position in the Middle East. When they engaged a firm that specialises in pre- and post-employment background screening, the firm’s investigators uncovered disturbing details about an applicant. One of the individual’s previous employers reported that the applicant was hired without any prior experience, was trained for a couple of months, and then terminated due to committing cash embezzlement as well as participating in harassment and workplace violence. A second employment verification revealed his termination, as he caused a financial loss to the company.
In the above example, the background checking company uncovered the deception through comprehensive background screening that went beyond basic database checks and reviews of public records. In the Middle East, background investigations – both for pre- and post-employment screening – often require a “boots on the ground” approach. This can mean conducting much of an investigation literally on foot, travelling to remote regions to interview sources and check documents in person. And, the entire investigation was conducted within all privacy laws and regulations.
Some job candidates will seek an advantage through fraudulent means. The hidden truth might even include criminal behavior. It is important for any organisation to verify information provided by individuals they seek to hire. In the Middle East, this process will often look different than it would in the U.S. By following all local laws and regulations, however, a reputable background check firm will be helping to protect your company – while also safeguarding your future.
Group Chief Executive, CRI Group
Anjum is founder and CEO of CRI Group and ABAC Center of Excellence.
Having dedicated three decades to the areas of fraud prevention, protective integrity, security, compliance, anti-bribery and anti-corruption, Zafar Anjum is a highly respected professional in his field.