A Guide to Effective Pre-Employment Screening

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Pre employment checks are an essential - and sometimes, legal - part of the hiring process. When done correctly and effectively, they not only help you have a safe and dependable workforce, but also reduce the risk of running into problems that may lead to huge financial losses and even jail time.  Here’s a comprehensive guide to conducting pre-employment screening.

Understanding Pre-Employment Screening

Pre-employment screening is the process of gathering and verifying information about a potential hire. Generally, it helps companies determine whether or not a candidate meets the predetermined qualifications for the role. However, some checks are required by law, and not doing them properly can have legal consequences.

The correct and effective execution of pre employment checks has numerous benefits for both  employers and candidates. After all, when you hire people best-suited for the role, your workforce becomes more reliable and productive. This, in turn, boosts your company’s reputation and promotes a positive corporate climate. Pre-employment screening likewise protects employees as it can identify prospective hires that have relevant criminal records or a history of violence. Finally, good hires can help you avoid high turnover costs.

There are various checks you can carry out in your hiring process. Examples include criminal record check, academic qualification screening, employment history verification, medical checks, and even social media checks. But here, we will focus on the most common and relevant to legal requirements.

Types of Pre-Employment Checks

1. Right to work checks

Companies are required by law to conduct right to work checks on all prospective employees to ensure that they can legally work in the UK. Not checking a candidate’s right to work properly can have legal consequences. 

In many cases, you can conduct a manual check or an online check. Nowadays, many companies also outsource right to work checks to service providers . This can ease HR load and ensure that they are being done correctly. 

2. Background checks

While a prospective hire’s CV can give you an overview of their education, employment history, and skill set, you may still want to verify the details and learn more about their personal and professional background. This is where background checks become valuable.

Companies can do background checks by calling the candidate’s previous university or employers, but that can be an onerous task. Fortunately, you can now take advantage of automated background screening services that have professional networks and utilize online databases to verify information. 

Some of the background checks employers conduct are education and employment verifications.  Below are additional pre employment background checks that may be relevant to your company. 

Criminal record checks

Whatever role you’re hiring for, you may want to conduct a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check or criminal record check. DBS helps determine if a candidate has a history of violence or criminal activity that may put your company, clients, and employees at risk. 

However, while you may conduct a criminal record check for any open position, the level of enquiry usually depends on the role. For instance, candidates who need to work with children or in the healthcare sector need more detailed screening. 

There are four levels of DBS checks, namely:

  • A basic check, which looks into an individual’s unspent convictions and conditional cautions
  • A standard check, which looks into a prospective hire’s spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands, and final warnings 
  • An enhanced check, which covers a standard check plus police-held information that is  relevant to the role 
  • An enhanced check with a barred list, which is the same as an enhanced check but must also show if the candidate is in the list of people barred from assuming the role. 

Keep in mind that unless you have the right to check a candidate’s spent criminal record, it is illegal to refuse them employment because of spent convictions. 

3. Reference checks

A reference check is one of the most important types of pre employment checks since it gives you insight into the candidate’s skills, performance, and conduct towards work. Doing it thoroughly can strongly influence your hiring decision as the referees can give their opinion on the person’s strengths and weaknesses as well as their personality. 

Considering how helpful this pre-employment screening is, it’s advisable to request for at least one reference. When contacting the referee(s), at the very least, verify details, such as:

  • Information about the candidate
  • Dates of employment
  • The candidate’s position, roles and responsibilities
  • Their attendance record 
  • Disciplinary actions against the candidate
  • Reasons why the candidate should not be considered for the position

In most cases, companies are not legally required to conduct reference checks. But, there are exceptions. For example, reference checks are obligatory for some organizations in the financial service sector and candidates applying for roles in academic institutions and maintained schools in England. 

4. Credit checks (if applicable)

Usually, only some types of financial companies are required to conduct credit checks. However, this type of pre employment screening is now becoming increasingly common among businesses in other industries. 

Credit checks verify the candidate’s identity and history of poor financial management, thereby minimizing the risk of fraud. It can be a valuable tool particularly for positions that have access to company and client finances or roles that can authorize payments. 

Credit checks look into public and private databases for the candidate’s bankruptcies, County Court Judgements, insolvencies, voluntary arrangements, administration orders, money laundering activities, and Notices of Correction. 

5. Medical Screening & Drug and alcohol testing (if applicable)

You may want to include medical screening and drug and alcohol testing as part of your recruitment process to ensure the safety and health of your employees and clients. Health screenings, after all, help ensure that the candidate is medically fit to undertake the role being offered to them. 

