U.S. vs. EMEA: In Sync or Oceans Apart in Background Check Practices and Perspectives?

Posted · Add Comment

Based on the often-illuminating responses found in HireRight’s 2017 Employment Screening Benchmark Reports, published by our United States (U.S.) and Europe/Middle East/Asia (EMEA) regions, more than just a vast ocean separates these regions. While we found a number of background check similarities between these two areas, we also uncovered a number of distinct differences regarding how, why, when and what we verify when conducting an employee background check.

1. What industry are you involved in?

Both regions surveyed diverse sectors; transportation including trucking was more heavily represented in the U.S. while EMEA had significantly more input from the financial sector. EMEA also included more than double the number of contributors from the technology and staffing/recruiting fields. As the financial and technical sectors may have unique requirements for their job candidates – which may be reflected in their background check parameters – some variances between the U.S. and EMEA’s results should be expected.

2. How many employees does your organization employ?

The surveys revealed broad diversity in terms of the size of organizations that participated in the surveys, providing valuable input from small, medium and larger organizations based on their unique challenges and needs.

3. What type of employment background checks are you familiar with?

With employees either having worked in, lived in, or having been born in other countries, and multiple national borders to contend with, HR professionals in EMEA are far more familiar with screening both local employees with background histories outside of the country of employment and verifying the backgrounds of personnel who hail from other countries.

4. Why does your organization not screen globally?

Many U.S. companies polled do not operate offices overseas. While U.S. technology firms routinely recruit from countries including India and China, other sectors polled do not practice international recruiting as often. Half of organizations polled in the EMEA survey indicated they do not operate offices in countries other than their home country. Less than 20 percent indicated they employ workers with international backgrounds.

5. What type of employment background checks does your organization perform?

While both regions routinely perform background checks of local candidates, European organizations screen international backgrounds of local employees three times more often, as candidates frequently cross borders for jobs.

6. Which background checks does your organization perform pre-hire?

While both regions indicated similar emphasis on conducting criminal or other public records checks, in other areas we were worlds apart. EMEA organizations appear significantly more interested in previous employment/references, education, and credit history. Perhaps since more EMEA respondents were from the financial sector, checks of candidates’ credit history and professional licenses were more pertinent.  Further, motor vehicle records are often not available outside of the US.

7. Which background checks does your organization perform post-hire?

After the original background check, employees may have engaged in activities or otherwise encountered problems that may affect the workplace. While U.S. organizations surveyed indicate they re-screen motor vehicle records, identity and criminal records, EMEA organizations appear as interested in re-screening criminal and identity checks, and significantly more interested in previous employment, education, professional licenses, and credit history, although issued in such areas would more typically be addressed during an initial background review.

8. Who does your organization background screen post-hire?

On both sides of the Atlantic, between a third and a half of organizations do not conduct more than the initial background check on employees? When a subsequent screen is conducted, it’s more often run on employees who got promoted or changed roles. EMEA organizations run post-hire screens on contingent and contract workers twice as much as do American firms.

9. What are your most significant talent acquisition and talent management challenges?

Both regions track very similarly, indicating that HR professionals in both regions face the same obstacles. The main notable difference is in making the HR process more efficient, which appears more of a priority to EMEA organizations. Or perhaps an explanation for this difference is that U.S. organizations are simply more satisfied with their current HR processes and more focused on improving talent acquisition and talent management systems.

10. Approximately what percentage of your organization’s workforce is comprised of non-employee workers?

It is interesting how close both regions are in their responses. And that most companies surveyed reported that non-employees comprised less than 20% of their total workforce.

11. Which non-employees at your organization are subject to background checks?  

Perhaps because our EMEA survey had a great many respondents in the financial sector, that region is more diligent in screening contingent, contract or temporary workers, and far more interested in screening vendor representatives.

12. How does your organization ensure that staffing agency screening processes are compliant with your organization’s screening policies?

Organizations surveyed in all three regions indicate a high degree of vigilance when working with temporary agencies to hire contingent, contract or temporary workers. If using a temporary service to hire volunteers or vendor representatives, the same degree of prudence may be in order.

13. What are your organization’s most significant background screening challenges?

With more complex candidate backgrounds, both U.S. and EMEA organizations are struggling to find a balance between speed and risk mitigation. American companies are placing greater emphasis on improving the candidate experience.


A stronger economy, advances in technology, and a new workforce with a different perspective on employment are providing multiple new challenges for hiring professionals in both the U.S. and EMEA.  While there are close similarities in recruiting and background check practices in both regions, organizations in EMEA indicate greater familiarity with and practice in running background checks on employees who have worked, lived or been educated in other countries (although U.S.-based companies in some sectors are quickly adopting international background check processes). While the emphasis on criminal record checks, previous employment, and identity checks is consistent between both regions, organizations participating in the EMEA survey conduct more professional license, education and credit checks.

George Bernard Shaw is credited with saying that Britain and America are two nations divided by a common language. Perhaps in a similar vein, these two nations (including the other nations of EMEA), while bound by many common background check practices, remain an ocean apart in some practices (“dialects”?) unique to their locations, possibly explained by the greater number of respondents from the financial community in EMEA as noted above. But as businesses continue to add offices in multiple countries, the practice of tapping the vast talent pool within other nations accelerates, background verification practices will become more consistent throughout the world.

While one may hypothesize regarding the differences in findings among respondents from the U.S. and EMEA, there are a few things that are clear – the global economy will ebb and flow and with it corporate growth strategies and hiring practices will adapt, as will the transient and mobile nature of the workforce. Finally, there’s no doubt that employment and privacy laws will continue to evolve (GDPR is knocking on the doors of employers operating in EMEA), all meaning that while we’ll continue to see similarities and distinct differences amongst screening practices across the globe the important thing is that employers are screening and understand the significance of doing so.

Download: The 2017 Employment Screening Benchmark Report
The 10th Annual HireRight Employment Screening Benchmark Report

The most comprehensive global survey of its kind – providing 10 years of insight on industry best practices.

Get Your Copy Now!

Download: The 2017 Employment Screening Benchmark Report
The 10th Annual HireRight EMEA Employment Screening Benchmark Report

We asked HR professionals from across the globe for their thoughts on the year ahead for background screening and the wider screening landscape – this report looks at the responses from those in the EMEA region.

Download Now


Lewis Lustman

Lewis Lustman is a content marketer who enjoys developing materials that engage, inform, challenge, and hopefully entertain my audience. Lewis is a former journalist for Los Angeles Magazine and the Los Angeles Times, and has worked for a number of leading advertising, marketing, technology, and PR firms over the years. Interested in a topic that he hasn't yet tackled? Drop him a line in the comments section!

More Posts

Follow Me:



Comments are closed.