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Sterling: Enabling Smarter, Faster, And Safer Hiring

Josh Peirez, CEO, SterlingJosh Peirez, CEO "Doveryai, no proveryai,” goes a famous Russian proverb, which when translated literally means “trust, but verify.” When it comes to hiring, this catchphrase offers valuable wisdom for organizations across essentially all industries. Here are a few reasons why: To land a job, candidates are often found guilty of adding a positive spin on their past and turning in heavily embellished resumes. From fudging job titles and sporting fake degrees to concealing criminal records, candidates are pushing the envelope when it comes to gaming the system. And the prevalence of the gig economy—where temporary, flexible jobs are commonplace—makes the whole process of hiring and background screening even more critical as one wrong hire can result in severe reputational and financial damage.

Recent estimates by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) even suggest that resume fraud costs organizations $600 billion annually, on a global scale!

In such times, how can organizations achieve smarter and safer onboarding processes and hire with utmost confidence? The short answer: Sterling. With 20 offices across nine countries, Sterling is a global leader in background screening and identity services and conducts millions of employee searches annually. “Everything we do is to deliver on our mission, which is to provide the foundation of trust and safety that our clients require to build their cultures. It’s all about finding the right people for the right job,” begins Josh Peirez, CEO of Sterling.

The End-to-End Onus of Candidate Screening

Founded in 1975, initially administering lie detector tests, Sterling not only has rich experience to fall back on, but its continued growth lies in the ability to reinvent and stay ahead of times. The company has evolved as the global employment landscape has become increasingly more complicated. The focus for Sterling now is to extend strategic background screening and identity services and function as a highly collaborative partner as opposed to engaging in transactional-based services. In every step of the way, Sterling’s value proposition is simple yet well carved out. “We reduce the risks of a wrong hire; offer best-in-class service levels when it comes to turnaround time, quality, and support; and lastly, help clients strategically implement and keep up with current trends and innovations in hiring and onboarding, using our deep market expertise,” emphasizes Peirez.

To meet its ambitious goal of making workplaces safer, Sterling offers a comprehensive suite of background screening services. One of the most important is criminal records checks. The company employs advanced technology that incorporates powerful locator tools that uncover criminal records and augments comprehensive database searches. The second core service is verification, where a candidate’s educational background, employment history, references, certifications, and other credentials are verified, quickly and accurately. One of the latest additions to the modern recruitment process is the social media background check—and here Sterling applies an effective arsenal of tools. They comb through thousands of websites for both user-generated and third-party relevant content. As federal and state regulations continue to evolve, clients that partner with Sterling can do so with confidence that they will stay in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) as well as anti-discrimination laws.

The competition for high-powered management talent is fierce.

Everything we do is to uphold our mission, which is to provide the foundation of trust and safety that our clients require to build their cultures


The stakes are high, and mistakes can affect organizations for years. Sterling provides in-depth executive checks delivered by their private investigations subsidiary, Sterling Diligence. Trusted by leading Fortune 500 companies, Sterling Diligence assists clients with their biggest hiring decisions from identifying candidates' potential conflicts of interest, links to financial or organized crime, issues of reputation and character, or omissions of essential information.

Sterling, with its world-class fingerprint and facial recognition programs, is one of the first background check providers to invest heavily in the identity services space. In June, Sterling launched Sterling Identity—a business unit focused entirely on identity and biometrics— which released VerifyID, a B2B service that combats identity fraud. The company also boasts one of the largest nationwide electronic kiosk systems for fingerprinting. Peirez adds, “Our state-of-the-art digital fingerprint capture and verification technology represents the future of identity and biometrics, reduces rejection rates, and speeds up onboarding.”

"Our state-of-the-art digital fingerprint capture technology represents the future of identity and biometrics, reduces rejection rates, and speeds up onboarding"

For companies, key positions, and industries that demand drug testing, Sterling has developed industry-specific drug and health screening packages that are tailored to meet disparate regulatory standards. Their comprehensive pre-and post-hire drug screening helps companies stay compliant and, meet work policy requirements and promote a drug-free culture. In case a healthcare company needs to expand drug screenings to include occupational health screening, Sterling’s Medical Review Officers (MROs) ensure that employees meet the necessary health standards. Another core service in Sterling’s arsenal is motor vehicle record checks that highlight driving history, suspensions, revocations, any violations, and more.

