In today’s world, it’s more important than ever to know whom you’re hiring. Do they really have a Bachelor’s Degree? What do past employers think about your prospective employee? Does the employee have any criminal record? Have they really had all of the real-world experience they claim to have on their CV? A thorough background check and verification of candidates goes a long way to ensuring that the result of a hiring process is optimised for talent level, organisational fit and hire cost.

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 background checks vary and may include Academic, Residential, Past Employer, Medical Check, Guarantor Check, Personal Reference Check, Criminal Record Check, and Credit Record Checks etc.

Some industries have more need than others for some or all of above-mentioned research done on an applicant. These types of industries include professions where employees are in a position of trust such as teachers, hospital workers, nannies, banking professionals, and those in the airline industry and law enforcement. More and more companies from various other industries are now making background verification a part of their hiring process to mitigate associated hiring risks.

Why Do Background Checks?

Employers conduct background checks to meet regulatory, insurance, and customer requirements; increase applicant and new hire quality; reduce workplace violence; avoid bad publicity; protect against negligent hiring liability; reduce employee dishonesty losses; reduce employee turnover; and hire the right person the first time. The cost of making a wrong hire cannot be overstated especially when such a choice would have been avoided by the expedience of a background check.

What to look for in a Background Check

Employers look for discrepancies between an applicant’s claims and what is reported from the search conducted e.g. from schools, prior employments etc. They also look for negative reports such as criminal history that would impact the applicant’s job qualifications.

Conducting Background Checks

A background check for candidate generally involves a check of public records to ensure candidate is free from legal encumbrances, a verification of personal information and history and in recent times a check of candidates online and social media history for anything that might potentially embarrass an employer.

Public Records: The records available at the police criminal registry;

  1. Police Records: A search is carried out at the central criminal registry to check for any criminal records of the candidate.

Personal History and References: Verification of information provided by the individual;

  1.  Employment History: Past employers of the prospective employees are contacted to obtain answers to question such as attitude towards fellow employees; attitude towards resumption time at work, general attitude to work, integrity etc. The information got from this check can go a long way in making a right hire decision. 
  2. Residence/Address Verification: The address provided by an applicant is verified by making physical visit to the location. Family and neighbours are interviewed to confirm if the prospective employee actually lives in the given address, and to ascertain his character and relationship within the neighbourhood.
  3. Academic & Professional History: Verification of academic and professional qualifications claimed by a prospective employee by contact and liaising with the respective educational and professional institution.
  4. Personal References: The references listed on the CV or given during the cause of the interview are checked for authenticity and that they match the criteria provided by the organisation.
  5. Guarantor verification Checks: Guarantor verification checks are carried out on any guarantor provided by the prospective employee. The guarantors, unlike the referees, take up responsibility for any liability created by the employee in the cause of his career in a given organization. A guarantor form is given to the prospective employee (the status of the qualified persona listed); the returned form is verified to ascertain the information provided. A copy of the guarantors’ passport pictures and ID cards are usually collected for record purposes.

Searching & Social Media Networking

Online searching and social media networking round out the list:

  1. A quick Google search can often yield interesting results about the prospective employee. Information about conferences that an employee attended or organizations in which an employee was involved sometimes pop up in a Google search.
  2. Social Media Networking sites like MySpace, Instagram and Facebook etc. allow people to post personal details; the employer can review a social media networking site to understand the social life of a potential employee.

Advantages of Conducting Background Checks

To the Employer:

  • Increase applicant and new hire quality
  • Reduce workplace violence
  • Protect against negligent hiring liability
  • Reduce employee dishonesty losses
  • Screen employees with access to living quarters
  • Reduce employee turnover: hire the right people
  • Avoid negative publicity
  • Meet regulatory, insurance and customer requirements
  • The bottom line: success

To the Employee:

An applicant applying to an employer who conducts thorough background checks will not be competing against those 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 HR departments can carry out some of these verification activities, it is always advisable to engage the services of professional verification agencies/companies.