However, if performed incorrectly, pre employment checks can lead to discrimination. Hence, you should always adhere to legal considerations and best practices.  

When required, pre employment checks on health must be carried out on all candidates regardless of protected characteristics, such as religion, gender, and race. Also, you must only complete pre-employment health checks:

  • after you have offered the job to the candidate
  • where the candidate is required to undergo screening to decide if they can carry out the role being offered 
  • when the health check is necessary to meet legal requirements. For instance, a candidate needs to pass an eye test if he or she is applying as a commercial vehicle driver. 
  • When you are sure the health check is required and you have policies in place to secure the information in accordance with the Data Protection Act

Generally, the level of health assessment depends on the nature of the work. Checking the candidate’s physical fitness, for example, will only be appropriate if the role calls for certain physical abilities, like climbing or lifting. Drug and alcohol testing may be uncommon, but if being under the influence of any substance poses risk to the employee and the people around them, then it can be performed. 

If you find results that seem concerning, you must obtain the candidate’s written consent to seek further information from their doctor or an occupational health provider.

Legal and Compliance Considerations

As employers, please remember that the manner in which you conduct pre employment checks is crucial. Simply completing pre employment screening is not enough -  you must do it correctly, otherwise you will be held responsible for any discrepancies.

Never proceed with pre-employment checks unless the candidate has given their consent and always handle their information in accordance with data privacy laws. 

Did you hire an agency to check their credit history? Make sure that they comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). This ensures that the credit information gathered and distributed is fair and accurate. If a candidate is denied employment because of inaccurate or incomplete information, then you might face litigation. 

Your screening process should be consistent with the Equal Employment Opportunity laws. Conducting a check on one candidate and skipping it on another despite them applying for the same position may be discriminatory.

Overall, to avoid legal consequences, it’s important that you understand and comply with the laws and regulations related to pre-employment screening.  

What are the penalties for failing to carry out pre employment screening checks?

Needless to say, failing to conduct pre employment checks increases the risk of hiring a candidate who is not suitable for the role. This can already negatively affect your business, but more importantly, it may have legal consequences. Some checks, after all, are legally required. 

Included in those checks required by law is the right to work check. Conducting it properly gives your company a statutory excuse against civil liability in the event you are found to have employed someone who’s not legally allowed to carry out the work in the UK.

In contrast, where you are found to be employing someone illegally and have not carried out the right to work check, or not done so properly, then you do not have a statutory excuse. This means you may incur a civil penalty of up to £20,000 per illegal worker. You may even face imprisonment and be subjected to an unlimited fine. 

Designing an Effective Screening Policy

You may want to conduct as many pre employment checks as possible, but before doing so, you must first ascertain whether they apply to your business. For this reason, creating a screening policy tailored to your company’s needs should be a priority. What checks are absolutely necessary? For health checks or DBS, what level of assessment are you legally allowed to conduct? 

To help you craft an effective screening policy, involve key stakeholders in the process. While HR usually champions the bulk of the process, the success of it shouldn’t rely solely on them. Ask your legal team to collaborate so that you can ensure compliance with the law and regulations concerning pre employment screening. Invite the management team for their insights, too, since they will be the ones overseeing employees. 

At the end of the day, your screening policy should be consistent and fair to everyone involved. This gives you an airtight protection against accusations of discrimination. 

Choosing a Screening Partner or Service

Partnering with a reliable screening service provider helps you streamline the process of conducting pre employment checks. Because they are experts in the field, working with them improves not just efficiency but also compliance with the law and regulations. 

Some of the criteria for selecting a reliable and reputable screening provider include fast turnaround time, flexibility in costs and services, commitment to confidentiality, and legality. Review available screening services with your team to decide on the offerings that best suit your needs. 

Veremark’s Solutions

Veremark ticks all the boxes when it comes to being a reputable and reliable background screening partner as evidenced by its successful collaborations with the world’s best workplaces. At Veremark, we present the information you require in a clear and concise manner eliminating the need to go through numerous detailed reports. Moreover, our process can be easily integrated into your current workflow, along with direct api integrations to most ATS and HRIS systems.

Our comprehensive screening is compliant with the laws and regulations related to pre employment checks, like the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It is our utmost priority to collect and verify information, present the data, and treat them with confidentiality in accordance with the law. This greatly improves compliance and reduces the risk of legal problems. 

