How to decide which background checks to carry out on a candidate

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There are many differing pre-employment checks available and it can be problematic to decide which ones to prioritise.

Ensure you stay up to date with the latest legislation surrounding screening in your industry and be thorough in screening new candidates to avoid making bad hiring decisions or prompting costly fines.

1. Identity checks

Important for: EVERYONE

It is crucial to ensure that candidates are who they say they are. Subsequent checks can be time consuming, so before undertaking additional investigation it is essential to make sure that it will be worth investing in the candidate. Further searches are often reliant on accurate identity checks, and a mistaken candidate identity can invalidate the results of all further screening. Additionally, showing candidates that you are meticulous in your pre-employment checks might put off applicants who are relying on false documentation from the outset.

2. Right to work check

Important for: EVERYONE

Employers have a legal responsibility to ensure that all employees have a right to work in the UK. Failing to adequately check workers right to work status could result in a fine of up to £20,000, and knowingly employing an illegal worker carries an unlimited fine and a prison sentence of up to five years.

3. Employment reference checks

Important for: EVERYONE

Fake references are one of the most common CV deceptions, therefore it is imperative to ensure that all references are accurate and honest. The fallout from a bad hire can reach far beyond having to go through a costly hiring process again, with potentially adverse consequences to team morale, brand reputation and productivity as well as financial ramifications. Fully validating references is not only prudent but essential.

4. Educational History, Professional Qualifications and Memberships

Important for: roles which require minimum qualifications

It is estimated that between 20-50% of candidates embellish their educational status, and with many roles requiring minimum qualifications it is essential to ensure that candidates have the required skills and knowledge to be successful in their role. By checking directly with the university or awarding body, you can be certain that your candidate holds the qualifications that they claim on their application.

5. Criminal records check


To comply with legislation, candidates for certain roles must undertake criminal records screening through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). There are three levels of checking: Standard, which shows spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings. The Enhanced check covers the same details as Standard but also includes any information held by local police which is considered relevant to the role. And Enhanced with Barred includes everything from the Standard and Enhanced checks but also whether someone is on the list of people barred from doing certain roles. DBS criminal records checking only covers UK criminal records, when employing candidates from outside the UK is it essential to carry out criminal records checks in any countries where an applicant has spent a considerable amount of time.

6. Credit checks


One of the most controversial checks on the list, pre-employment credit checks are a crucial tool in assessing candidate suitability, particularly in the finance sector. For some roles credit checking is a legal requirement - failure to carry out adequate pre-employment checks could be seen as a compliance failing. But fraud is not exclusive to the financial sector. Employees may have access to valuable information, consumer personal records or expensive stock and equipment, and carrying out credit checks can help you make a more comprehensive assessment of a candidate’s suitability for a role.