Traditionally, background checks have been a way for both new and well-established businesses to ensure that they are hiring the most qualified and trustworthy candidates. Used in conjunction with an in-depth interview process, background checks allow hiring managers to feel that they know a candidate before they make a final hiring decision. This knowledge can steer employers away from candidates who don’t have the right qualifications or work style for the job or may pose a risk to the business. How does COVID19 influence the traditional vetting and hiring process?  

While COVID19 briefly stalled the economy and halted hiring at most organizations, that pause has not been permanent. According to Labor Department statistics, unemployment rates dipped from 14.7% in April to 7.9% in September, which means that many employers are either bringing back furloughed staff or hiring new people.  

How Industries Adjust To The Pandemic

COVID-19 reshaped the way that employers fill jobs and conduct their daily operations. Many employers have traded in-person interviews for conversations with candidates over video conferencing platforms, such as Zoom. Many others are still in work-from-home mode; in June, Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom stated that 42% of the American workforce was working from home. At the time, 33% of the labour force wasn’t working at all, leaving just 26% working at in-person premises. 

There are clear advantages to this “new normal” of virtual recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and work. Most crucially, reducing in-person interactions between people who aren’t from the same household can drastically cut down the potential for COVID-19 to spread. Closing offices and keeping workers at home are ways that businesses can protect their employees from potential exposure and do their part to fight a pandemic that continues to be a prominent part of daily American life.  

Downside For Employers

Beyond public health benefits, workers have discovered additional perks–from eliminating their commutes to spending more time with their families. For employers, there are tradeoffs to switching to a remote-driven work ecosystem. 

One of those tradeoffs involves background checks and vetting. A major challenge posed by this new system is that in-person interviews have, at least temporarily, fallen out of favour for safety-conscious employers and job seekers. In the past, employers have considered in-person interactions with candidates to be significantly preferable to video or phone screenings. In fact, video or phone screenings have often functioned as “initial screening” interviews, with only serious candidates or finalists invited to the in-person stage of the interview process.  

Data collected in 2013 by the Degroote School of Business at Ontario’s McMaster found that candidates who interviewed via video were statistically less likely to be hired than candidates who completed in-person interviews. Employers have more difficulty getting a sense of a candidate’s demeanour or personality, building rapport, or establishing trust when they conduct interviews virtually rather than face-to-face. 

A face-to-face encounter provides a stronger opportunity to assess the feeling of working with a new hire. In-person interviews provide hiring managers with an immediate sense of a person’s cultural fit, which is something that has always been a crucial component for building an in-office workforce. 

How Remote Interviews Help Hire The Right Employee 

One essential factor for employers to understand during COVID-19 is that remote workforces function differently than in-office workforces, which means that what matters in an ideal candidate has changed. If you are filling a position that will function in a work-from-home capacity, you need to know that you are hiring someone who has a grasp of telecommuting software tools, communicating clearly and effectively from a distance, and functioning as a self-starter. A well-executed remote interview can reveal some of these attributes just as an in-person interview can provide insight into a person’s personality and in-office cultural fit. 

The other piece of the puzzle is a detailed background check. Sitting down face-to-face with a candidate provides a palpable connection and more opportunity to build trust than a 30-minute Zoom appointment. Whether remotely or in-person, employers must take a “trust but verify” approach when hiring someone new.  

According to Monster, 85% of recruiters have caught candidates lying on their resumes. Running thorough background checks that incorporate criminal history, work history, educational background, references, and other information relevant to the position that can help employers catch these lies and build confidence around a hire. 

COVID-19 has reshaped many workplace factors, but it didn’t reshape the fundamental attributes of responsible hiring. In fact, the pandemic, and the resulting pivot to virtual interviews and remote work, has reiterated the importance of background checks in the hiring process.  


Your vetting and hiring strategy should bypass any difficulties you encounter.  By thoroughly vetting your finalists, you can learn all the relevant information that you need to make a hiring decision that you can believe in, whether your new team members will support your business remotely or in person.

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Samantha is an HR practitioner who has worked with several companies to help them improve their HR practices. Samantha has gained decades of experience in handling all HR facets that include managerial relations, labour relations, training and development, recruitment, and compensation and benefits.

When Samantha is not busy at work, she writes articles about the importance of effective HR practices and why startups should always prioritize this area of the business.