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Innovation in the verifications industry by Jason Morris

Jason Morris is a screening industry pioneer and veteran and one of Citadel’s advisors and investors. We sat down with him to get his take on innovation in the market and why he believes Citadel is poised to take the market.


Jason Morris is a screening industry pioneer and veteran and one of Citadel’s advisors and investors. We sat down with him to get his take on innovation in the market and why he believes Citadel is poised to take the market.

“Unfortunately, background screeners aren’t good innovators, so the industry hasn’t seen the innovation it needs,” says Jason Morris, a screening expert and the Managing Partner at Morris Group Consulting. 

Jason would know—he started doing surveillance when he was 5 and followed his dad around on the job as a private investigator. Later, he founded EmployeeScreenIQ, a full service global screening firm, which was acquired by Sterling in 2015, which, at the time, was the largest screening company in the world.  In the early 2000s, Morris set out to grow the screening industry as well and helped to found the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) now called Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA). “While the industry might not be quick to innovate, we knew early on that standardization in our industry—before the government over-regulated us—was necessary,” he says. “That’s why we got together and started PBSA.” 

Jason is one of the world’s leading experts in employment and income verifications thanks to his 25+ years in the industry. “When it comes to employment screening, the reality is, the industry just hasn’t innovated in a way that provides applicants or employers with what they need—a seamless experience and fast, relevant data—until now.” 

Held hostage by TWN: employment verifications today

Today, employment verification is a very manual process in which a background screening company must call the previous employer, fax over a release, and wait for a response. “The process usually involves a wait and can take days to be completed,” Jason explains. “To expedite screening, a large percentage of background screening companies are required to use The Work Number (TWN), which is instant, but very expensive—and doesn’t allow for re-verification, meaning verifiers must re-verify and pay again every time they run a candidate.”

The way Jason sees it, employment verification hasn’t seen innovation beyond TWN because it’s hard. “That’s because of the millions of businesses in the U.S. that all have different methods of storing data and responding to verification requests,” he explains. Plus, verifications are rarely a priority for the members of HR departments who are asked to verify employment. “All of this leads to a very fragmented industry,” Jason adds.

“One of the biggest issues in the employment verification industry is the sheer prices TWN charges,” says Jason.

But it’s more than just pricing: “TWN is broken not only because it’s expensive, but also because the data is, in fact, held hostage from applicants and employers alike,” Jason explains. The solution, as he sees it? “The verifications world will likely never be without TWN, but putting the applicant in control of their data is the best way to run these verifications,” he says.

Putting the applicant in control

In today’s world, candidates are looking for jobs and want to find work quickly, but they’re at a disadvantage because TWN will only release their data for a hefty price tag, without any alternatives. And because neither the new employer that offered a job nor the employee holds their past employment data, they're at the mercy of TWN to obtain it, which slows the process down for everyone.

“There have been several advancements made, and Citadel is a huge one,” Jason says. “Citadel is a great way to bypass an old process and go directly to the data source. While there’s no silver bullet for verifications, giving the applicant control of their data—something that Citadel does—is the best approach that exists today.”

By putting the onus on the applicant, Citadel allows them to speed up the entire process by removing reliance on the employer or previous employer’s HR teams. And in most situations, Citadel acts as a substitute for TWN, making the process of employment verification faster and more affordable.

As the industry evolves, Jason believes employers will refuse to pay more to validate simple facts such as whether someone worked at a company. Instead, they’ll start looking for cost-effective, simpler solutions. “An alternative to TWN, like Citadel, now provides employers a faster, more affordable solution for a problem that’s existed for a long time,” he says. Instead of overcharging, under delivering, and double-charging for data—or worse yet, delivering irrelevant data—Citadel accesses the data that matters and provides it quickly and cost-efficiently to employers while putting the applicant in the driver’s seat. “Citadel makes it easy for candidates and employers,” Jason adds. “Helping people hire and start jobs faster and, ultimately, contributing to the success of the economy.”

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