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What Foreigners Need to Know About Background Checks in Indonesia

If you’re an expat in Indonesia running a startup, a mid-sized organization or a Fortune 500 corporation, it’s critical to be knowledgeable on how a comprehensive background checking or employee screening system set in place can help ensure you’re on top of the game managing your company’s risks and making the best employment decisions.

It won’t be surprising to know that with Indonesia’s blooming economy and President Jokowi’s recent suggestion to have foreigners running some of the country’s state-owned enterprises, foreigners are now emboldened more than ever to come to the archipelago to work and earn a living – perhaps even run a business of their own.

It should also be noted that with the recent history of terrorism in the country’s capital and the ever-present reports of crimes across the nation, businesses in Indonesia are becoming more concerned with vetting candidates for potential extremist affiliations. The same can be said for people who commit other major crimes, or perhaps folks who have lied on their job application about their skills.

According to an article on the American Chamber of Commerce in Indonesia, there are no specific privacy or data protection requirements under Indonesian employment laws for employers who want to get their hands on criminal records, school records, employment or financial information. However, Indonesia has enacted laws relating to data privacy in a number of areas. Indonesian legal professionals often refer to Article 28G of the 1945 Constitution as a somewhat vague basis for more specific data privacy legislation. The article reads:

“Each person shall have the right to protection of their personal selves, families, respect, dignity and possessions under their control and shall have the right to security and protection from threat of fear for doing or for not doing something which constitutes a human right.”

Fortunately for foreign business owners as well as recruiters and human resource professionals, employee screening and background checking processes is readily available to help filter the qualified talents and leave out those who are not competent enough.

Indonesia Expat sat down with Tina Nugraheni, Technology Division Head of the executive search company Monroe Consulting Group to know more about the fundamentals of conducting reference checks as part of the recruitment process that expats operating businesses in Indonesia need to know.

Nugraheni emphasized the need to conduct reference checks in every recruitment process. Employers, both foreign and local, should carry out these checks primarily “to ensure that they hire a qualified candidate, fully equipped with the necessary requirements for the employment.”

While various companies may have different reasons for conducting background checks, the most vital part would be to ensure that candidates meet the full requirements of the position they apply for and that companies will make a return on investment.

Modern-day employers are more meticulous in learning about the candidates they are about to have a legal and professional relationship with. They are more empowered to ensure that a potential hire is not ‘hiding something from his past’ that might harm the organization or cause safety problems for other employees and clients.

As with any country, crime is indeed a problem in Indonesia. This is particularly true in major urban business hubs like Jakarta, where a number of criminal offences have reportedly occurred in the workplace. While the figures are low, they still signify the importance of implementing background checks. Many violent cases could be prevented if candidates with spotty criminal records could have been identified early on.

Background checks can also enable responsible employers to store relevant data on their employees so that they can be easily located or their next of kin can be reached in case of an emergency.

This is something that not all Indonesian companies are accustomed to doing, and one would be surprised that some of them do not even have records of their employees’ current residential addresses.

Human resource departments can ease their hiring processes by working closely with a background-checking firm in Jakarta where they can get information on shortlisted candidates. This way, candidates are more likely to provide accurate information, knowing that the stuff they are submitting will at some point be confirmed with a reference check.

Nugraheni explained that they “normally have the reference check done on the final step of the recruitment, when the client has agreed to proceed with the offering stage for the candidate. [This is] to keep the confidentiality of the process and minimize the risk of letting someone know that a candidate is on the job market, which could easily get back to the candidate’s current employer and put that candidate in jeopardy.”

Monroe’s technology division head advises employers to focus the background check on hearing from the candidate’s previous employers – and not the current one – who have had a direct working relationship as a manager, subordinate or a peer. This can help get a good 360 degree view on how the potential hire performed in their previous job. This also paints a picture of how they were accepted in the work place in terms of attitude.

Given the benefits of conducting a reference check, Nugraheni added, “[it] is a must for employers wanting to hire the people with the right attitude who are a suitable culture-fit with your current company.”

The recruitment specialist stressed that a reference check is cheap, considering that it only takes a few minutes to reach out to the candidate’s previous employers and get relevant information on how he previously performed – his strengths and weaknesses and how those are suitable for his next role in your company.

While employee screenings and reference checks in the US and other countries can often be done online, that is not the case in Indonesia.

With record keeping often done manually and personal files not readily shared between government agencies or police departments in the country, many applicants find it easy to hide their ‘ugly’ stories from previous employments.

In situations where an in-depth background investigation is needed for a high-profile position, it is recommended to hire the services of an Indonesia-based security company that can investigate the person or company in question and provide a credible report.

On whether or not a different set of background checking processes are conducted with vetting expats from various countries, Nugraheni told Indonesia Expat that no special cases have so far been requested of them and they follow the same standards for both locals and foreign talents.

Local and international employers are always concerned with their organization’s reputation, with highly regarded organizations generally attracting the most qualified employees. In the long run, background checks enable employers to safeguard their reputations by ensuring that their workplace is safe and secure and competitively staffed by qualified employees.

On the ground in Indonesia, with sophisticated online tools and data being scarce, background and reference checks tend to happen more on the person-to-person level, with brief phone calls and emails to previous employers serving as the norm.


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