Contingent workforce programs struggle to develop loyalty among their direct-sourced talent pools. With workers who are accustomed to ready-access to services as consumers, they can be easily frustrated with a clunky hiring process that drags on. WillHire, a direct sourcing and talent pool management platform, and Checkr, an AI-powered background-check provider, are partnering to provide real-time access to talent like contingent workforce programs have never had before — while making it as easy as possible for these workers to get jobs. The partnership aims to change the dynamic of staffing by frontloading the bench with pre-background checked workers — along with continuous checking — embedded within a company’s private talent pool. Professional and light industrial buyers can have a pool of talent whose criminal, employment and educational backgrounds have been checked, so they are ready to work when the enterprise buyer needs them.

Chris Johnson, Checkr’s director of industry strategy and market development, and Kevin Poll, WillHire’s global head of strategic partnerships and D&I champion, discuss the benefits of a continuous, digital background-check model to buyers and talent.

Discuss the significance of your partnership in terms of its timing and what it means for contingent workforce professionals.

Chris Johnson, Director of Industry Strategy and Market Development, Checkr

Johnson: I think the significance of the partnership is centered around the here and now. We needed to do something quite different to meet the expectations of talent as well as recruiters. Thanks to the pandemic, talent acquisition leaders are now being forced to find resilient, agile workforces and that calls for different modalities.

In the past, HR and labor buying patterns were very different from technology buying patterns. But all that’s converged now. These days, acquiring talent is a whole lot like acquiring technology. It requires interesting, data-driven platforms and blended models. Pockets and silos of business have completely changed.

So, why are we partnering with WillHire, and why now? WillHire’s approach to direct sourcing is technology-driven. It’s high quality, it’s quick. And as a buyer, as a consumer of direct sourcing talent, it looks and feels a whole lot like a technology buy, which is what contingent workforce programs expect.

The capstone on that is how WillHire is tapping the background check to add an extra layer of trust and safety. Having a known variable with my contingent labor is way more attractive than having an unknown variable. And the way that WillHire puts that trust and safety process in the core of the platform levels up the protection of the brand because, at the end of the day, that’s what they’re doing, right? They’re hiring on behalf of, and with the power of, their customer’s brands, so it’s up to WillHire and Checkr to protect that at all costs.

Kevin Poll, Global Head of Strategic Partnerships and D&I Champion, WillHire

Poll: Our focus is on helping contingent workforce programs modernize. So we looked at how we act as consumers and took that approach to hiring. Why don’t we have immediate access to talent like we do with Uber and Lyft drivers or food delivery on an everyday basis? Obviously, the contingent workforce is much different, but we took that same approach with how we are building our direct-sourcing platform. That’s why I’m so excited about our Checkr partnership, because it really does provide real-time access to talent like programs have never had before.

How is the partnership helping close the talent gap and get people back to work?

Johnson: We have this concept of sign-up culture, which bleeds over to buyer personas and their changing expectations. But what it boils down to is what the talent is looking for out of their employment experience.

Just take a look at what we do on any given day. How do we consume goods and services? It has to be easy to find, easy to sign up for and easy to consume. Think of Instacart, Shipt, Uber, Lyft and Amazon. Even from an HR standpoint, look at what LinkedIn is doing for the job market — it’s a job board on steroids. One-click job applications on Indeed is sign-up culture too.

Next, we ask, what do I need to get out of my employment? Classically, you’ve had to sign up for one shift; that’s how hiring is designed. Well, now people are saying, “I want to work 40 hours, but I need to do that work in different ways.”

By matching people with the right types of work within a direct-sourcing ecosystem, WillHire is beginning to support that conversation. And clients are building what effectively will be their own gig economies and opportunities to place people very rapidly at those jobs.

Poll: The focus of our partnership is direct sourcing and talent pooling — we’re connecting enterprises with talent and talent with jobs. Organizations are struggling to get talent, especially good talent, and it’s affecting their business tremendously. But there are people out there who are looking for work, and our technology is capable of finding the talent and engaging with them in a meaningful way to attract them to the hiring organization.

For the hiring companies, the partnership delivers the talent fast and gets them onboarded quickly so they can fill shifts. The candidates get to work so they can make money faster as compared to companies that make take days or weeks to onboard them. It’s a competitive advantage. Everybody wins.

How do background checks supercharge the WillHire platform to deliver that speed and compliance?

Poll: Organizations often need workers immediately, so having workers background-checked and readily available completely changes the dynamic. Background checks are critical, too — and we know many organizations don’t even do them. Our process of checking up-front and continually helps everyone remain compliant. Meanwhile, it streamlines the process, helping to get those workers to work as fast as possible

Johnson: There is this push/pull between compliance and speed. From an application and technology standpoint, Checkr has closed that gap quite a bit just by the way we use our tech, but from an operational standpoint, WillHire has taken it to the next level. WillHire is now front-loading the background check, which is very different from the traditional staffing model of screening when there is a confirmed placement, which creates friction right at the most critical moment — when the client needs the work and the candidate needs the paycheck.

