Pre Employment Checks

Failing To Carry Out Pre Employment Checks Is The Number One Recruitment Mistake

I receive many phone calls each month from business owners who have a problem with a relatively new employee and when I dig down it ultimately turns out the pre employment checks were never carried out.

The reason pre-employment checks are so important is they enable you to double check that your squeaky clean new recruit is WHO THEY SAY THEY ARE!!!

One Of My Experiences

Some time ago I was working with a business supporting them to recruitment a Marketing professional. We interviewed a small selection of candidates and two stood out from the others. We brought them back for a second interview where we asked them to bring some examples of their work and asked them to complete a short exercise for us. The business owner then made his choice and we offered the job.

Everything seemed fine. The new recruit accepted the role and returned all the new starter documents except the information about previous employers that we could contact for references. I chased this up a few times and became a little suspicious.

Ultimately, I phoned the existing employer and asked to speak to the Marketing Coordinator, the role title our candidate had given us. Surprisingly our candidate didn’t answer the phone so I asked the person who did a few simple questions.

It turned out our ideal candidate was in fact the Personal Assistant to the Head of the Department and the work they’d shown us at the second interview was not their own.

The sad thing is that the business owner was quite happy to recruit someone who could grow in to the role. So had the candidate been honest with us from the beginning they would probably have still been offered the job, although at a lower salary. As it was the business owner no longer felt he could trust the candidate and therefore decided to withdraw the offer.

Verify Qualifications

If you advertise a qualification as essential during the recruitment process then you must verify that the successful candidate does indeed hold that qualification.

Imagine if you recruited someone into a driving role. You wouldn’t let them out in your company vehicle without checking their driving licence first! Other qualifications are equally important.

Talk to Previous Employers

Checking a potential employee’s references is tremendously important. I don’t mean contact every employer for the last 15 years but I always like to follow up with at least the most recent employer and one previous to that. Whe I ask clients why they don’t check references they generally say ‘they are a waste of time’, but they are an important way of confirming that your candidate has told you the truth about where, when and in what position they were employed. They can also provide useful information about the persons character, reliability and punctuality.

A Bank of Scotland survey of 1000 SME’s across the UK, found that 36% of companies with less than 35 staff fail to check the employment history of potential employees.

That is despite 66% of respondents claiming to have had problems with employees whose history was not investigated.

So, what information can you hope to receive from the previous employer?

  • Confirmation of Details: it is useful to verify the basic details of the potential employee’s employment history, such as: the period of employment, their position within the company, their salary on leaving etc.
  • Reliability and Punctuality: it is important to determine whether the potential employee is hard working, reliable and timely.
  • Reason for Leaving: did the employee leave of their own accord? Does their version of the reason for leaving correspond with that given by the potential employee?
  • Relations with Clients, Customers and Colleagues: you will need to find out whether the applicant works well with their associates, this is especially important if they will be working within a team.

Data Protection

Before verifying a candidate’s details, you should explain the process to the candidate and obtain their consent.

Before sending out a request for a reference you should think carefully about whether the information that you are providing is sufficient for the employer to identify the individual. You don’t want to receive details about the Alison Smith who was dismissed for Gross Misconduct when the Alison Smith that you have made an offer of employment to demonstrated excellent qualities and the company were sorry to lose her!

I received a reference for a prospective employee and the content did not correspond to the details the employee had provided on their CV and during the interview process. I contacted the previous employer to check the reference and it turned out the reference they had sent was for a different employee!!!

Top Tips For Requesting References

  • After spending so much time and money in attracting candidates don’t neglect to carry out the final checks
  • Only make further enquiries about a potential employee when it is absolutely necessary, i.e. once they have been offered and have accepted your job. This will involve less administration and will also help to prevent breaches of the Data Protection Act and Human Rights Act.
  • Your enquiries should also seek to obtain information that is absolutely necessary. The level of responsibility associated with the position will determine what information is important to you: for example, if the job involves extensive interaction with customers and client’s you would probably want to ensure that the individual has good communication skills and a pleasant personality.
  • The failure of an employer to provide a reference covering anything other than very basic information should not be seen as an indication of a problem with the prospective employee.
  • Any reluctance regarding the provision of a reference or any aspect of one should be followed up by telephone and treated with caution.
  • Any relevant information regarding the post should be sent with the reference request to ensure that comments are as relevant to the new role as possible.
  • The reference should ask for specific information, focusing on key areas necessary for the satisfactory performance of the role rather than the content being left to the discretion of the referees. It’s focus should be fact rather than opinion.
  • Given the difference between individual’s expectations and standards the validity and reliability of anything other than objective information should be carefully considered.
  • If any discrepancies in information arise during the reference checking process the applicant must be given the opportunity to explain.

Verify The Right To Work In The UK

Under the Immigration and Asylum Act it is a criminal offence to employ someone who is 16 or over and not entitled to work in the UK. It is therefore vitally important to check that every employee has the Right To Work In The UK.

Illegal Working Civil Penalty Fines

If you recruit an overseas worker who does not have the Right To Work In The UK you could face a fine of up to £20,000 per illegal worker. The fines are increasing in early 2024 to up to £60,000 per employee.

Read more about the: Right To Work In The UK

Contracting Out

At Kea HR we can carry out pre-employment checks on your behalf, thus saving you valuable time. The service will be tailored to meet your needs and could include checks on employment history, academic qualifications, membership of professional bodies and verification of work permits. Although this will add to the cost of the recruitment process it will ensure that the applicant is suitable for the position.

Fixed Fee Fully Managed Recruitment Service

Recruitment is a crucial process, so let me help you get it right

I understand how important it is to recruit the right people each and every time you recruit and how much time that process takes. With that in mind I designed my Fixed Fee Recruitment Service to take away all those time-consuming parts of the process and make sure that you only have to deal with the serious candidates.

Whether you are looking to recruit your first employee, need to quickly ramp up your headcount or are looking to recruit a HR Administrator or HR Manager for your business, I am here to help you.

  • Advertising – I will review your advert or write it for you
  • Filtering Candidates – I will review all the applications and filter them so you will only see the candidates with the closest match to your requirements
  • Arranging Interviews – I will contact all the candidates on your behalf, gaining answers to any preliminary questions you have and make sure they have all the details they need prior to meeting you
  • Providing Feedback – I will contact every applicant to inform them they have been unsuccessful
  • Pre-employment Checks – I will carrying out comprehensive pre-employment checks for the successful candidate, including references from previous employers and checking the right to work in the UK

I charge a fixed fee for my service regardless of the role you are recruiting for; that can save you thousands of pounds when compared to extensive percentages of salary fees that a recruitment agency will charge.

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If you found this helpful and you would like to learn more about how I work with owners of small business who want to improve their HR management, please go here.

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The Importance of Pre Employment Checks


Kathryn is a highly experienced HR Manager with a wealth of skills and knowledge acquired across a variety of industries including manufacturing, health and social care and financial services. She has worked in small localised business and larger multi sited organisations and is comfortable liaising with senior managers and union officials as well as answering queries from team members. Connect with Kathryn on:

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