The need to check the background of job applicants couldn't be more evident, yet it is often neglected. It may be seen as extra paperwork, considered an unnecessary cost or even, to the manners-obsessed British, it may simply represent a question too far. But it is vital.
According to George Elkington, business development director at HR, payroll, pensions and reward specialist NorthgateArinso: "Unless you conduct thorough background checks, there could be public embarrassment, legal repercussions and, ultimately, financial loss". And Elkington adds: "It is vital to protect yourself, your company and the future employee by making sure candidates are who they say they are."
However well planned or thorough your background checking system is, it will be rendered useless if you implement it too late in the application process. You will need a comprehensive system in place and ready to kick-in as soon as you shortlist an applicant.
Checking someone's background should be an automatic part of the recruitment process, rather than something you do if you think a CV looks a bit dubious. And you should subject all applicants to the same checks. Take nothing at face value, and check even those people who have been recommended to you by friends or existing colleagues. Rather than extra paperwork, consider this groundwork for someone's time with your organisation.
When putting together a background checking system, decide what factors you intend to check – calling up someone's last employer just doesn't cut it these days. And bear in mind that you will have to check different factors depending on where the applicant is from and whether or not they have been working in the UK. Visas will have to be checked, to determine whether or not they have the right to work in the UK. Depending on the nature of the post being filled, you may want to run a criminal check, too.
Read between the lines
Take care when checking references, too. Make sure you and your organisation's line managers are very clear about what constitutes a good or a bad reference. Become adept at reading between the lines.
For instance, ask yourself why som