May 7th, 2021 | Taylor Liggett, General Manager, Sterling Identity

Sterling Live: The Role of Identity Verification in Hiring

Every day, we’re asked to verify our identity. From website logins to the simple act of unlocking our phone, countless interactions require a password, passcode, or fingerprint to prove who we are and allow us to gain access.

Identity verification is also a critical step before initiating the background check process — especially in today’s environment of remote recruiting and screening. But employers rarely give it a second thought, beyond the requirements of post-hire Form I-9.

Think about that for a moment. Most candidates aren’t even asked to show a photo ID until after they’re hired. Moreover, we largely still rely on a process that was designed over 35 years ago, when identity risk and remote work were not nearly at the level they are today.

I joined Sterling’s social media manager, Katelyn Brower, for an episode of Sterling Live, during which we discussed the importance of identity verification and explored some interesting new developments in the identity space. Following are a few key takeaways from this conversation, and for those who weren’t able to join us, you can watch the recording below.

What is identity verification and why is it so important?

Identity verification is the process of confirming that a person actually is who they claim to be. For employers, when you hire someone, you generally give them access to your building, your data, your other employees, and often much more. So, when it comes to trust and safety, it pays to know who you’re hiring.

Companies often assume that background checks will take care of this, but that’s not always the case. In fact, many background screening vendors don’t offer identity verification at all. That’s why it’s critical for employers to build identity verification into their hiring processes — ideally at the very front end.

After all, if you haven’t yet verified a candidate’s identity, how can you be sure their background screen is accurate? Many employers are unaware of  how dependent background screens are on accurate candidate data. If a candidate’s date of birth or name is incorrect, the chance of missing important information is much higher. In a world where remote hiring has become the norm, it’s more important than ever to build these safeguards into your process.

Are identity theft and fraud really a concern for employers?

Absolutely! You’d be surprised how often we uncover identity fraud while working with our clients.

There are plenty of savvy criminals out there who know exactly how to game the screening process. By pretending to be someone else, they may be able to steal laptops and other expensive equipment, enter secure facilities, or gain access to sensitive information.

Then there’s the middle ground, where someone might alter their identifying details slightly (middle name, date of birth, etc.), in order to conceal information that a background check might uncover.  Even typos and other unintentional misinformation can be a big problem, because background checks are predicated on receiving accurate candidate data.

How does identity verification work?

Two common identity verification methods are in-person verification and document verification, which is often combined with face recognition/matching.

In-person verification is exactly what it sounds like: a person physically presents proof of their identity (driver’s license, passport, etc.). This has historically been the gold standard for identity verification, but that’s changing fast with the advent of more sophisticated and convenient approaches. With remote work becoming the norm, in-person verification can be a challenge.

This is where document verification — often combined with a selfie process — can make identity verification less dependent on face-to-face interaction. Candidates are guided through a mobile process during which they first capture a photo of a government issued ID document, such as a driver’s license or passport, and then take a selfie. The photo on the document is compared to the candidate’s selfie, to confirm it’s the same person. The issue? This process can be difficult for some candidates to complete if they don’t have a driver’s license or passport, or experience other technical issues.

Emerging technologies that leverage biometrics, geolocation, and SIM card checks offer superior options for convenient, mobile phone-based identity verification to help address some of the challenges associated with providing candidates just a single method to verify their identity.

What does the future of identity verification look like?

The identity space is moving fast right now, and there are many exciting developments in the works. Within the last few years, we’ve seen incredible progress both in terms of next generation technology (like biometrics) and adoption of new verification technology.

The next big evolution I’m really excited about is portable identity in the hiring landscape. The idea is that, once you go through a comprehensive identity verification process, it’s no longer necessary to constantly re-verify. Your identity doesn’t change over time, so it’s really just a matter of getting the framework in place to simply reassert your identity without additional, unnecessary verification steps.

In fact, we’re so bullish on the transformative potential that identity verification and portability can have on the screening business, we recently entered into an exclusive partnership with to bring these capabilities to our clients. Read more here and stay tuned to this channel for future developments.

Learn more about how Sterling helps clients create identity verification solutions. From gig economy to large corporations, Sterling Identity Verification integrates seamlessly into existing systems and processes.

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