How to conduct effective pre-employment checks How to conduct effective pre-employment checks

How to conduct effective pre-employment checks
30 Sep 2014

Completing a thorough pre-employment check before employing an individual is an integral part of the recruitment and selection process. Incomplete procedures or lax attitudes to vetting show a lack of due diligence on behalf of an employer and can lead to the hiring of personnel with a poor organisational fit, increased attrition, associated financial costs and penalties, decreased morale and damage to an organisation’s reputation.

While pre-employment practices will vary between sector, organisation and the position being filled, they must be legal and ethical, that is, be non-discriminatory, comply with data protection law and be founded on fact rather than hearsay. They must also be transparent, open to questioning by candidates and relevant.

A retailer or financial services organisation, for example, may complete a fraud screening to ascertain an individual is honest and trustworthy, while a construction organisation may focus on past observation of safety requirements and a healthcare organisation may include a criminal record check and certain health tests.

References

Past performance is often the best indicator of a candidate’s future performance and requesting references for a candidate as part a pre-employment check will help to determine if an applicant is suited for the position in a way that cannot be determined by tools such as interviews.

Consent to contact a candidate’s references should be obtained during the interview process, with offers of employment conditional on a satisfactory pre-employment check. References should be chosen by the recruiter rather than the candidate, and ideally allow the recruiter to speak to a candidate’s direct supervisor at their most recent two or three positions.

Completing reference checks by phone rather than in writing requires less time on behalf of the person giving the reference but more interviewing skills on behalf of the recruiter. Obtaining a reference by phone cannot also fully ensure that the relevant person is actually providing the reference.

Tips for conducting a reference check by phone

• Identify your name, job title and organisation
• Explain that you are phoning in regard to a reference check for the candidate
• Ask if it is a good time to talk or whether they would prefer to schedule a phone call for a later time
• Advise that you have the candidate’s consent and that responses are confidential
• Give a brief description of the position, so that they can answer in context
• Allow time for reflection between questions

Common questions to ask during a reference check

• In what professional capacity were you associated with the candidate?
• What were the responsibilities of the candidate while working at your organisation?
• What were the start and end dates of the candidate’s employment?
• Was the candidate successful in fulfilling his/her duties?
• How did the candidate perform with regard to (a specific responsibility or task)?
• How was your experience of supervising the candidate?
• What were the candidate’s three strongest qualities?
• What areas of development were communicated to the candidates and how did he/she respond?
• How would you describe the candidate’s attendance record? Was he/she on time and dependable?
• Did you ever find it necessary to reprimand or discipline this candidate?
• Considering the position being applied for, do you think the candidate is qualified to assume these responsibilities?
• What was the candidate’s reason for leaving this position?
• Would you rehire this candidate?
• Is there anything else you would like to add?

Recruitment agencies

While agencies can prove an effective method of attracting candidates, it is vital to have agreement between the agency and the placement organisation as to who will complete pre-employment checks and the specific nature of the checks to ensure they are necessary and appropriate. Confirmation should also be gained as to who is the ultimate employer of the candidate.

Many agencies now provide vetting as standard as part of a more complete service to clients and to protect their own reputation. It is also common policy for organisations to independently vet all candidates regardless of the source of these candidates.

While this can lead to duplication in the vetting process, this is preferable to an incomplete check and ensures all staff, regardless of their terms and conditions (temporary, permanent, full-time, part-time, fixed hours, zero hours contract), and nationality, are screened for eligibility to work in the country, past performance and organisational fit.

Social media

Finally, recruiters and employers are increasingly using social media to research candidates’ backgrounds and online presence. While this is not unlawful, it is important that only data relevant to the position is accessed and considered and that the online search is completed as late in the recruitment and selection process as possible.

Candidates should be informed at the outset if their online information will be accessed to gain a more complete picture of their suitability. Checks should also distinguish between social media used mainly for a candidate’s personal life (Facebook) and professional life (LinkedIn).

