Background checks for employment – what should you be checking?

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You need to know that an applicant is using their real name and that the personal details they have provided, including their date of birth and current address, are genuine. 

You can confirm this information by requesting identification documents from the person. These need to be official and verified documents, and you need to obtain at least three so that you can cross match and check that older documents (such as perhaps a passport or driving licence) are backed up by more recent documents such as a utility bill.

The identification documents need to prove name so a passport or driving licence are ideal. However, it is still important that you look carefully at the documents to detect any potential forgery; do they look odd in any way or different from your own? Are they very worn and difficult to read? 

If the documents have been provided by a different country, look online to check that they correspond with those that are produced by that country. Also, look at issue and expiry dates; if a passport or driving licence are out of date, or if a person has had their driving licence revoked temporarily or permanently, these documents are not sufficient, and the applicant will need to request new and current versions before you can proceed.

You will also need to request address verification documents from the applicant; these again need to be official and can include council tax bills, utility bills or bank statements. 

Proof of address documents need to have been recently issued and should not be older than 3 months so you can ensure that the address identified on them is up to date. 

You need to check that these documents tally with the address on the driving licence or with another bill provided; you require at least 2 forms of proof of address in order to do this. If the addresses don’t tally or there is something concerning you, explore this with the applicant and request further documents to support identity if need be.

If a person has changed their name for any reason such as marriage, an employer will need to request proof of this and the date it occurred, such as a marriage certificate or deed poll confirmation.

Address History

An employer needs to know the address history of an applicant for the last 3 years at least, and can request this on an application form.

This can show if a person is stable in their lifestyle or if they have moved around a lot, and this could have indicators for employment in terms of how long they may stick at the job.

If a person has moved several times and not been at an address for a reasonable tenancy period, it may also be helpful to explore this with the applicant to identify if there have been any evictions which may indicate undesirable behaviours, or if there are genuine personal reasons behind the need to move so much. 

This can be helpful in getting to know the applicant better and assessing them more fully.

Employment and Education History

An essential check for any potential employer to undertake on an applicant is to obtain and verify employment and education history.

Some jobs require certain qualifications to be legally undertaken and it is important to verify an applicant’s claim that they have this qualification but viewing certificates and, if possible, obtaining a reference from the award provider.

Employment history shows an applicant’s experience and can also highlight any previous issues within employment such as tribunals, dismissals or general difficulties within the workplace.

A good means of ensuring this information is valid and comprehensive is to obtain at least 2 references from previous employers, and to double check that this company and the person providing the reference are real and who they are alleged to be.

The applicant will need to provide details of referees for you to contact. Do not accept references provided directly by the applicant; ensure that you make the request yourself to the referee so that you are able to verify the source.

Criminal History

For many job roles it is imperative that the employer knows of any criminal history or conviction for the applicant. This needs to be asked on the application form so a business can identify straight off if there is any risk or areas of concern regarding this.

However, not all applicants will be honest about any criminal past. 

Within certain industries such as those involving contact with vulnerable persons (including children, the elderly or people with a physical or learning disability) it is mandatory that checks are undertaken to ascertain any criminality in the applicant’s previous life. 

Businesses in other industries may also wish to have access to this information to ensure the safety of their other employees, assets within the business such as stock, revenue and information and their customers. All employers have a right to request this information as long as it is made clear that this will be part of the application process and the potential employee has provided their consent.

Criminal history checks can be obtained through a DBS (Disclosure Barring Service) request form and the employer would need to sign up to an agency that is authorised to provide these. There are options available online if you type in DBS check. 

There are different levels of DBS check available from the basic check that advises of any actual past or current convictions, to enhanced level disclosures that include police information about an individual, pertinent to the job role applied for. You can find out through the DBS provider website which level of disclosure is appropriate for the job role you are recruiting for.

Credit History

There are some employment roles where it is important to know that any potential recruits are financially stable and have a history of good money management, with no bankruptcy, high levels of debt or county court judgements. This can be particularly relevant to job roles where the employee is required to handle or manage large amounts of money or high value assets, or where they will be managing customer funds or providing financial advice.

Employers may want to obtain credit history details on an applicant for other reasons; a employee with a large debt may be struggling to cope or under high stress and this could impact on their performance at work; an employee who has shown a long term inability to manage their own finances may not be a person that you consider responsible enough or competent at a level that the job role requires.

Employers usually need to request the consent of an applicant to obtain a credit check and these can then be obtained through various online credit agencies such as Experian. 

A credit check will not commonly show details of current credit agreements but will report on any serious issues, bankruptcy within the last 6 years or county court judgements over the last 6 years.

A credit check can also provide further supportive evidence to confirm identification of the person and their address history.

Substance Use

In some job roles it is mandatory to undertake drug testing and, in others employers may want to conduct this due to suspicions or concerns or the nature of the employment role.

The applicant will need to give their consent and partake in this and there are laboratories online that you can contact to arrange this. If an applicant refuses to take part in drug testing, that probably tells you all you need to know.

If you need help with a background check our corporate investigator team can help.

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