Background screening cultural barriers

Background screening cultural barriers: the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the expansion in wireless connectivity between personal and working communities around the globe; however, this has not come without the trials in upholding an operational and compliant employment background screening program in the globalization of the digital workforce. Background Screening plays a significant role in reducing bad hires by ensuring that your candidates are qualified to do the job they have applied for. This is important in safeguarding the reputation of an organization and the nature of how commerce is conducted.

CRI® Group surveyed to gauge the state of human resources in which it was revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic is raising fears of fraud and the protection of sensitive and confidential data since the implementation of virtual in work-from-home (WFH) arrangements.

It was estimated that roughly 88 per cent of the surveyed admitted that the pandemic is indeed having an impact on the way their HR operations are being carried out, while 65 per cent are considering new ways to hold on to employees during the crisis outside of government schemes, i.e., the furlough scheme in the UK. Alarmingly, a staggering 54 per cent of the surveyed admitted to not screening their employees for criminal, media, employment history perspectives before any work-from-home arrangement as they would have done if they were being asked to work from the office despite being these employees having access to sensitive information.

Before COVID-19, it was found that an estimate of 85% of organizations testified to conducting background screening of some type. On the same note, a vast 92 per cent stated that they trust their employees with confidential data but without the assistance of a background screening measure. Background screening is vital to organizations of all types and industries as it can assist in authenticating your employees track record and help avoid a bad hire.

Find out other ways COVID has impacted the hiring process or download our brochure.

Are background screening checks essential?

Background checks are essentially an inquiry into an employee’s/candidate’s character inside and outside their vocations. At CRI® Group, we offer a complete, in-depth background screening service for candidates and employees at all levels across the globe. Working with different cultures in different geographies raises background screening challenges that should be considered when conducting a thorough background check – to be able to conduct business successfully in a geographic location that you are unfamiliar with, it is crucial to consider these aspects to be able to integrate your organizations into the locality seamlessly; these are particularly important if you are considering a partnership with oversea organizations. 

CRI® is certified by British Standard Institute BSI for the scope of BS 7858:2019 Screening of individuals working in a secure environment, Code of practice and BS 102000:2018 Code of practice for investigative services. The BSI is the only BS 7858 accredited background screening services provider in the UAE and across the Middle East. Find out more about the BS 7858:2019 below or download the free playbook.

The Different Challenges of Background Screening Across the Globe

Regulatory policies

  • The guidelines for background screening checks differ from country to country, with personal privacy and data protection being a universally passionate debate. The laws in the United States, for example, are not the same as those that impact investigations in the Middle East and the Middle East policies vary from the European ones. International Background Screening necessitates compliance with personal data protection regulations across regions where it is conducted. Background screening in the US typically must conform with the Fair Credit Reporting Act to conduct domestic background investigations. In the case of Europe, its GDPR effectively fell into force in 2018.

If you need more information on establishing GDPR procedures in your organization, read our guide on maintaining GDPR compliance.

  • Other investigations outside of the West are considered far more complex. Middle Eastern countries have no prohibitive legislation governing employment screening or employee due diligence. This means that the process largely relies on consent from the applicants. Background screening industry professionals in the Middle East must follow strict data protection requirements (such as the GDPR, local Data Protection regimes, DIFC Data Protection, ADGM Data Protection and QFC Data Protection regulations) to process consensually based on personal data information. In contrast, Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Data Protection standards allow for processing sensitive personal information, including criminal history, with signed consent from the data question for operative due to diligence necessities. Read more about compliance with privacy laws in the UAE. With this in mind, it is important to bear regulatory policies in mind and do further research on them when conducting these checks overseas.

Find out more about CRI® Group’s compliance solutions below or contact us to get a free quote.

Local Practices

  • Much like the regulatory policies, obtaining background screening data differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The Middle East, for example, have background investigators journey to remote destinations to conduct interviews, find and use other resources and enlist local assistance to verify the information. Leading background screening firms often conduct investigations that regularly involve a thorough review of local press records and online and proprietary databases to locate the appropriate public records. This is not a requirement in the US as the data is digitized and available in official sources. In South Africa, on the other hand, such a procedure would require the candidate’s fingerprints due to the digital gap. Investigators would have to go through the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) in Australia.

