Striking a balance between empathy and employee verification

As we look back on the year gone by, it’s safe to say that our lives have been disrupted in more ways than ever imaginable. 2020, will forever be remembered as the year that defined the new normal, forced people to social distance, and when the world locked down for the majority of the year, affecting billions across the globe. In India, one of the most dire consequences of the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been its impact on the job market. According to reports by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), about 21 million salaried jobs were lost, as the Indian market reeled under the effects of the pandemic.

However, as the economy reopens in a bid to bounce back to its pre-pandemic days, companies embark on hiring sprees to fill the seats that fell vacant a few months ago. While some companies might choose to bring back furloughed employees, there are others who would want to hire from the large talent pool available in the job market.

In the case of the latter, there is a very natural, emotional, and human tendency among CHROs to lean towards candidates who have been impacted, empathise with them, and be inclined to hire them, and give them a fresh start. While we are not averse to the idea of providing livelihood to those who have been impacted, we do recommend proceeding with caution. Having been in the private investigation business for decades, we advise recruitment managers to remain vigilant, and follow the statutory background verification process, even under present day circumstances, thus striking the right chord between empathy, and employee verification.

Bearing in mind that the candidate in question has been recently laid off, instinctively, we tend to question the nature of the layoff. By deploying the standard employee verification process, some of the questions an agency specialising in background checks can help answer are:

Was there a reason for this particular employee to be made redundant, as compared to peers who still hold their jobs?

While respecting the reality that job losses in 2020 were at an aberrantly high rate, and in most cases were due to economic reasons, a background check can help find out if there were any other underlying reasons for a particular candidate to be impacted. Uncovering underlying performance or compatibility issues which led to the eventual separation, are just some of the answers that a background check can reveal, and help an organisation make an informed decision.

Did the candidate show signs of anger/violence on being made redundant?

Being laid off is not easy news to digest; especially amidst a pandemic. In some cases, employees may have reacted violently or angrily based on their emotions at the time. By asking such questions, it can greatly help an organisation understand the mentality and nature of the candidate, to gauge if such outbursts are a regular occurrence or an isolated incident.

What are the candidate’s past professional track records?

Understanding a candidate’s professional track record is a great way to get an overview of his ability to retain a job under normal circumstances, or the reasons for a sabbatical, if any. While seemingly trivial, these indicators are crucial to grasping the candidate’s reliability in an organisation.

Would the candidate’s past organisation recommend him?

This is arguably the most important question that one needs to ask. A recommendation from the candidate’s past organisation is validation enough that he is a strong resource, and was merely impacted due to circumstances beyond control.

The Bottom Line

While layoffs today do not carry the stigma and shame that they did pre-pandemic, one must not let their emotions take over or allow themselves to become complacent in the hiring process. Making an informed decision about a candidate is crucial to avoid hiring the wrong resource, costing the company both time and money.

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