Background Checks | Digging Deeper To Foster Trust and Transparency

background checks

Hiring someone new is a bit like inviting them into your extended work family. You want to trust them, rely on them, and maybe even bond over shared office snack emergencies. But before you’re handing out matching company mugs, it’s wise to do your due diligence. That’s where background checks come in – a safety net to catch any potential red flags that might otherwise go unnoticed.

What are Background Checks?

Background checks are quite a common practice when screening candidates for employment in the UK. Employers may conduct a variety of checks to ensure that the information provided by the candidate is accurate. And, that there are no unexpected surprises when they turn up on their first day at work. They are also useful to ensure that they are a good fit for the company.

Are Background Checks Mandatory?

Not always! It depends on the role, the industry, and even your company’s own policies. For certain positions, like handling sensitive financial data or working with children, a clean background check might be a non-negotiable. But for other roles, it might not be a requirement. The key takeaway? Check with your legal team to understand the legalities specific to your situation.

Common Background Checks Misconceptions

Alright, let’s tackle some head-scratchers. Here are a few common myths surrounding background checks:

  • Myth #1: A Flawed Past is an Automatic Disqualification: False! A past mistake doesn’t automatically disqualify someone. The key is understanding the nature of the incident, how long ago it occurred, and whether it’s relevant to the job requirements. For example, a speeding ticket from college probably wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for a marketing position.
  • Myth #2: It’s an Invasion of Privacy: Not quite. Candidates are typically informed about background checks upfront, and they usually have to provide written consent before the process begins. It’s all about transparency and ensuring everyone’s on the same page.
  • Myth #3: It’s a Slow and Grueling Process: Technology has streamlined things a lot! Depending on the type of check and the legalities in your area, results can be obtained relatively quickly.

What is the Most Common Type of Background Check?

The most common type of check is called a criminal record check, also known as a “disclosure.” This involves checking the candidate’s criminal record to see if they have any convictions or cautions. 

In the UK, there are two types of criminal record checks: standard and enhanced. A standard disclosure shows only convictions that are considered “unspent” under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, i.e. ones that are still active. If you want a deeper look then an  enhanced disclosure will need to be used. It shows all convictions and cautions, including those that are considered “spent.”

Different Types of Background Checks

There are many other types of background checks that employers may conduct when screening candidates. Some of the most common types of background checks include:

Employment history check:

This involves verifying the candidate’s employment history, including the dates of employment, job titles, and responsibilities. Employers may also contact the candidate’s previous employers to get more information about their work performance.

Education check:

This involves verifying the candidate’s educational credentials, including the schools attended and degrees earned.

Credit check:

This involves checking the candidate’s credit history, including their credit score and any debts or bankruptcies. Some employers may consider an applicant’s credit history when making hiring decisions, this would be more relevant when the candidate could be handling money or sensitive financial information.

Driving record check:

This involves checking the candidate’s driving record, including any traffic violations or accidents. This would be more relevant if there was some driving as part of the job.

Drug test:

Some employers may require candidates to undergo a drug test as part of the process. This would involve a urine, blood, or saliva test to screen for the presence of drugs.

Social Media Screening

Social Media screening is also a newer type of screening that some employers are also now adopting, please visit our page for more information.

It’s important to remember that there may be legal limits on what an employer can ask for and verify during a background check. In some cases, the employer may only be able to request certain types of information with the candidate’s consent. And may be prohibited from considering certain types of information, such as credit history or drug tests when making hiring decisions.

Under the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), employers must have a legal basis for collecting and processing personal data. This includes data collected during a background check. Employers must also ensure that the data is processed fairly and transparently. And, that all the candidate’s rights are respected.

Background Checks : Safety and Fairness

Background checks are a balancing act. You want to ensure a safe and secure work environment for your team, but you also want to avoid unfairly discriminating against qualified candidates. Here’s how to strike that balance:

  • Focus on Relevance: Don’t conduct a blanket check for every position. Tailor the type of check to the specific role and its requirements. There’s no need to unearth a candidate’s high school detention record if they’re applying for a data analyst position.
  • Be Upfront and Transparent: Inform candidates about your background check policy during the application process. This allows them to make informed decisions and avoid any surprises down the line.
  • Consider Rehabilitation: Life throws curveballs, and people make mistakes. If a candidate has a past offense but has demonstrably moved forward and learned from it, consider taking that into account. Everyone deserves a second chance, right?

Background checks are an important tool for employers to use when screening candidates. They help ensure that the candidate is a good fit and also provide confidence that they are trustworthy. However, it’s important for employers not to get too carried away with the checks and to follow all relevant laws and regulations when conducting background checks, and ultimately to treat all candidates in a fair and equal manner.

background checks before hiring

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