Written by Guest Author | February 4, 2016
It may be more of an American than a British thing to approach a dedicated online background check agency before deciding whether to employ a given candidate.
However, much as is the case Stateside, such checks can also get your firm into difficulty – whether due to conducting checks that you shouldn’t have done and coming to the wrong conclusions, or a failure to carry out ones that you actually should have done.
It is all too tempting to have a quick glance at a candidate’s Twitter or Facebook account for information to back up that your talent management software has already unearthed, but what are the ‘ground rules’ of good background checks?
What should you be checking?
There is a huge legal dimension to pre-employment background checks that you will need to carefully consider before conducting them.
One thing that you will certainly need to do as a UK employer is ensure your prospective hire actually has the right to work in this country – employers that are unable to show evidence of having done this are vulnerable to a fine of up to £20,000.
Criminal record checks are a rather different matter. These are carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), formerly the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), and only need to be conducted for certain jobs, such as those in healthcare or that involve children. Unless a DBS check is specifically needed for a given job, it is unlawful to refuse to employ someone due to spent convictions.
Similarly, a health check can only be carried out prior to hiring if they are actually required – legally or otherwise – for the job, such as eye tests for drivers of commercial vehicles.
Where can background checks go wrong?
As well as the aforementioned potential legal issues, the wrong background checks can simply leave you poorly placed to make the most informed and effective hiring decision.
There may be information online about the candidate – whether published by themselves or others – that is out-of-date, inaccurate or plain old wrong. Information requested from a background check agency may be incomplete, and it is easy to make a hasty hiring decision on the basis of especially positive or negative results.
What, then, is the best approach to take to pre-employment background checks? In short: being extremely careful.
Not all background checks or decisions made on the back of them are problematic. However, there remains a great need as a UK employer to keep yourself on the right side of the law when conducting such checks, while also factoring in the potential unreliability of what you do find.