Nearshore Americas

How to Localize Applicant Screening Standards in Latin America

The practice of nearshoring business processes to countries in Latin America is a growing trend for many international companies. However, geographical proximity does not presuppose similarity in business practices. Employers that operate in several countries, with a mobile workforce, need to apply global background screening standards for both their direct and contracted or outsourced employees. Success in applying the same corporate screening standards across international borders requires that Human Resources and Compliance managers “localize” their processes. We suggest five criteria to keep in mind when designing background screening processes in Latin American countries.

Local Versus Corporate Language

There are more than 30 countries and territories in Latin America where four official languages are spoken. While Spanish predominates, more than a third of the region’s 600 million inhabitants live in Brazil and speak Portuguese. For practical purposes, the local operations of a company in Brazil would receive information from an applicant in Portuguese, yet some global operations might require that the review process be conducted in English.

Working simultaneously in two languages presents challenges. Even when English is the company’s official language, Portuguese and Spanish would continue to be important for the work of local human resource departments in Latin America.

Thorough Knowledge of Local Laws

Each country differs in terms of the legality of collecting and using certain information from applicants. In some countries, some types of information cannot be legally obtained. In others, the information can be obtained but not used in the hiring process. For example, in Brazil, criminal records can be obtained legally but a company must design their job description to justify the use of such records to address work-related safety and/or security risks. Otherwise the company could find itself vulnerable to a claim of discrimination from a rejected applicant.

The other issue for compliance and human resource departments at international companies relates to the way in which information is obtained and used for background checks. The local partner must be able to demonstrate knowledge of current regulations in each country and show that they operate in accordance with the law.

Respect for Data Protection Laws

The enactment of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has propelled various Latin American countries to reform and update their local data protection regimes. It is important that companies understand their data protection obligations in detail and are aware of compliance. Even if they have local suppliers processing the background information, the company itself will be ultimately responsible for how such information is handled.

High Security Standards

One of the most critical aspects to consider regarding background check services is security. Gathering information to evaluate applicants or partners in Latin America remains a very manual process and many companies do not rely on technology. When selecting a potential partner, it will be helpful to have partner who operates a user-friendly technology platform and treats “privacy by design” as essential to the applicant’s experience. In addition, it will be very useful for the company to be able to monitor the entire process. This should provide greater assurance that the applicant’s information and privacy will always be protected. 

Professional Competencies and KPIs

According to the global recruitment firm Manpower, “around 50% of formal Latin American firms cannot find candidates with the skills they need, compared to 36% of firms in OECD countries. This is a particularly pressing issue in Peru, Brazil and Mexico.”

Because of these competitive pressures, both turnaround time (TAT) and unverifiable information (UTV, unable to verify) have become key performance indicators, applicable to the internal talent acquisition process as well as to recruitment partners or suppliers. Effective screening partners know this, and have developed technology for efficient workflow processes and performance-related analysis of service level agreements.

David Robillard

David Robillard is President of MultiLatin Background Screening and has more than 20 years of experience advising boards of directors and senior management on integrity and corporate reputational risk issues in Latin America. David is Chairman of the Latin American Task Force for the (NAPBS) - National Association of Professional Background Screeners. You can contact David at info@multilatin.com.

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