Our services and pay-as-you-check pricingmodel offer flexibility, so businesses in any industry can partner with us easily. We also provide a fast turnaround time and 24/7 global customer support. 

With Veremark, you can effectively streamline your pre employment screening process to make the best hiring decisions. 

Analyzing Pre-employment Screening Results

Once you have completed your pre employment checks, the next step is to catch red flags and potential concerns, such as criminal records relevant to the role they will be undertaking, false information in their CV, or a negative reference from their previous employer. 

Afterward, you need to balance the risk and benefits of hiring the candidate based on the results of the screening. Sometimes, even if you find some potential concerns, that doesn’t mean the prospective employee cannot undertake the position effectively.  You risk losing a good candidate if you don’t hire them based on concerns that don’t relate to their role. 

Of course, some red flags are out of the question. If a candidate doesn’t have the necessary permit to work in the UK, you cannot hire them regardless of how attractive their skill set is. 

Communicating with Candidates

Throughout the pre employment screening process, it’s essential to maintain open communication with candidates. Before conducting checks, you must obtain their consent and explain why the checks are necessary. If there are adverse findings, you must discuss it with them professionally and give them the opportunity to explain or correct any misunderstandings. Finally, you have the legal obligation to respect their rights and privacy. Treat their information with utmost care and confidentiality, and give them the right to access and correct any information should they request it. 

Continued Compliance and Ongoing Screening

Your pre-employment screening policy must reflect any change in relevant laws and regulations to guarantee compliance. Furthermore, you must also update it based on the direction your company is going. 

At times, you may need to extend screening to post-employment checks. This is often applicable when there’s a need to check changes in employee background, particularly to reduce the risk of fraud, theft, or violence. Of course, this too must be in compliance with the rules and regulations. 

Best Practices and Tips

Streamlining your company’s pre employment checks increases efficiency and avoids common pitfalls and mistakes. You can streamline the process by having an effective screening policy in place and ensuring that you’re following it precisely. Here are some best practices and tips when conducting pre-employment screening:

  • Automate your process to reduce the risk of cutting corners and to make it easier for you to review documents. 
  • Be clear with the information you need to check for each role to avoid collecting unnecessary information. 
  • Keep in touch with the candidate before, during, and after the screening process. Always get their consent and give them an opportunity to access and correct any information. 
  • Collect, keep, and discard records in accordance with the law. 
  • Be consistent with how you conduct the pre employment checks. 
  • Where needed, conduct post-employment screening. 

You can also streamline your pre employment screening process by partnering with a reliable and reputable third-party service provider. As experts in the field, they conduct automated background checks with speed and accuracy to help you make well-informed hiring decisions. 


When effectively conducted, pre employment checks pave the way for a safe and capable workforce. They also protect your company from potential pitfalls that may lead to civil penalties and criminal convictions. Hence, while it may be an onerous task to complete pre-employment screening on each candidate, remember that it is a valuable tool and sometimes a legal requirement, so it pays to approach them correctly and effectively.

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What background check do I need?

This depends on the industry and type of role you are recruiting for. To determine whether you need reference checks, identity checks, bankruptcy checks, civil background checks, credit checks for employment or any of the other background checks we offer, chat to our team of dedicated account managers.

Why should employers check the background of potential employees?

Many industries have compliance-related employment check requirements. And even if your industry doesn’t, remember that your staff have access to assets and data that must be protected. When you employ a new staff member you need to be certain that they have the best interests of your business at heart. Carrying out comprehensive background checking helps mitigate risk and ensures a safer hiring decision.

How long do background checks take?

Again, this depends on the type of checks you need. Simple identity checks can be carried out in as little as a few hours but a worldwide criminal background check for instance might take several weeks. A simple pre-employment check package takes around a week. Our account managers are specialists and can provide detailed information into which checks you need and how long they will take.

Can you do a background check online?

All Veremark checks are carried out online and digitally. This eliminates the need to collect, store and manage paper documents and information making the process faster, more efficient and ensures complete safety of candidate data and documents.

What are the benefits of a background check?

In a competitive marketplace, making the right hiring decisions is key to the success of your company. Employment background checks enables you to understand more about your candidates before making crucial decisions which can have either beneficial or catastrophic effects on your business.

What does a background check show?

Background checks not only provide useful insights into a candidate’s work history, skills and education, but they can also offer richer detail into someone’s personality and character traits. This gives you a huge advantage when considering who to hire. Background checking also ensures that candidates are legally allowed to carry out certain roles, failed criminal and credit checks could prevent them from working with vulnerable people or in a financial function.

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