Background Verification – Results, Status, and Color Codes

Background verification color coding

Background verification (BGV) is the process of validating an individual’s personal and professional claims. These claims can be across identity, address, education credentials, previous employment credentials, criminal record, etc. The verification enables organizations to meet compliance requirements, and mitigate the risks of wrong hires at the time of new employee onboarding.

Gone are the days when background verification was synonymous with hassle and ambiguity! Thanks to digital platforms, there has been a high degree of automation in which background checks are done, and reports are generated. The concept of “report writing” is fading away, as a high degree of human discretion comes with an authenticity risk.

Standardization and Parameterization

Having worked with thousands of organizations, we believe that the interpretation of results from a BGV process, and the color-coding of results must be standardized. This blog publishes standardized outcomes scenarios, and the corresponding color codes, in order to ensure a uniform understanding of the verification or background check process and results.

Globally, there is no Government body or regulator that publishes standardized outcomes and the color codes. Therefore, the best approach to the selection of outcomes and color codes should be for organizations and BGV platforms to come together, and uniformly adopt the same across the industry. This blog therefore also encourages the same.

In addition to standardization, parameterized outcomes and/or color codes also help to analyze large data (including simple wins such as applying a filter in a spreadsheet) and implement a robust BGV or people compliance program at a large organization.

Having said this, color codes do not matter as much as the result (or outcome) itself, and the details in a BGV report! A color code is essentially a quick indicator to interpret the results in a background verification report. In the following table, there are color codes indicated for not just the results or outcomes, but also for the “status” or “state” of a check in a background check lifecycle.

For our peers in the BGV industry, we recommend the adoption of the following codes.

Deep-Dive into BGV Outcomes

  1. Success (Green)

A verification or a check is declared a “Success” if the details shared by the employee positively match with the verifying entity or the respective authority. For example, if the employment details such as tenure, designation, employee ID, etc. claimed by the candidate are exactly matching with the response from the previous employer, and there is no negative remark indicated by the previous employer, then the verification result is “Success”. 

  1. Failed (Red)

The primary goal of any BGV process is to identify any discrepancies and act on them proactively. A verification or a check is declared “Failed” when the provided details of the candidate do not match with that of the confirming authorities, or negative results are identified against the candidate. For example, if there is a criminal case identified against a particular candidate, the verification will be deemed as “Failed”

  1. Success with Exception (Amber)

There may be scenarios where the result of a background check is neither a success not a failure! “Success with Exception” falls into that zone where most of the attributes provided by a candidate are matching with the confirmed information, barring some minor discrepancy. For example, if there is a gap of 10 days in a previous employment tenure claimed by the candidate, the employment verification cannot be categorically bucketed as “Failed”, as it can have serious implications on an employee’s opportunity. However, it is the responsibility of the BGV platform or provider to highlight this exception to their clients. 

  1. In Progress (Yellow)

As the name suggests, a verification once initiated will be “In Progress” till it gets completed. 

  1. Data Insufficient (Grey)

“Data Insufficient” state is a state when some piece of information is missing or incomplete, or if a document is missing, which is required to complete a check. For example, a university may want to get a degree or certificate in order to verify education credentials, but the candidate may not have provided the same. Similarly, some previous employers may need to look at the letter of authorization or consent provided by the candidate before verifying employment credentials. In the case of address verification, the address may not be complete, leading to an “insufficiency”

Such “insufficiencies” can be resolved automatically by giving an option to the candidate or to the organization conducting the BGV to update or upload the information or document.

  1. Closed (Blue)

A check is marked as “Closed” when it is stopped. A common misnomer among organizations is using “Closed and “Completed” as interchangeable terms. The correct way to interpret “Completed” is to look at scenarios when the verification or a check is concluded as a Success or a Failure. However, a check is “Closed” when the verification is stopped for reasons such as

  • Employee declined the offer to join
  • Employee resigned even before completion of BGV
  • Employee terminated even before completion of BGV
  • Check initiated by mistake
  1. Unable to Verify (Amber)

When a check cannot be completed and brought to a conclusive result, despite several attempts, due to reasons outside the control of the BGV platform or provide, the check is marked as “Unable to Verify” or UTV.  This is typically true for less than 2% of cases. Such scenarios can emerge in cases where a university or academic institute doesn’t have student records prior to a certain year, or a previous employer has stopped operating. In such scenarios, BGV platforms typically recommend getting an alternative credential verified for the candidate, such as getting the second-highest education credential verified.

In summary, parameterization of outcomes is critically important for implementing a successful BGV program. Once again, the importance of color codes is only relevant as a quick indicator, and organizations must look at the results (and the details in the reports) while trying to interpret BGV results.

Uniform adoption of results and color codes by BGV platforms, providers, and organizations would go a long way in streamlining the ecosystem as a whole, and in creating a better working world.

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