An online resume-validating network has garnered support from than a dozen board members from companies whose ranks include Aon, Oracle, SAP, UKG, and ZipRecruiter with the aim of reducing the time and cost of vetting job candidates.
The network is part of a trend by governments, schools, and businesses to create verifiable digital IDs — self-sovereign digital identities — that can be used to verify everything from credit worthiness and college diplomas to licenses and business-to-business credentials.
The Velocity Network mainnet, now being piloted internally by corporate members, would enable employers to verify a job candidate’s diplomas, certifications, and work experience almost instantaneously. Employers using HR software can also issue verified credentials to employees, who can then access and share that information through a blockchain-based, online ledger.
A job candidate using the network would essentially be given a digital wallet secured through cryptography via the ledger. They could then choose to offer prospective employers whatever verified information they choose via a public key.
The network was created and is run by the Velocity Network Foundation, a Delaware-based nonprofit whose mission is to allow workers to store and share verifiable educational, licensing, and experience credentials online with job prospects.
“Verifying applicant career records can take days, weeks, if not months, to complete,” said Dror Gurevich, founder and CEO of the Velocity Network Foundation. “Hiring methods are severely outdated to the point that one in three Americans have admitted to lying on their resumes, which slows the hiring process immensely.
“There’s literally no easy way of verifying records today other than making phone calls and procuring information from various sources,” he said. “And that drives a $17 billion screening services market made up by professional third-party providers. Organizations spend millions of dollars on this. But it’s not the cost that’s the issue. It’s the time it takes; it’s a ball of friction that is the blocker for most of the innovation we need in the job market.”
How credentials are stored and shared
Essentially, workers approach issuers to claim their credentials, whether from a past employer, government agency, or school. The issuers take the records they have, then sign them with their private keys to create a tamper-proof record that’s issued to an individual’s digital wallet.
That digital wallet application can be installed on whatever device a user chooses to connect to their work, school, or license issuers to claim digitally-signed proofs of their employment history, educational background, skills, and qualifications. For each credential, the issuer writes a cryptographic key to Velocity Network’s blockchain, making it verifiable and trusted. The personal data is stored privately on the individual’s device, and the verification keys themselves hold no personally identifiable information.
“This allows individuals to stack proofs of their employment history, educational background, skills, and qualifications; store them privately; and share them [with employers] when needed,” Gurevich said.
Once the validated data is uploaded to the Velocity Network, workers would own it and can choose to share some or all of it by offering a public cryptographic key to prospective employers. Job seekers could control exactly which records an employer can access depending on job requirements.
“We currently support 25 different credentials, from basic identities to work permits, education credentials, courses, badges, assessment results, driver’s licenses, and professional certifications,” Gurevich said.
Via the blockchain ledger, the Velocity Network would also run a token-based, cryptocurrency payment and rewards system. Organizations that issue credentials and other career information contributors are rewarded with Velocity Credits. Conversely, companies can then buy credits on the Velocity Credit Marketplace to pay for access to the blockchain ledger to verify credentials.
Gurevich pointed to the Great Resignation as one reason a resume-vetting network is needed now more than ever as employees are quitting and changing jobs at unprecedented rates.
“We’re currently relying on self-reported, unverified resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and the like as the source for candidate and employee records,” Gurevich said. “If you want to hire a developer in Serbia, you can’t do that because you have no idea who they are and you don’t have that trust factor to comply with regulations. For most employers, that requires the vetting of the individual’s credentials or risk being responsible for negligent hiring.”
The Velocity Network’s failure or success will largely depend on how many organizations choose to jump on board and share data with it. For example, colleges and tech bootcamp services will need to connect to the network and share their verified data. And corporate HR systems will have to agree to connect to the service to share employee work experience.
That said, interest is growing in the portability of worker skills and compensation information among enterprises, according to Matthew Merker, a research manager for IDC’s Talent Acquisition & Strategy practice.
IDC, Merker said, is constantly seeing talent-acquisition vendors pop up with ways to address a job market hurting from historically low unemployment numbers, particularly for knowledge-based and technology-centric jobs.
“The trouble is convincing employers to accept these third-party companies at face value,” Merker said. “The other challenge is how effective it will be in terms of portability because it’s dependent on employer adoption. They have to say, ‘I trust Velocity,’ and for a lot of these companies they’re likely to say, ‘I’ve never heard of these companies before, so why should I buy into this?’”
