Pre-Employment Background Checks in Singapore

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As an employer in one of the most dynamic employment markets in the world, you’re in a great position. The selection of local Singaporean as well as international talent looking to work in the lion city is only growing as pre-pandemic economic conditions return to Asia and throughout the world. 

This is where pre-employment background checks come in. Whether you are a small to medium enterprise, or a multinational with a footprint in Singapore, the competition for slots in your company is fierce. How will you know you are getting the best hires? Integrating standard background checks into your hiring process is a pivotal step towards greater security in hiring, and success in business.  

Why run background checks?

To get to know your potential hires better

Background checks paint a larger and clearer picture of who your applicants really are. You will of course read their resume and conduct preliminary interviews. But there may be details that they, whether intentionally or unintentionally, might leave out during these initial steps of the hiring process. Such details may be critical for the role you are filling. Background checks will reveal whether there is more information regarding candidate strengths, weaknesses, and other areas that you need to know about to make a sound hiring decision. 

For legal compliance

Hiring and employing workers goes hand-in-hand with complying with the business and labor laws in the country you are operating in. It is your responsibility as an employer to know whether certain background checks are mandatory in your industry, as well as whether your potential hires are legally able to work for you. Not doing so can result in fines, damage to your reputation as an employer, or even criminal charges.

It is not beyond some people to lie or embellish their credentials and professional history to get a job. More than staying legally compliant with the local government, background checks help you identify and act on, or avoid, potential criminal issues that may be linked to fraudulent individuals who try to get hired in your company.

For company security

Furthermore, it is your organisation’s responsibility to keep your workforce safe and free from negative and harmful influences. Employment background checks will help you weed out candidates who might be unable to work honestly, fairly, or peacefully with the rest of your team. You want to stop bullying, discrimination, or even acts of violence from ever occurring. By protecting your employees’ well-being,  you will build a workforce that trusts you and will be more likely to stay with you longer.

What are some of the most common background checks in Singapore?

Different markets may emphasize different types of background checks for employment. What types of checks are usually given weight by the Singaporean government as well as SG-based companies?

Education Background Checks and Verification

Academic history checks, and subsequently, educational records verification, are among the most commonly requested checks in Singapore. One reason for this is that the Singapore Ministry of Manpower (MOM) reports high levels of diploma fraud caught among both local and foreign work applicants to Singapore. 

Another reason for this is that the SG government has specific educational requirements imposed on certain manager or director-level roles in companies, especially if the roles are being filled by foreign applicants. Work visas or passes, particularly the Employment Pass,  will only be issued to foreigners who meet strict higher education requirements that must be verified as authentic by MOM-accredited verification companies, such as Veremark.   

Employment History Checks

Of course, most organizations value knowing their potential hires’ employment background and history to assess if they have the experience necessary to take on open positions. This includes standard information such as:

  • Previous position or title
  • Daily responsibilities and scope of work
  • Salary
  • Promotions received
  • Period of tenure/employment

 It is also advisable to secure more detailed information beyond the usual employment facts. Knowing the following will give employers greater insight about their candidates: 

  • Goals or objectives they achieved in their role
  • Feedback from both their superiors and team members they manage
  • Any disciplinary actions they received
  • Why they decided to leave their previous position  

Employment checks therefore can include reference checks from previous superiors.

Criminal Record Checks

Criminal record checks can be fairly easy to carry out in Singapore, and are therefore a good standard check to include in your background screening process. This is not in order to discriminate against and eliminate from your hiring pool any individual who may have committed criminal offences. Rather, this allows you to take additional precautionary steps and checks if needed, prior to hiring or dismissing such individuals without undue prejudice.

In Singapore, criminal background checks are secured through a Certificate of Clearance, which is requested from the Singapore Police Force. This agency provides nationwide criminal history information about any job candidate. Keep in mind that if you are hiring a foreign worker, you will have to conduct criminal background checks in their place of origin or previous employment as well.

These checks typically include information including: 

  • Any current or past criminal charges
  • Any convictions, acquittals, or dismissed charges
  • Other relevant details about the applicant's criminal history.

Other background checks to consider, depending on the role you are hiring for, are:


What should you know about running background checks in Singapore?

Data Protection Laws

Background checks cannot simply be carried out anytime and any way you want. Singapore, as well as other markets, have data privacy laws in place. These must be complied with at all times, especially when collecting and using information for processes like background checks. 

When it comes to data security, Singapore workers are covered by the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC). This organization provides requirements governing the collection, use, disclosure and care of personal data in Singapore, including data that employers collect from their employees. 

