What is background screening for employment?

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Background screening for employment is the undertaking of various checks and tests to verify information provided by the applicant such as their identity, address, education and employment history and other areas of their life and background that may be pertinent to the specific job role and industry that they have applied to.

Companies taking on new employees have the right and a duty to protect the business, other employees, customers, associates and investors from any potential harm posed by a new staff member. Background screening enables the business to be certain of who they are recruiting, that this person has the necessary experience, qualifications and competence to undertake the job role and that they are a safe and honest person and employee.

Background screening can be used to confirm or provide information about various aspects of the applicant:


Background screening proves the stated identity of the applicant by requesting proof that they are who they say they are and that they live where they claim to live, and obtaining verification of these identification documents.

This prevents an applicant from obtaining employment through deceptive means such as false identity which may hide other concerning features within their life or history, or enable them to present as more competent or qualified than they are in reality.

This is necessary for payment purposes as a wage will most likely be paid into a person’s bank account and the company needs to be sure they are paying the right person.

It also protects the company from being unable to take action against the individual in the event of future misconduct or fraud; not having the correct address details for an employee is a huge obstacle to this. The correct personal details for the individual are also essential when undertaking further background screening checks such as requesting DB checks or credit histories.

Qualification and Experience

Background screening enables verification of qualifications claimed to have been obtained and employment history This is essential to a business to know that they are recruiting a person who has the necessary qualities to carry out the job role and to also protect themselves from future legal action or penalty if an employee commits an offence or misdemeanour and the company was found to be negligent in their recruiting process.

Some employment roles are protected and can only legally be undertaken by persons holding the correct qualification and level of training, or with membership to a specific regulatory body and a company is duty bound to ensure this is the case before employing an individual.

Other roles would not be able to be undertaken competently by someone with inadequate training or experience and again this needs to be verified to ensure that no negligent or harmful practice is allowed to occur.

It is also helpful to the company to know of any difficulties within past employment roles or work experience and any sickness records or misconduct perpetrated by the applicant in a previous job; thorough pursuit and exploration of references helps the company to be forewarned about a person’s attitude and behaviours within work and to make a fully informed decision regarding whether to hire them or not.

DBS (Disclosure Barring Service) Checks

DBS checks need to be requested via an agency that is registered and authorised to provide these.

These checks can be obtained at different levels depending on the nature and need of the specific job role; at the lowest level they provide information on any past convictions against the individual applicant and at the highest level they also provide any police information relevant to the job role and the applicant’s capacity and safety in carrying in this out. Certain jobs legally require applicants to be DBS checked including those working with vulnerable people such as children or people with learning disabilities.

In other situations companies may decide that it is pertinent to request DBS checks to ensure the safety, security and confidence of their customers such as a cleaning company where workers are entering private homes or business premises.

Credit Checks

In some industries and employment roles it is important for an employer to be aware of the applicants financial history and to ensure that they are financially stable and have no major difficulties or court judgements against them regarding money and payments.

This could be the case for example where an employee is going to undertake the provision of financial advice to customers, is going to have access to funds and financial management within the business such as an accountant or is going to be a broker or advisor in areas of the financial sector such as insurance or mortgage providers.

The company needs to know that a person poses no financial risk and can undertake credit checks to provide information about the financial history of the individual and be aware of any red flags that come up as a result.

Drug and/or alcohol testing

Some industries mandatorily require employees to be regularly tested for drug misuse and this is included within pre-employment screening for jobs such as police officers or prison officers.

Other industries choose to employ drug testing as part of pre-employment checks and this can be particularly useful in jobs that require a high level of focus and responsibility, driving or machinery roles where harm could be caused by the negligent or substance influenced operating of vehicles and equipment, and jobs that entail access to substances. It may also be that concerns have been raised around an employee’s potential substance misuse whilst they are already in employment due to behaviour changes or indicators and substance testing might be utilised to address these concerns.

Personnel records

In addition to confirming employment history and obtaining references from previous employers, background screening may entail the request to access past personnel records regarding the applicant.

This can indicate any future problems that employing the person may incur such as frequent or extended sick leave, disputes with management or other colleagues, insubordination or misconduct that may not be shared through referencing alone.

This can be helpful to the company to understand more about the applicant in practical work terms, their attitude towards work and their ability to be managed and contribute to the work place as a team player. It can also help to assess whether the person will be suited to the particular job role or team that role sits within.

Background screening is a helpful process to assure businesses that they have the full picture when it comes to the person they are considering recruiting, minimising risk of future harm, difficulties or issues with the employee. Background screening will require the consent of the applicant and they have a right to know what checks are being undertaken and why, and to refuse this if they wish to.

However, this in itself can be informative to an employer as if an applicant is refusing any background check or test from being carried out this would generally indicate they have something to hide and are not the person that the company really wants to employ. Studies have shown that background screening leads to recruiting a better quality of employee and protects the health and wellbeing of the company and the customers they serve.

If you would like to arrange a background screening check, our corporate investigation team can help. Get in touch with us today for a free quote.

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