March 11th, 2022 | Sterling

Why Identity Verification Needs to Be A Part of Your Talent Acquisition Process

A Conversation Between Sterling and at Talent Acquisition Week

In January, Sterling co-presented alongside at Talent Acquisition Week on why we should rethink the current role of identity verification in the hiring process. David Bloom, Sterling’s GM of Gig, Volunteer, and Consumer, and Taylor Liggett, GM of Sterling Identity, joined up with’s GM of Commercial Sector, Mark Lockwood, to discuss how identity verification can expand the top of the hiring funnel, reduce time-to-hire, and build trust in your organization. 

Is Identity Verification Part of a Pre-employment Background Screen?

There are some misconceptions among HR teams about what exactly a background check entails. According to Taylor Liggett, “Something that many within talent acquisition and employment might find surprising is that, at least within the United States, a vast majority of background checks do not include identity verification as part of that process. It’s a huge misconception: when we survey individuals, around two-thirds of employers believe that identity verification is taken care of as part of the background check, and that’s simply not the case.”

Taylor goes on to explain that this misconception is something that needs to be better understood in organizations of all types. “From Sterling’s point of view, it’s never been more important to revisit that and implement solutions so that employers can confidently rely on the integrity of the background screen and know with confidence that the folks they are hiring are who they say they are.”

At What Point in the Hiring Process Should Identity Verification Come Into Play? 

The best time to start the identity verification process, according to Taylor, is adjacent to making an offer to a candidate. Most often, identity verification doesn’t really come up until the employer is filling out an I-9 for the new employee.

Exactly when companies should incorporate identity verification in their onboarding process varies by industry. But in the age of remote work (and remote hiring and onboarding), identity verification should often be introduced early in the hiring process. For example, “We’ve talked to some financial institutions lately that are reporting significant issues with fraud occuring in the interview process. They may have one person show up to do the Zoom interview, and then a whole other person shows up to do the job or later down the path.”. In situations like these, Taylor notes that it is better to implement identity verification further upstream.

What is Digital Identity Verification?

In our everyday lives, if you need to verify your identity, you can simply show a document like your driver’s license. But the equivalent in our digital world often requires you to re-enter your information over and over again, every single time you make a transaction. Mark Lockwood of would like identity verification to be revolutionized in the same way that PayPal and Apple Pay revolutionized payments. “If you verify your identity at the IRS or Social Security [Administration] right now, then you should be able to take those same credentials and consent to release them to other organizations without having to enter the same information over and over and over again.” This way the identity verification process removes friction from different workflows without reducing the level of security. 

This is the revolution happening right now in the digital identity space, involving a massive shift from transactional, one-time identity verification to a network-based, portable digital identity. Digital identity verification can be used for anything from verifying veteran status to receiving discounts, to approving an electronic prescription for controlled substances. Most importantly to HR teams, it is a timesaver in the employment sphere.

What Are the Benefits of Digital Identity Verification?

When implemented correctly, digital identity can be a major asset for employers looking to quickly and safely onboard top talent. Taylor notes that some of Sterling’s current clients have a hiring pool that is around 40% pre-verified, which speeds up time-to-hire. According to Taylor, “For those candidates, it’s an amazing experience with zero friction. They don’t have to do duplicate data entry. Even for those candidates that are new and adding all this information, they get to say, ‘I get to keep this digital identity, so the next time I have to do this, it’ll be much easier.’”

Digital identity verification through also helps brands find and engage with targeted audiences. A candidate applying for a job as a nurse, for example, can create their account, upload their credentials, and also receive a coupon from a partner organization. Mark elaborates, “We have 500 partners that offer discounts to special groups like medical staff and veterans. Not only is this streamlining the identity process, but there’s some additional benefits for the members who verify as well.”

Digital identity has the ability to increase trust and safety not only for employees and employers, but also in the larger community. “I think one of the biggest things to consider here is that you’re building trust and safety into the community. One of the things we’re exploring right now is a marketplace or hub where we can connect verified individuals with appropriate job opportunities, helping drive top-funnel candidate acquisition and connect the right candidates to the right job opportunities. Employers know these individuals are pre-verified.” 

How Does Identity Verification Reduce Fraud?

What kind of crimes does digital identity verification help protect employers from, exactly? Taylor outlined some examples: “We encountered a fraud ring of individuals who all presented themselves as the same person while being hired for a retail location, and then they entered and stole a lot of goods prior to being identified. We’ve also uncovered instances of people purposefully altering their Social Security number or date of birth in order to hide their criminal history. By deliberately changing their Social Security number or date of birth, they can substantially delay their criminal history check — in some cases with devastating impacts to the employer when those issues finally do come up.” In general, it’s estimated that organizations lose 5% of revenue to occupational fraud each year.

Additionally, some long-standing methods have changed with the rise in remote work. “We’ve seen people being hired, and then lying about who they are so they can capture equipment in a remote scenario. Those are just a few of the instances that come to mind.” With the prediction that 25% of all professional jobs in the US will be remote by the end of 2022, and that remote opportunities will continue to increase through 2023, it’s even more imperative that employers know who they’re hiring, especially given the physical distance.

As your HR team works tirelessly to recruit the best fits, you can turn an onboarding chore into a point-of-value creation for your candidates, hiring managers, recruiters, and your entire employee base. Even though many currently regard identity verification primarily as a way to deter fraud, this exceptionally important task also has the potential to play a much larger role in the hiring and onboarding process. When done correctly, your screening program, with integrated ID verification, can add value and measurable ROI. 

Watch the full session recording or view our follow-up Sterling Live episode. Identity verification can be easily configured to meet your specific business needs. Learn more about Sterling Identity Verification.

Sterling is not a law firm. This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.