By Sinead Stack

Completing a thorough pre-employment check before employing an individual is an integral part of the recruitment and selection process. Incomplete procedures or lax attitudes to vetting show a lack of due diligence on behalf of an employer and can lead to the hiring of personnel with a poor organisational fit, increased attrition, associated financial costs and penalties, decreased morale and damage to an organisation’s reputation.

While pre-employment practices will vary between sector, organisation and the position being filled, they must be legal and ethical, that is, be non-discriminatory, comply with data protection law and be founded on fact rather than hearsay. They must also be transparent, open to questioning by candidates and relevant.

A retailer or financial services organisation, for example, may complete a fraud screening to ascertain an individual is honest and trustworthy, while a construction organisation may focus on past observation of safety requirements and a healthcare organisation may include a criminal record check and certain health tests.

References

Past performance is often the best indicator of a candidate’s future performance and requesting references for a candidate as part a pre-employment check will help to determine if an applicant is suited for the position in a way that cannot be determined by tools such as interviews.

Consent to contact a candidate’s references should be obtained during the interview process, with offers of employment conditional on a satisfactory pre-employment check. References should be chosen by the recruiter rather than the candidate, and ideally allow the recruiter to speak to a candidate’s direct supervisor at their most recent two or three positions.

Completing reference checks by phone rather than in writing requires less time on behalf of the person giving the reference but more interviewing skills on behalf of the recruiter. Obtaining a reference by phone cannot also fully ensure that the relevant person is actually providing the reference.

Tips for conducting a reference check by phone

• Identify your name, job title and organisation
• Explain that you are phoning in regard to a reference check for the candidate
• Ask if it is a good time to talk or whether they would prefer to schedule a phone call for a later time
• Advise that you have the candidate’s consent and that responses are confidential
• Give a brief description of the position, so that they can answer in context
• Allow time for reflection between questions

Common questions to ask during a reference check

• In what professional capacity were you associated with the candidate?
• What were the responsibilities of the candidate while working at your organisation?
• What were the start and end dates of the candidate’s employment?
• Was the candidate successful in fulfilling his/her duties?
• How did the candidate perform with regard to (a specific responsibility or task)?
• How was your experience of supervising the candidate?
• What were the candidate’s three strongest qualities?
• What areas of development were communicated to the candidates and how did he/she respond?
• How would you describe the candidate’s attendance record? Was he/she on time and dependable?
• Did you ever find it necessary to reprimand or discipline this candidate?
• Considering the position being applied for, do you think the candidate is qualified to assume these responsibilities?
• What was the candidate’s reason for leaving this position?
• Would you rehire this candidate?
• Is there anything else you would like to add?

Recruitment agencies

While agencies can prove an effective method of attracting candidates, it is vital to have agreement between the agency and the placement organisation as to who will complete pre-employment checks and the specific nature of the checks to ensure they are necessary and appropriate. Confirmation should also be gained as to who is the ultimate employer of the candidate.

Many agencies now provide vetting as standard as part of a more complete service to clients and to protect their own reputation. It is also common policy for organisations to independently vet all candidates regardless of the source of these candidates.

While this can lead to duplication in the vetting process, this is preferable to an incomplete check and ensures all staff, regardless of their terms and conditions (temporary, permanent, full-time, part-time, fixed hours, zero hours contract), and nationality, are screened for eligibility to work in the country, past performance and organisational fit.

Social media

Finally, recruiters and employers are increasingly using social media to research candidates’ backgrounds and online presence. While this is not unlawful, it is important that only data relevant to the position is accessed and considered and that the online search is completed as late in the recruitment and selection process as possible.

Candidates should be informed at the outset if their online information will be accessed to gain a more complete picture of their suitability. Checks should also distinguish between social media used mainly for a candidate’s personal life (Facebook) and professional life (LinkedIn).

By Sinead Stack