08/12/2020, Co-authored by Antony Lewis and Sourav Ghosal
Reliable employment records are useful for getting your next job. But in some countries, they are much more of a lifeline than that, and can open doors to credit, insurance, and other life-changing services.
This post describes how we can make employment records reliable, and what benefits this can bring to previous employers, new employers, and jobseekers.
It’s easy to fake your own LinkedIn profile
It’s easy to fake your own LinkedIn profile (or, for most of the rest of the world who aren’t on LinkedIn, your CV or experience letter). No one checks, and you can put whatever you want there. But when it comes down to proving your history, what happens? A prospective employer must call previous employers to check what you wrote was true.
We used to use paper records, perhaps a letter, that would be issued by the Personnel department when you left a company. It would state your employment dates, position, and perhaps your last drawn salary. That letter, printed on thick, headed paper, would be treated as reliable, as forgery was difficult (in theory).
But with the digitisation of everything, it has become so easy to fake such a letter, either physical, or a digital equivalent. So a digital representation of the letter is no longer good enough. So instead of relying on the letter, we must call the issuer to check.
Employment letters in a digital age
Recently, for various reasons, there has been a resurgence of the idea of a digital credential. By using cryptographic techniques developed in the 1970s, we can create digital certificates that are mathematically guaranteed to be authentic (i.e. it definitely came from the issuer) and guaranteed to be untampered by the holder or anyone else.
This is not new. The technology behind this, the cryptographic digital signature, has existed for decades. But until now, it has been only used in the fringes, or deep in technical implementations, such as the green padlock in your browser. There was never enough impetus to bring industries together to create standards. What’s changed now is that organisations are rallying around standards.
Benefits to previous employers
An employer can issue a digital credential once, and then that credential becomes the responsibility of the leaving employee to manage. The employer doesn’t need to man the phones, or screen calls from prospective employers, or run the risk that they are providing personal information to fraudulent parties.
There is also a more subtle longer term, brand-building benefit to employers. If you have a reputation for issuing fair credentials, this may attract more and better candidates to work for you in the first place. It adds value to the package: we help you get an even better next job, no matter where you go next.
Benefits to new employers
New employers can easily check the validity of the digital credential, and know for sure that it has been issued by the real party, and know for sure that it hasn’t been tampered with.
And it’s not just the employment dates and salary – there are huge benefits when reported skills, experiences, qualifications, and peer reviews can be selectively revealed and verified. Verification increases the odds that new employers have found the right candidate, and will get the right person for the job, rather than the person who just appears to be the right match.
Benefits to job seekers
The first obvious benefit to the job seeker is that their digital credentials give them control over who they show their data to, and that they can prove that these are not doctored.
But the interesting part is the secondary benefits. These credentials aren’t just good for proving employment history to new employers, they are useful for other aspects of life too.
Here are two more examples. Digital credentials demonstrate a track record over time. These can be used as hard data by service providers such as banks or insurers who increasingly use alternative data to support their decisions. Your digital credential may just be the thing that sways the decision whether to insure you and your family or not, or to issue you with credit.
For some people and their families, these secondary benefits can be life-changing.
Affinidi and GoodWorker
Affinidi powers credential platforms that allow people and businesses to create, control and selectively share verifiable credentials with anyone, anywhere. Affinidi powers GoodWorker, a technology platform focused on providing employment and life empowering services in India.