How blockchain could transform background checks

  • Background checks are critical but time-consuming.
  • Saudi Aramco recently developed a verification solution that deployed blockchain can ensure an efficient and secure hiring process.

Competency verification – like training and academic certificates – is critically important for high-risk work such as operating machinery or dealing with hazardous chemicals. However, current traditional certificate verification practices of contacting the original issuer or third-party services are often time-consuming, cumbersome and opaque. These processes are also often vulnerable to fraud.

A more secure, transparent, and efficient solution can prove authenticity of professional credentials and help detect fake and fraudulent certificates based on blockchain technology. Saudi Aramco’s approach can present an option to speed such verification, helping companies hire qualified candidates more quickly.

The Problem:

Credential verification is critical in high-risk work. Such processes underpin the following:

  • Safety. Professionals and technicians without the appropriate required training and credentials jeopardize the safety of the oval work environment and could put themselves – and others – at major risk.
  • Operational Efficiency/Cost. Unqualified employees with limited skills are likely to be less productive and efficient than their peers with the required skill sets and experience. They may not have the knowledge or ability to handle assigned tasks or work with a productive team. This situation could lead to avoidable operational cost due to poor quality output, missed deadlines, slow work order fulfillment or slow job completion.

From the perspective of Saudi Aramco, the large number of counterfeit certificates in circulation is a prevalent risk which clearly jeopardizes the safety of the work environment and the efficiency of critical operations. The primary motivation of Saudi Aramco was to curb fake certificates by utilizing tamper-proof blockchain certificates.

The solution:

This past June, Saudi Aramco deployed the first version of a Blockchain Certificate Verifier to eliminate the risk of middleman fraud and the falsification of certificates. The Verifier is one of several blockchain-based solutions the company has developed as part of recent efforts to explore the technology.

This new application covers the technical certificates verification related to operating machinery and heavy equipment. The Verifier solution offers an easy and quick channel to address certificate fraud by securing genuine professional certificates on blockchain. This approach makes credentials immutable and instantly verifiable.

In addition, the solution enables real-time updates on expired or revoked certificates while maintaining the highest standard of security and privacy.

Blockchain certificate verifier

World Economic Forum, Blockchain certificate verifier

The Certificate Verifier architecture works on the process of the issuer, training institute, academia, or any accreditation body, creating a digital certificate and sending an invitation to the student to receive a blockchain credential of the original digital certificate. Once the student acceptance is confirmed, the issuer applies a cryptographic hash function to store the certificate onto the blockchain. Consequently, the student will receive a certificate identifier which can be shared with a third party, prospective employer, to easily verify the certificate authenticity in the Certificate Verifier ledger.

The results

Since its June deployment, the Blockchain Certificate Verifier has introduced an efficient and secure verification environment and cut verification time by more than 90% for heavy equipment operator certificates. In the legacy environment, the certificate verification process was manual, prone to human errors, and could take up to two weeks for a single certificate. In the new solution, certificates are verified nearly instantly – in less than 5 seconds.

To maximize the value of the solution, Saudi Aramco aims to utilize the best practices included in the blockchain toolkit to expand the scope for other sectors with Saudi Aramco and may form a consortium of local training institutes and academia to set the standards of digitizing all types of certifications and eventually develop a regional ecosystem for certificate verification.

Lessons learned

In developing this solution, Saudi Aramco sought out existing best practices, and as a partner of the World Economic Forum, utilized the “Certificate Verifier” project to pilot and contribute to the recently released Blockchain Deployment Toolkit.” The toolkit, a resource with practical tools, best practices, and modular approaches, has especially helped in managing and handling of personal data in the blockchain environment and adherence to GDPR requirements and enforcing personal data protection measures.

Says Yousef Ulyan, VP of Information Technology, the toolkit was key. “Realizing the potential role of blockchain technology in shaping future resilient supply chains, and as part of our proactive approach to drive and enable the use of blockchain technology, we leveraged our partnership with The Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution within the World Economic Forum to scale and pilot the blockchain deployment toolkit. It offers practical tools, best practices, and modular approach which has helped us to better assess, plan, and cater for associated considerations to deploy transformative solutions using blockchain technology.”

When it comes to critical roles, matching candidates with the requesting organizations requires not just the match up of job description, years of experience, but also highly regulated qualifications and certificates which must be vetted. The new blockchain-based system has achieved this goal in a more timely, cost-efficient and secure manner.

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