For an automated background-checking company, “Chief Trust and Security Officer” is as mission-critical as it gets. That’s the title of Checkr‘s newest member, Cory Louie. After beginning his career as a U.S. Secret Service agent, Louie has held variations of “security officer” at WeWork, Planned Parenthood, Dropbox, Google, and the White House.
In a blog post announcing Louie’s arrival at the company, Checkr said that it’s at an inflection point; in any case, it’s been growing. In July 2018, Checkr was running more than a million background checks per month, but now it’s upped that number to 1.5 million, with 10,000 customers on its rolls. For his part, Louie seems to have more in mind than just salient marketing data points, though. In an email interview with VentureBeat, he said, “I have two criteria when exploring new opportunities: Is it worth protecting, and does it have a higher purpose?” Checkr, he said, exceeded his expectations. He cited in part the company’s mission of “utilizing technology for good.”
Throughout his answers, Louie kept returning to this idea of fairness. Although automated background checking or resume scanning can surface bias that weeds people out, which is patently unfair, his view is that Checkr’s system actually enhances fairness. Without the advantage of AI, he noted, there are difficult problems with background checks. One is simply the fact that many records are messy — decentralized storage, un-digitized records, inconsistencies in regulation levels state to state, and people with the same name being confused for one another are all hurdles.
As a result, “Historically, background checks have been very unfair for consumers and even discriminatory in the way they are used,” he wrote. “Because of the poor quality of background checks and tools, employers are more likely to make biased employment decisions.” Checkr uses AI and machine learning to abate those issues by classifying the data and automating the filtering, compliance, and ID matching in its database. “The result is faster background checks that increase accuracy while reducing bias and compliance risk,” wrote Louie.
Checkr backs up its rhetoric of fairness with two initiatives. Better Future gives individuals a free background check so they can learn what potential employers might see. It doesn’t include employment history, driving records, or civil records, but it does trace your SSN and scans country-level databases as well as federal ones like the National Criminal Search. Armed with the results, Checkr’s Bounce Back program provides resources to help applicants understand the background check process, their rights in the process, and how to expunge records when possible.
The automation element is also designed to increase the speed to hire, which Louie noted was ideal both for traditional employers who may have a large number of positions to fill and need to move quickly to secure talent, as well as for companies in the gig economy. Uber, for example, handles a high volume of individuals, and seeing all those people through background checks expeditiously helps reduce the friction of becoming a driver — but they have to ensure that they don’t sacrifice quality in the process.
Louie said that Checkr is currently focused on growing within industries that have “high velocity hiring,” including staffing and retail, but the plan is to continue to grow from there.