Pre-employment screening checks proliferate

Recruiters typically conduct three or more different pre-employment checks on applicants, and may go as high as seven, according to research by Personnel Today’s sister publication IRS Employment Review.


The research shows the extent to which employers take seriously the threat of identity theft, and the steps they are taking to ensure candidates do not slip through the legal net intended to safeguard children and vulnerable adults from dangerous carers.

The findings are based on a survey of 100 employers, of which 30 had under 250 staff, 43 had between 250 and 999, and 27 had 1,000 or more.

The study found that all employers conducting pre-employment checks took up references from the candidate’s current employer and asked for documentary proof of their identity. In addition, most (85%) sought references from at least one previous employer.

Substantial numbers also obtained Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) disclosures (67%), and checked out professional qualifications (66%), gaps in employment (66%) and academic qualifications (56%).

Although not all jobs require CRB disclosures, 33% of employers said this was the most useful checking process available to them. Next most popular was a reference from a current employer (27%). None identified specialist agencies as the most useful tool.

…as HR focuses on warning signs


Recruiters are more likely to dig deeper into a job applicant’s background if a reference throws up potential discrepancies or omissions in their CV than if the candidate discloses the problem, the IRS study reveals.

Asked what would prompt a more detailed background check, most employers said they would look for warning signs in references from a previous (89%) or current (85%) employer. Just six out of 10 (60%) would seek more information if the candidate disclosed problems themselves.

As self-disclosure is an expected part of Criminal Records Bureau process, this is more likely to trigger further checks when applicants go for public sector jobs, where HR processes are typically more formal.

Many employers also regard gaps in an employee’s CV (58%) or discrepancies between their written application and what emerges at interview (55%) as a good trigger for more detailed background checks.

…and e-mail for references grows


While all employers are prepared to accept references sent in the post, many are still content to accept telephone references (39%), while e-mails (30%) have emerged as a viable third way.

The research shows that manufacturers are more likely to rely on a telephone call and less willing to use e-mail than employers in the public or private sector services.

Both telephone and e-mail references are more commonly used by smaller employers.

But the study also reveals that many employers are more wary about giving a verbal reference than about taking one up – citing fears that they may “say the wrong thing” or go too far.

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