Every company will have its own approach to how they check up on people who are applying for jobs within their organisation. There are only a few situations in which employers have a legal obligation to screen candidates before hiring, so companies are free to make their own decisions about how to approach screening. The key concept which should be guiding this decision is called Risk Tolerance.

What’s the Risk in Recruiting?

When you stop to think about it, choosing the right person to join your organisation is a risky business. If you’re lucky, you could get a competent, professional person who brings new ideas and fits in perfectly with the rest of your team. However, get it wrong, and the consequences could be serious. You might get someone who has exaggerated their qualifications or experience, and just can’t do the job. Or even worse, someone who is actively trying to get a job in order to defraud your company. Screening can’t eliminate every risk, but certainly reduces the chances of getting it drastically wrong.

Assess the Potential Damage

Although the risk of getting the wrong person is damage to your company, not all positions carry the same level of risk. A very junior member of staff, who doesn’t have access to the company’s bank accounts and doesn’t deal with customers, has limited potential to cause damage if you get the decision wrong. Junior members of staff are also easier to replace. If, however you are recruiting for a more senior member of staff, it’s definitely worth the time and effort to conduct a thorough screen of their past.

What Should We Be Looking At?

There are lots of strategies which employers can use to check up on people who are applying for jobs. It’s important though to have a written policy about employment screening and apply this fairly to avoid accusations of discrimination. Some of the “quick-wins” in pre-employment screening are basics such as checking references by calling up previous employers to verify job titles and employment dates rather than relying on an emailed reference. If having a specific qualification is important for the role, it usually just takes a call or email to an exam board or professional body to check the claims are genuine.

Other checks are not so easy to arrange and will depend on the role under consideration. It is illegal, for example, to request an enhanced disclosure check on someone whose role does not involve anything known as regulated activity. Similarly, it would be hard to justify running a credit check on a worker who has no access to accounts or cash. Many employers choose to use an external screening company to help them decide what levels of screening are required for each role, to help you keep on the right side of the law, and strike the right balance between not checking enough, and spending money on an excessive level of checking given the responsibility.