In compliance with the Personal Data Protection Act 2012 (PDPA) of the PDPC, employers who wish to conduct background checks must comply with the following principles:

  1. Consent: You may only collect, use, or disclose personal data with the applicant's informed consent.
  2. Purpose limitation: You may only collect, use, or disclose personal data for reasonably appropriate uses or circumstances.
  3. Notification: You must inform the applicant why and how you collect, use, or disclose their personal data.
  4. Access and correction: The applicant has the right to access and correct the personal data that you have on record.
  5. Accuracy: You must make a reasonable effort to ensure that the applicant's personal data is accurate and complete, if using it as the basis for a decision.
  6. Protection: You must prevent unauthorized access, collection, use, disclosure, etc., of the applicant's personal data.
  7. Retention limitation: You must only retain the applicant's personal data as long as necessary for legal or business purposes.
  8. Transfer limitation: You must not transfer the applicant's personal data outside of Singapore unless certain conditions are met.
  9. Openness: You must develop and implement policies and practices in your organisation that meet PDPA requirements, and make the details of such policies available for others to know.

How long background checks take

Conducting background checks in Singapore can take anywhere from a few minutes (some checks can be requested online and received immediately), to a few weeks (some checks involve lots of data gathering and contacting multiple government agencies or other 3rd parties). 

These timings usually depend on:

  • How many types of background checks you include in your process
  • How complex each check is - Different types of checks involve various factors that can affect timing
  • The agencies you are contacting and their internal processes

Here is a basic overview of timings for some of the most common checks:

  • Employment history: This typically takes the form of a manual outreach. Organizations must contact an individual’s former employer/s and reference/s to verify if they have submitted accurate claims about their employment history. As expected, this may take varying amounts of time depending on whether references and previous employers are easily contactable, and readily willing to share information. 
  • Education history: Similar to employment history, this check can be manual in nature - contacting schools and academic references to confirm if an individual indeed has a history of education in their institution, and the nature of their stay in the educational institution. This can also take varying amounts of time depending on each school’s own process for providing such information.
  • Criminal record checks / securing a COC: This can take between 5 to 30 working days from the time of application to receiving the results. Note that the process may take longer in particular if the request is made by non-Singapore residents.

How Veremark Can Help

Whether you are a small organisation that is just starting to explore hiring and background screening practices, or a large, global team seeking to increase hiring efficiency, let Veremark help. 

When it comes to background checks for employment in Singapore, partnering with reliable 3rd party institutions like Veremark, with specialized experience in conducting checks in this market, will help save much of your team’s time and effort, so you can focus more on your employee and business growth.

Consider Veremark’s suite of background check services. These cover the range of both common and more targeted types of pre-employment checks for your industry which can be integrated seamlessly into your organisation’s current background screening process.

Veremark is also one of a select few Ministry of Manpower-accredited partners for Education Verification checks for your foreign hires’ work pass applications. 

Partnering with Veremark, which has the local experience and a comprehensive range of products and  services, will empower your company to make smart, swift hiring decisions. It will allow your company, regardless of size, to build a trustworthy and reliable team that is better geared for success. 

Contact us to learn more. 


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How long does a background check take?

While “background screening” refers generally to the process of vetting a potential hire, the process itself is actually composed of many different types of “background checks”. Each background check looks into a unique aspect of the potential employee’s personal or professional history. The process can take anywhere from a few minutes (some checks can be requested online and received immediately), to a few weeks (some checks involve lots of data gathering and contacting 3rd parties) depending on types of checks, complexity of each, and the country you are checking in.

Are there laws surrounding background screening specifically?

Most countries do not have a single law governing background checks. However, they may have rules and regulations that may affect certain aspects of the screening process. 

How can Veremark help with an Employment Pass application?

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has a strict system in place to ensure the authenticity of the applicant’s qualifications. Veremark is a MOM-accredited background screening agency that can provide the verification proofs - such as education verification and institution accreditation checks, needed to apply for Employment Pass.


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.

Transform your hiring process

Request a discovery session with one of our background screening experts today.

Background checks and the future of hiring

How is background screening transforming the future of hiring?

It's a priority of HR's to anticipate the changes and trends that will take place over the next few years: how they’ll shape how we work, the type of jobs required, and the working environment we expect to evolve.

But what underpins all these changes is how we prepare to handle the operational and personnel challenges that arise from this workplace evolution.

This guide will discuss, as workers become more dispersed, and technology supports them, how background screening will be fundamental to maintaining safe, happy, and productive work environments in whatever form they take.

Download this guide and discover:

- Tips for managing a globalized workforce

- How to remain regulatory and legally compliant hiring overseas

- The role background screening plays in the Future of Work

- How tech is transforming background screening

Get your own copy!