By front-loading it and having an awareness of what’s in that person’s criminal background — as well as their employment and educational backgrounds verified — that person is already pre-curated into the roles that they are fit for. Classically, the background check has been a way to screen candidates out; the partnership approaches it as a way to screen candidates in. It’s a way of understanding somebody’s background and matching them to the right job, so there are no surprises.

How has the current labor environment accelerated the need for pre-background checking workers?

Poll: With stimulus payments and added unemployment, people are staying home. Or they are staying home for family reasons, like taking care of kids. This creates a huge challenge for organizations when there’s such demand for our customers’ products.

One of our customers supplies goods for home remodels, and they are buried with work and unable to keep up with the demand. Another customer is one of North America’s largest beverage manufacturers. Summer is peak time, and they cannot get workers to operate their lines, so they’re shutting down lines, which costs them hundreds of thousands of dollars a day. They can’t get their products out to the consumers.

Integrated platforms are necessary to streamline processes and make it seamless for the candidates and hiring organizations. Our platform is a really good solution because it is able to find and connect talent online, and because our workers are vetted beforehand, they are ready to go to work immediately. So if you need somebody within the hour, you can get them, which is amazing because what we hear from our customers, there’s a 30% no-show rate for these types of shifts; 90% of them go under-filled. So we’re helping solve that problem by tapping into this talent pool with pre-background checked workers who are ready to go.

Johnson: It comes back to the point that quick access to contingent labor is critical to businesses’ success, because you often only have a few moments to capture a candidate’s attention. With all the options on the table for candidates, especially in light industrial, speed is everything. Even in in white-collar, executives are now building resilient agile workforces and consuming contingent labor at a much higher rate. Our partnership can deliver that. Just as Amazon’s warehouse delivery system enables it to promise two-day delivery on Prime-eligible products, our technology and pre- and continually vetting process enables us to deliver talent timely. Being able to quickly fill an order almost 100% of the time is game-changing.

What are the savings associated with keeping a vetted talent pool?

Poll: Typically, when companies look at direct sourcing, they look at three elements: speed, quality and cost. How much does it cost an organization when the production line is missing workers? The advantage of pre-background checking talent is reducing that time to find those workers. That’s really the savings that the companies are looking for — avoiding that cost of a missing worker over a longer period of time.

Johnson: There’s some downstream savings that you don’t actually see. Keeping orders filled has a direct effect on top-line growth, but if your production line is not working at capacity, you’re losing money. And losing workers due to a slow process costs you money also. While you’re spending money before you’re making money on the talent by conducting background checks before-hand, when you look at the softer benefits, the savings is in the fact that we can put the people out there faster, and those people can deliver value faster.

How does the model impact the process of engaging contingent workers?

Johnson: The model shows you’re investing in the talent, because you’re saying, “Hey, if you come off assignment, I can get you back on another assignment straight away.” And that creates loyalty. Alternatively, when you say, “I have something coming up in two weeks, so I’ll call you then,” well, you just lost them to another organization. But continuous checks enable us to consistently put workers coming off assignment back on assignment right away; ensuring they don’t lose a day’s work — and therefore a day’s pay. With the technology’s intelligent redeployment ability ensuring daily pay, workers’ loyalty builds.

Poll: Building loyalty with the contingent workforce is something companies shouldn’t overlook. When the workers are pre-checked and are notified via text when they match an open job, they feel confident that they will get shifts from this company and can start work immediately. Any irregularities in a check result would be ironed out before they are matched to a job, so they are confident there will be no delay in their engagement.

What are the challenges for organizations around implementing this tech? Are there other similar solutions out there?

Poll: For direct-sourcing and talent-pool platforms, there are certainly providers out there. It’s gaining in popularity in the industry, so we definitely see a lot of competition up front. However, what we’ve done is take direct sourcing and evolve it into the next generation: direct sourcing 2.0, where we’re focused not only on professional roles, but light industrial and shift work as well. Traditionally, direct sourcing has not been focused on those areas, and we recognize that it’s a challenge for our customer base. That’s why we developed this platform for light industrial. And I don’t know of anybody else front-loading background checks for contingent workers today.

Johnson: I don’t know of anybody else doing it either. As an idea, it’s come up many, many times but it boils down to not being able to justify spending the money when you don’t know that you’re going to put them on assignment.

Poll: One challenge customers usually have is they have to do a lot of work to implement something new. But that’s not the case with WillHire — we integrate with the VMS seamlessly. We flip the switches, turn on the site and activate the automated recruitment engine. We make it very simple. There’s no heavy lifting by the customer and their program leadership. We work in tandem with them, collaborate on their goals and strategies, and we take it from there.

Johnson: And Checkr supports WillHire from a technology standpoint. As they’re going out and winning customers, they know what success means from a trust and safety program — and that means very quickly and rapidly, we’re able to adjust the platform to meet what they need, whether that’s specific packages or different ways of screening.

To learn more about how your contingent workforce program can benefit from a pre-vetted and curated talent pool, contact Kevin Poll at