Sterling also offers the only background check platform tailored to the specific needs of the service sector and the first online community for vetted volunteers through its Sterling Volunteers division. This network of millions of volunteers are all pre-screened and ready to mobilize when opportunities arise at any one of the countless non-profit organizations that participate.

Raise the Safety Bar

When discussing background checks and employee screening, most companies focus on pre-employment services. But what about ongoing screening? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, after about four years of employment, 10 percent of employees will have been arrested twice. In an effort to better protect client workforces and their customers, Sterling introduced its comprehensive workforce monitoring program that proactively and efficiently monitors the workforce with real-time notifications on employee criminal behavior, from DUIs and assault to theft and fraud.

Positioned at the leading edge of technology, Sterling’s offerings are cloud-based solutions, which can be accessed through a smartphone or other mobile device, or a computer. The solutions easily integrate through proprietary APIs with over 100 HR systems, including Workday, Oracle, and iCims, and are created for organizations of all sizes, from big to small. For instance, with SterlingNOW, a self-service background check solution, clients can go live in minutes. For larger enterprise organizations that have more complex hiring processes, Sterling can help design a tailored screening program to meet their needs.
“Oftentimes, during the design phase, we come up with blue-sky solutions that have never been seen before in the industry, giving us an upper hand over the competition,” states Peirez. For maximum client benefit, the company also leverages the most advanced rules-based searches, as well as machine learning. Lastly, since big data alone can’t move the needle, Sterling’s robust suite of reporting and analytics services ensure that clients always have actionable insights, detailed metrics, and reports at their fingertips.

Looking at Sterling’s extensive solutions portfolio and customized approach, the company makes a strong case for being the solution of choice for varied industries including energy and utilities, retail, financial services, hospitality, and hospitality, healthcare and the gig economy. While the needs of each industry are unique, Sterling’s services are effectively customized across the board. For example, the parameters for background checks in the healthcare landscape are very specific and vary depending on hospitals or home care. “In healthcare provisioning, the screening process is more intricate and challenging. Multiple factors come into play. Do the candidates have the right degrees and certifications? Are their licenses still valid? Do they have the right kind of vaccinations to serve the elderly or newborns? Do they meet state-ordained regulations? And so on, points out Peirez. Similarly, on the other end of the spectrum are the needs of a company that hires gig workers, which are vastly different from traditional companies yet complex in its own way. In the shared economy there is aggressive competition for talent, the risk factors are higher, and turnaround time is critical. And in most cases, everything is done remotely.

To better highlight the screening needs of a gig economy, Peirez brings up the example of a name brand courier company that faced challenges in expanding their business into Europe, as the client lacked the understanding of local screening regulations and eligibility criteria. After unsatisfactory engagements with other service providers, Sterling was the only company that could meet the client’s expectations of setting up a screening program for the extensive network of qualified delivery people that customers could trust. In addition, candidate identity verification and onboarding processes were significantly improved with the implementation of Sterling’s facial recognition and biometrics services. While it previously took the client 40 days to effectively vet a courier, Sterling made it possible for the process to be completed in less than two weeks.

Partnership-Based, Best-in-Class Services

Sterling also offers a strong suite of support services. “We offer an ‘always-on,’ 24/7 contact center, where a skilled expert is readily available to take up client queries,” says Peirez. Moreover, Sterling meets with existing clients every quarter to review their account, suggest improvements, and implement current best practices. “Owing to the efforts of our dedicated, passionate, and hard-working team, our client retention rates are very high, and we are also winning business from our competitors,” he adds. Currently, the company has a client base spread across EMEA, Canada, the U.S., Asia and Australia. Adopting a holistic services approach in the truest sense, Sterling also keeps in mind the needs of candidates. Through a new mobile Candidate Hub, potential employees are able to complete the majority of the screening process quickly and easily on their smartphone or tablet.

In the months and years ahead, Sterling is focused on staying on top of market changes amidst the ever-evolving geopolitical and technological landscape. Resources will be directed at continuing to enhance their identity services, which is an exciting area of growth. In addition, data analytics efforts will be advanced even further. Sterling is set on giving clients reporting tools that not only help benchmark their portfolio but also reveal a comparative analysis against their peers and the industry at large. On an ending note, Peirez signs off by saying, “We will keep pace with the shifting hiring culture, and continue to do what we do best— bring to the table unrivaled services and deep market expertise.”