SAP now testing the system internally
Alex Chudnovsky, vice president of product strategy at SAP, is a founding member of Velocity Foundation’s board of directors, which was created in 2019. He said SAP is currently testing the blockchain-based credentialling network internally and with a few partners to educate employees and HR staff on how it works.
Verifying just one of the hundreds of thousands of job applicants SAP fields in a year can take from five to 14 days and costs from $75 to $200 per candidate, Chudnovsky said.
Velocity’s network is also focused on connecting to existing HR systems through an API credentialing agent, with plans to make it a seamless part of the hiring process.
“Most HR systems today typically struggle quite a bit with interoperability with various other systems,” Chudnovsky said. “So, unlike lots of cool technologies out there, this is really designed for career credentialing of an individual through self-sovereignty. That’s very important from a data privacy standpoint — that you have their PII [personally identifiable information] property secured.”
The network is based on the concept of Web3, a new iteration of the World Wide Web that includes data decentralization, blockchain, and token-based economics.
Web3, Chudnovsky admitted, is still very much in its early days, and most systems are connecting to blockchain networks in a somewhat custom, ad hoc fashion.
“I think there are a number of reasons things will come together. First, if you look at our [board] membership, you’ve got a number of HR-focused vendors involved. We’re all agreeing on a set of rules to transfer ownership of the data to the individual,” Chudnovsky said. “If we’re all doing it in a similar format, and this can be just one of many future formats…, this will allow the issuer and inspector to connect instantaneously.”
For example, a recent graduate who applies to 10 different companies and wants to share a certified diploma with prospective employers either has to hand each one a certified copy or ask the institution for access to the electronic certificate 10 times.
Using the Velocity Network, an issuer could simply share a tamper-proof electronic diploma or other certificate as a verified credential with the student, who could then grant access to that single copy to the 10 companies.
“SAP participates in lots of different consortiums, but this was a learning and a research and contribution effort. I think one of the reasons we like Velocity is there’s an execution plan on how to get from A to B to C,” Chudnovsky said. “Knowing you’re standing up a network and people agreeing on specific rules is no small feat.”
There are three ways Velocity Network users can connect to credential issuers:
- Use their wallet to scan a QR code provided by the issuer via email or presented on their website or application.
- Click a link provided by the issuer via email, or presented on their website or application.
- Use their wallet to search the issuer’s catalog.
IDC’s Merker said the Velocity Foundation network is not a “bad idea,” and using blockchain to secure sensitive personal information is smart both from a privacy standpoint and marketing perspective.
“But it’s just a matter of understanding that when it comes to background screening, credentialing and employment verification, organizations all have their existing vendors that they use and a lot of them are very well established,” Merker said.
SAP, for example, already uses various employee verification networks. And other companies commonly use verification services from ADP, Endera, Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion when hiring employees.
“Equifax and Experian have been around a long time and have a very good reputation for the most part,” Merker said. “They’re also massive, which helps. They have the resources to back up their services.”
What makes Velocity different, Chudnovsky said, is that it will be built on a layer of trusted credentials on a decentralized network versus a single company and single point of administration. And it can offer more information — versus a simple criminal background check, credit check or employment verification — on a job candidate that can be accessed instantaneously.
The Velocity Network Foundation was established by Velocity Career Labs, a developer of blockchain technology for sharing career credentials. The Velocity Foundation exists to govern the use of the Velocity Network by all involved parties, to continuously build the rulebook (or the common framework that ensures operational consistency) and to promote adoption.
The Foundation also guides the development of the decentralized protocols and supports research and development of applications and associated services.
Past surveys of corporate executives found enterprises are on the path to deploying blockchain ledgers for business automation and transaction efficiency. So there is a level of trust for the electronic ledger to immutably secure sensitive information.
Blockchain is a decentralized public electronic ledger — similar to a relational database — that can be openly shared among disparate users to create an unchangeable record of their transactions. Each entry is time-stamped and linked to the previous one. Each digital record or transaction in the thread is called a block (hence the name); it allows either an open or controlled set of users to participate in the electronic ledger. Each block is linked to a specific participant.
The blockchain contains a true and verifiable record of each and every transaction ever made in the system. That means if a user uploads a digital representation of their university degree from an institution, it cannot be changed without leaving evidence behind. In other words, the record is tamper-proof. If a company uploads an employee’s work experience and salary, that too is only accessible if the worker offers a public key to a perspective employers.
“Any career fact that can be converted by the issuing authority can now be exchanged through this network,” Gurevich said. “This puts people back in control of their data.”
Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.