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Verifying candidate identity: 8 real-life strategies that work

Over the past year, many companies – and managers – learned something that some wouldn’t previously have believed. Remote work can work. That’s not just for obvious types of jobs (especially in knowledge work) but for a wide range of sectors that were previously believed to require in-person contact, such as education and healthcare.

candidate identity

But while remote work opens up new opportunities for both employees and employers, it’s not without new challenges.

For instance:

  • When hiring and onboarding employees remotely, how can employers be sure that they’re hiring who they think they’re hiring?
  • Is the person participating in the interview the same person whose credentials were outlined in the resume/application that was submitted?
  • Is the person taking pre-hire tests or assessments the actual applicant?

These risks associated with candidate identity are not outside the realm of possibility. Some companies are already taking steps to help ensure that their new hires are who they say they are – with some utilizing technology and others applying innovative non-tech-related tricks to help weed out the tricksters.

Eight steps to verify candidate identity

Here are eight real-life strategies companies are taking to ensure candidate identity:

  1. Include detail-oriented follow-up questions
  2. Pay attention to assessments
  3. Check IDs during video interviews
  4. Use e-signatures
  5. Introduce identification scoring
  6. Ask verification questions
  7. Monitor your candidates
  8. Take advantage of third-party resources

1. Include detail-oriented follow-up questions

One way to verify that the candidate is the same person you’ve been evaluating throughout is to include follow-up questions on earlier stages in the recruitment process.

For example, Hosea Chang, COO of clothing retailer Hayden Girls, says employers, recruiters, HR pros and hiring managers can “make sure their hires are acting in good faith by embedding small nonsensical phrases in email communication, assessments, and other correspondence and then quizzing them on it when speaking directly.”

Hosea shares an example of some of the strategies being used to verify candidate identity.

“If someone is taking an accounting exam and they come across the phrase ‘big blue elephants smoking cigars’ randomly in the text, they will probably have some sort of recollection of it when you ask them about it later.”

The point, Hosea says, “is to give little nuggets that your candidates will take note of that won’t make sense in any context until you bring it up.”

Michael Hammelburger, CEO of The Bottom Line Group, uses a similar approach.

“During the post-assessment interview, we ask them about the test and further explain their answers,” Michael says. “We try to test how well they understood the task and dig deeper into their opinions. This helps verify the credibility of their answers.”

2. Pay attention to assessments

Employers are also getting creative, and detailed, in the types of assessments they use to evaluate candidate competencies. This can also help verify candidate identity.

For instance, Davis Nguyen, founder of My Consulting Offer, share the process he used recently when hiring a remote marketing manager. Candidates were asked to do a data analysis and to record a presentation of their findings. If the presentation doesn’t look natural – or looks like the candidate is reading from a script – they’re not considered for the position.

Those that make it to this point in the recruitment process are then invited to a one-on-one interview with the hiring manager, says Davis. The hiring manager then probes into more detail about the assessment, asking questions that can reasonably be answered only by someone who did that assessment.

“For example, we would ask why they set up the pivot tables a certain way or what data they could segment further with the data they had,” Davis says. “If someone had asked or paid someone else to take the assessment, it would have been clear that they wouldn’t know the answers.”

My Consulting Offer has operated fully remotely since its inception in 2017, and Davis adds that this method of verifying candidate identity is used for all hires.

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3. Check IDs during video interviews

Methods of verifying the identity of job applicants and interviews don’t necessarily have to be this complex.
There are other, simpler tactics that interviewers can do to verify candidate identity, such as asking to see a candidate’s identification on camera – such as a driver’s license or another form of ID – during a video interview, without giving them advance notice prior to the interview process.

Tech can help verify candidate identity

Follow-up questions, post-assessment meetings, and on-camera verification can be seamlessly worked into the recruitment process to ensure candidate identity.

Technology can also help you ensure that candidates are who they say they are throughout the process – and there are numerous tools out there that can help you.

4. Use e-signatures

Jessica Robinson is a senior content manager at The Speaking Polymath, a content resource center. She recommends verifying candidate identity through e-signatures.

“To ensure that the candidate who appeared in the video interview is the one whose application was received, employers and managers can [use] e-signatures,” she says.

“For example, they can let the candidates know that they have to send e-signatures with their resumes. Then, during the video interview, the interviewers can verify the e-signatures of the candidates on the spot.”

Jessica points to platforms like signNow as a means of doing this.

5. Introduce identification scoring

Identification scoring is another method of verifying identity that relies on technology. Identification scoring is a method used to detect fraud in business settings – a practice used in the mortgage industry, says Charles McMillan, founder of Stand With Main Street, a company that helps clients formally register their new businesses.

He suggests this is a method that employers might also use to verify the identity of applicants.

“An identity-score system can use the internet to check the legitimacy of someone’s public identity,” says McMillan. “Credit records, corporate and web data, personal identifiers, and other information are included in identity scores.”

6. Ask verification questions

Identity verification services like the type used in the financial services industry that ask loan applicants a series of very specific questions only they would know the answers to, are another option to confirm candidate identity. This is a suggestion from Jordan Lowry, COO of resume-writing service Resumoo.

“Utilizing a secure identity verification service offers an extra buffer of protection beyond a standard W4,” says Jordan. “Once logged in, potential employees will be asked three to five questions regarding their history in order to verify their identity.”

7. Monitor your candidates

Technology can also be an aid in monitoring candidates as they take assessments. For example, you want to ensure they aren’t looking up answers online while completing the assessment.

It’s the same type of technology that is becoming more commonly used in educational settings where schools and instructors may be concerned about remote students using external sources on exams. Software like TestGorilla has been designed specifically to address potential issues with candidates “cheating” during assessments. The software provides automatic snapshots of candidates as they’re being tested and generates alerts if candidates exit the full-screen mode which might suggest they’re on other sites.

Take care when carrying out this method of verifying candidate identity, however, as this could indicate a lack of trust on your part as a potential employer. To circumvent this, ensure that you have the right messaging in place so the candidate fully understands why you’re doing this and that it isn’t representative of how you would treat them as an employee.

8. Take advantage of third-party resources

In addition to all of these options, in some cases, employers can leave the task of verifying identity to others.

With the rise in the gig economy, many employers are opting to hire temporary, contract or freelance staff to help with specific projects. A number of online platforms have emerged as resources for those looking for a wide range of talent. Platforms like Virtual Vocations, Upwork, Skyword, Contently, and many others, offer access to candidates – and have also taken their own steps to vet candidates providing added confidence to employers.

You can also utilize third-party background check services, including Checkr.

Remote hiring, at least to some capacity, will continue to be widely used by employers even after pandemic concerns have subsided. While remote hiring offers many benefits for both employers and employees, it does come with risks.

As we’ve seen, though, employers have a wide array of options for taking steps to ensure that the candidates they interview are who they say they are, and have the skills and competencies they purport to have.

No one wants to make a bad hire – the costs of replacing an employee can be significant. Having strategies in place to verify candidate identity can be crucial in hiring the best candidates, especially in competitive sectors.

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