Suresh Mehta (29), an executive with a leading airline, doesn’t know when the police will come checking on him next.
No, he doesn’t have a criminal record — it’s just that his company puts Mehta, as it does all its other employees, through annual background checks. And in the increasingly paranoid security climate, more and more corporates are looking at background checks as standard operating procedure.
These checks essentially involve the police verifying an employee’s name and place of residence, and a criminal record, if any, and police sources say background checks happen primarily at the time of joining.
Sources in the business say the trend is driven by fears of a rogue employee’s potential to hurt an organisation’s public image, possibly even leave it legally implicated.
The industries most likely to put their employees through such checks, and more frequently, include financial services, hospitality, aviation, information technology and business process outsourcing.
Experts say another important shift in this space is that businesses that earlier did not look at background checks as a structured activity are now approaching it quite seriously.
“Companies that once verified backgrounds informally, using industry sources, now outsource the activity to agencies like ours. In hospitality now, they even want background checks on third-party vendors like, say, a vegetable supplier – which was not likely before,” says Dinesh Anand, executive director, Head of Investigation, KPMG.
“Of course, a background check that turns up clean at the time of joining doesn’t necessarily mean the employee won’t do something undesirable at a later time,” he adds.
These days, it’s not rare for such checks to be repeated after a year to check for, among other things, a suspicious change in social profile. “One key area to watch for in a background check is to see if an employee’s lifestyle has changed drastically since the last recorded check,” said Dinesh Pillai, CEO, Mahindra Special Services Group, a consultancy offering security solutions for corporates.
“Background checks and verifications of employees now happen far more frequently than they ever did,” said Kalpana Gadekar, police inspector at Versova police station. “Earlier, it would happen only at the time of joining the company,” she added.