How to Run Pre-Employment Background Checks

By Roselyn Onalaja | 3 min read
28th August 2017
How to Run Pre-Employment Background Checks

Pre-employment background checks also described as "Application Verification" allows an employer verify information provided by an applicant on a resume or job application. These pre-employment background checks vary and may include Academic, Residential, Past Employer, Medical Check, Guarantor Check, Personal Reference Check, Criminal Record Check etc. The essence of this check is to confirm/verify a potential employee’s details given in the resume and investigate his or her history and reputation.

Highlighted below are the types of verification checks an organization can carry out in determining the suitability of an employee.

Certificate/Credentials Verification

The certificates presented by the candidate are verified to confirm its authenticity. The areas for verification include: class/grade of degree, date of issue, year of graduation etc. The procedure often involves direct contact/confirmation from the universities/professional bodies on the authenticity of certificates presented by the applicants.  This is could be executed directly by the hiring company or outsourced to an independent professional organisation that specializes in background checks in order to save time; whilst guaranteeing the receipt of accurate information on the applicants without bias.

Residence /Address Verification

Every employer is expected to maintain records of its employees, which includes but not limited to the following: names and residential addresses of each employee, next of kin, date of birth, date of employment etc. Employer can verify the residential address provided by an employee by conducting physical visit to confirm the accuracy of the information provided or requesting for utility bills such as electricity or water bills etc.  Is is expected that such documents reflect the actual address of the resident or occupier.

Criminal Record Check

This is arguably the most important aspect of pre-employment screening and background checks. Criminal records verification ensures a safe workplace, helps in reducing workplace violence and significantly reduces pilferage and theft in the company. In Nigeria, the criminal record check is done by the Nigerian Police at the Central Criminal Registry. The finger prints of the prospective hire will be collected and scanned through the criminal record database to ascertain if the employee has ever been convicted or had any police case/record. The nature of the position to be filled may be a determining factor for a criminal record check e.g. for businesses in industries such as childcare (nanny), or a trading company (sales/accountant/driver). Knowing the criminal background (if any) of an applicant is a vital part of making an informed hiring decision. Like other forms of verification, this can also be to outsourced to an independent body, while the hiring company focuses on core business.

Personal Reference/ Guarantor Verification

An applicant’s resume or an employee’s bio-data usually contains information on referees and guarantors. The references are verified to elicit important details about the prospective hire. The referees are given a questionnaire/form to provide relevant information on an applicant. The information got should be treated as confidential for official purposes only. Some organizations may decide on the category of people acceptable for this purpose e.g. a past line manager, past colleague etc.  A copy of the referee’s passport photograph and valid means of identification are collected for record purposes.

Some likely questions included in reference forms include:

  • What is your relationship to the referenced?
  • Could you say something about his/her interpersonal skills?
  • What do you know about his/her strengths and weaknesses?
  • Should our company hire this person? Give reasons why Yes or No.

Guarantor verification checks are also carried out on the guarantor(s) provided by the prospective employee. The guarantors unlike the referees take up responsibility for any liability created by the employee in the course of his employment with the organization. A guarantor form is issued to the prospective employee with direction on the cadre/status of qualified persons to be presented as guarantors. The details provided on the forms are thereafter verified. A copy of the guarantors’ passport pictures and valid means of identification are also collected for record purposes.

Past Employer/Employment History Verification

The employment history verification entails making a direct contact with the applicant’s previous employer to confirm details such as the job position/title, employee’s performance, pay scale, attitude towards fellow employees, attitude towards resumption time at work, general attitude to work, integrity and the duration of employment etc. More often than not, this verification exercise is carried out within the probation period of the new hire.  If done during the interview/hiring process, it is capable of jeopardizing the chances of the applicant if still in employment during the hiring process.  This information is usually got through a form designed by the HR unit of the hiring company.

Pre-Employment Medical Check

It is essential to obtain the applicant’s medical certificate/fitness before employment. The prospective employee undergoes a medical test at a designated hospital provided by the hiring company primarily to protect the integrity of the results. The outcome will determine if a prospective employee is medically fit for the task ahead or otherwise.

Advantages of Conducting Background Checks

To the Employer:

  • Increase applicant and new hire quality
  • Reduce workplace violence
  • Protect against negligent hiring liability
  • Reduce employee turnover: hire the right people
  • Avoid negative publicity
  • Meet regulatory, insurance, and customer requirements (as applicable)
  • The bottom line: Success

To the Employee:

An applicant applying to an employer who conducts thorough background checks will not be competing against applicants who lied about their experience or falsified their credentials. Employers who conduct careful background checks are usually better organizations to work for. They:

  • Are better managed
  • Place greater value on employees
  • Provide a safe workplace
  • Are willing to invest in quality employees

While internal HR departments can carry out some of these verification activities, it is always advisable to engage the services of Professional Verification Agencies/Companies.

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