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Using Blockchain to Transform Reference Checks for Good

Helen Gilroy-Powell

Helen Gilroy-Powell

13th November 2019

Zinc is harnessing the power of blockchain for social good. Today there are multiple projects utilising blockchain, going beyond cryptocurrencies to take advantage of the verifiable and permanent nature of the technology. 

Blockchain brings transparency and trust

At the core of all blockchain technology is the way that data is recorded and stored. As the name implies, blockchain is a chain of digital blocks that contain data such as records of transactions. Each block is linked to the block before it and after it in the chain. 

Initially blockchain was created as the technology underpinning cryptocurrency. The blockchain that Zinc uses, Ethereum, goes beyond financial applications. It was built to be the first ‘world computer’, meaning that we can use it to build tamper-proof apps bringing a new wave of transparency and trust to applications like ours. 

In traditional models, data is stored on one centralised server meaning that there is one copy of the information and one person or company controls it. This can lead to security issues if the database is compromised.

Traditional model of data storage

In a blockchain, data is recorded and stored in multiple nodes at once meaning that it is decentralised as no single server or entity stores or controls the data. Because of this, blockchain can create a power shift in terms of who controls and verifies the data. 

Model of blockchain data storage

Blockchain technology is also built to detect and correct corrupted data. As each block contains a trace of the previous records, if one copy is changed or corrupted, the network can detect it and it can be weeded out of the chain. This means that the data recorded on a blockchain is highly trustworthy as the technology is designed to provide a verified, permanent record of how and when the data was collected.

Levelling the playing field

Zinc is on a mission to make reference checks fairer and more effective. We believe workers should be considered based on their skills, qualifications and values, irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, sexuality or any other aspect of their background. Our reference checks have been designed to remove unconscious bias. As diversity is an ongoing issue, particularly in tech recruitment, we believe that the widespread adoption of Zinc’s decentralised career data platform can help combat this social issue.

By decentralising reference check data, Zinc’s automated referencing platform levels the playing field for workers and empowers them to view, own and reuse their references. The more workers build their Zinc profile with references, the more employers will be encouraged to judge them on past performance rather than where they went to university or where they were born. 

Eradicating data misuse

Traditionally, reference data has been misused. The employee background checking industry is worth $2 billion p.a. alone and it’s expected to be worth $4 billion p.a. by 2023. This industry is built on the premise that checks need to be repeated over and over for each job employees get. In some lines of work, checks need to be completed in regular intervals for legitimate reasons such as drivers or jobs with vulnerable people. 

In the majority of cases, however, role checks (tests, criminal record checks and references) do not need to be repeated. Yet it’s not in the interest of organisations to allow individuals to own their work assessment data since it would dramatically reduce the number of checks that needed to be completed and therefore their revenue. 

Putting the data and control back in the hands of workers—as we do here at Zinc—is good for the worker and hiring manager as it means shorter interview processes and a huge saving for all hiring organisations. We believe the ethical approach is creating sustainable work data from assessments and checks. Data that can be reused and controlled by the worker can encourage a fairer and more transparent hiring process overall.

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