Technology gap

  • As mentioned before, the same technology is not available in all countries across the globe. The technology gap is an additional task that can impact the effectiveness of a comprehensive background screening check. The technology gap is an echo of local practices and regulatory policies; this solidifies the notion that auditors must adapt to meet the organization’s needs centered on the resources they have available to them. It is a good idea to collaborate with a screening firm in the designated country that an organization wishes to hire to make sure that no policies are being broken nor any obstacles, such as the technology gap, hinder the HR process.

Political Differences

  • Political differences and solidarities should be considered during a screening as it means that the officials and authorities of the country may have different priorities than the organisation’s country of habitation. The cultural barrier index shows Africa and Middle East regions having unrest due to political instability as a significant challenge. Africa, for example, principally concentrate on preserving law and order leading to organizational processes such as verification being of lesser priority to them. In geographies where the socio-economic conditions are worse than the organization’s abode, there will certainly influence the turnaround time, which is why it is mandatory to implement the correct procedures in place – especially if you would like your organization to reap larger benefits of outsourcing.

Time differences and regional natural disasters

  • This reason is not as easily recognized but is just as important for successfully performing background screening checks. The climate is known to fluctuate from one geography to another, which means that some regions are more prone to natural disasters. Some natural disasters such as earthquakes or typhoons in certain regions might impact the speed of conducting a background screening. Another important aspect to consider is the time difference and the difference in working days. The working week differs across regions, some dependent on societal expectations and others on religious understanding – this is more than likely to impact the turnaround time of completing a background check. While the working week in Europe is usually considered to be Monday to Friday, the offices in UAE shut their doors earlier, with the weekend starting on Fridays and the 5-day working week beginning on Sunday. As the UAE is a predominantly Muslim country, Fridays are typically a shorter day in the working week for devout observations such as Jumu’ah (Friday) prayers.

Local Festivities

  • Replies from employees, employers, education institutions and even government officials may slow down during Christmas in the Western world, Ramadan in the Middle East region, or Lunar New Year in Asia. It is an effective strategy to bear the national holidays in mind when hiring or screening your candidates, and it prevents any further delays than what has already occurred.

Social behavior

  • Social behavior can vary from one district to another within the same land, so any visitor, individual or corporation is anticipated to acknowledge the cultural norms and social behaviour of the country they are visiting and to respect it as a measure of good practice. In some areas, what could be considered normal practice might be disrespectful or offensive in others. For this reason, the cultural index was established. The cultural index is a directory that notes the different cultural barriers and their impact on various regions; it is typically measured on a scale of 1, known as “not a challenge” to 5, which is “highly challenging”. Social behaviour was rated as three across countries in APAC and the Middle East as was rated as two across other regions. Again, establishing a local team will ensure a seamless process due to their awareness of how to conduct HR processes.


  • Failure to read or the inability to translate documents required for any step of any HR procedure would increase the turnaround time for completing the background screening process. Europe is typically challenged in this aspect as it is a continent that is representative of several diverse official languages, and a background screening service that is not adaptable nor accommodating to several languages could lead to a language barrier, thus resulting in delays and data inaccuracy. Based on this, CRI® Group has implemented a ‘boots on the ground strategy and employs local experts in remote areas in the world, who are equipped with technical skills and local knowledge and understand the cultural subtleties to help set the tone at the top.

Next steps, Locating Reputable Screening Firms

It is crucial that your organization works hand in hand with a reputable screening firm to ensure the screening process is effective in the organization’s homeland and overseas – this will aid in minimizing most if not all of the cultural barriers we have discussed thus far. Most firms who work with partners overseas are likely to adapt to your organization’s work culture fast enough as they are used to the concept of outsourcing and malleability. The best way to go about locating a reputable screening firm in the country of your choice is by following the steps below:

  1. Research home and overseas background screening firms supplied by the Professional Background Screening Association
  2. Research the local and regional laws beforehand and ask your firm how they conform to local and regional laws governing individual privacy and data protection.
  3. Screening firms are also capable of outsourcing their cases to a third party. Avoid this by ensuring that the firm’s physical address is in the region in which you’re looking to conduct investigations.
  4. Know how your chosen firm investigates and conducts background screening; it is best to steer clear of firms that investigate exclusively through media searches. This provides very little personal information on the candidate.
  5. Auditors in your chosen firm should comply with GDPR and maintain Information Security Management System ISMS (ISO27001). This is important for data management and protection laws. It is best to avoid those with no (international) standards implemented.
  6. Evade firms that specialize in checks of the International Terrorist Watch List and the OFAC watch list; these lists are available online at no cost to the general public.
  7. Ask your firm how old the data collected is, and steer clear of firms that won’t supply you with the source of the records they have acquired.
  8. Background checks must involve investigative research and not just press clippings. Make certain that your firm will merge in-depth field investigations with routine public records searches as part of its process.
  9. Service delivery is essential in foreign investigations, so it is best to look into average turnaround times and get commitments from your chosen firm for delivery in advance.
  10. Ask for references as you would from your potential employees.


Like any aspect of corporate conduct, background screening has its challenges, but that is not to say that they are impossible to deal with. By default, proper planning, research, and local knowledge can help your organization navigate the cultural barriers to successfully run services overseas. The more you invest in sourcing morally correct corporate conduct, the more you can expect to be rewarded with a catalytic action to grow and expand your organization.

Let’s Talk!

Don’t leave hiring to chance. Take a proactive stance with the highest level of background screening as a part of your essential corporate strategy. Contact us today to learn more about our full range of services to help your organization stay protected.


Who is CRI® Group?

Based in London, CRI® Group works with companies across the Americas, Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia-Pacific as a one-stop international Risk ManagementEmployee Background ScreeningBusiness IntelligenceTPRMDue DiligenceCompliance Solutions and other professional Investigative Research solutions provider. We have the largest proprietary network of background-screening analysts and investigators across the Middle East and Asia. Our global presence ensures that no matter how international your operations are, we have the network needed to provide you with all you need, wherever you happen to be. CRI® Group also holds BS 102000:2013 and BS 7858:2012 Certifications, is an HRO certified provider and partner with Oracle.

In 2016, CRI® Group launched the Anti-Bribery Anti-Corruption (ABAC®) Center of Excellence – an independent certification body that provides education and certification services for individuals and organizations on a wide range of disciplines and ISO standards, including ISO 31000:2018 Risk Management- GuidelinesISO 37000:2021 Governance of OrganisationsISO 37002:2021 Whistleblowing Management SystemISO 37301:2021 (formerly ISO 19600) Compliance Management system (CMS)Anti-Money Laundering (AML); and ISO 37001:2016 Anti-Bribery Management Systems ABMS. ABAC® offers a complete suite of solutions designed to help organisations mitigate the internal and external risks associated with operating in multi-jurisdiction and multi-cultural environments while assisting in developing frameworks for strategic compliance programs. Contact ABAC® for more on ISO Certification and training.

Meet the CEO

Zafar I. Anjum is Group Chief Executive Officer of CRI® Group (, a global supplier of investigative, forensic accounting, business due to diligence and employee background screening services for some of the world’s leading business organisations. Headquartered in London (with a significant presence throughout the region) and licensed by the Dubai International Financial Centre-DIFC, the Qatar Financial Center – QFC, and the Abu Dhabi Global Market-ADGM, CRI® Group safeguard businesses by establishing the legal compliance, financial viability, and integrity levels of outside partners, suppliers and customers seeking to affiliate with your business. CRI® Group maintains offices in UAE, Pakistan, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia, Brazil, China, the USA, and the United Kingdom.

Contact CRI® Group to learn more about its 3PRM-Certified™ third-party risk management strategy program and discover an effective and proactive approach to mitigating the risks associated with corruption, bribery, financial crimes and other dangerous risks posed by third-party partnerships.


Zafar Anjum, MSc, MS, CFE, CII, MICA, Int. Dip. (Fin. Crime) | CRI® Group Chief Executive Officer

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