Lisa Lee, General Manager, Background Checks at Zellis discusses why taking a thorough approach to background checks can add value to the hiring process

Candidate background checking is often viewed as the stage in the recruitment process employers just want to get ‘done’.  Compared to other stages in the process, such as interviewing and onboarding, background checks are executed more like a tick-box exercise – a task that must be completed before a vacancy can be filled, using a single list of checks that may not actually be relevant to every role.

However, the world of recruitment is changing and, in light of today’s tight labour market, every aspect of the process must be harnessed to attract and retain the best talent possible.  In this highly regulated and candidate-driven environment, the attitude towards candidate background checking should be shifted – from completing the checks to ‘get the job done’, to completing the checks to gain the most out of the process and subsequently, add value to the business.

Improved quality of hires

It goes without saying that the data gathered from candidate checks is used to verify information supplied through applications and CVs. Thorough education, credential and employment reference checks are crucial to determine the amount of truth in the detail.  The number of candidates that aren’t completely honest on their applications may surprise you – we found that over a third (37%) of candidates admitted to exaggerating information on their CVs.

What’s more, CV fraud is on the rise, with individuals being able to fabricate extremely convincing qualification documents and certificates that can leave employers struggling to determine the real from the fake.

Employment reference checks are now equally as important as education checks, with a rise in businesses preferring first-hand work experience over grades and test results.  Talking to a candidate’s previous employers can also help you understand the type of person they are and their attitude towards work – discovering the details beyond the credentials.

When it comes to further, more specific checks, it’s important to only undertake those relevant to the role in question, otherwise money is just thrown away with no value-add from the results.  For example, DBS checks should only be conducted for someone working with vulnerable groups, such as teachers, social workers, or medical professionals.

Employers shouldn’t fall into the trap of hiring someone who isn’t qualified for, or suited to a role, as training or re-hiring can be unnecessarily costly.  In fact, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has estimated that the cost of replacing an employee at mid-manager level is, on average, upwards of three times the employee’s annual salary.

Rooting out instances of fraud and confirming someone’s experience, traits and soft skills using a tailored and expert-led approach to background or CRB check will help you make the best and most cost-effective hiring decisions.

Better candidate experience

Background checking can be the most complex step of the recruitment process, taking the longest time to complete.  It can also be an off-putting experience for the candidate if the communications aren’t personalised or executed professionally.

However, with many job vacancies currently going unfilled, the candidate experience throughout the whole recruitment process must be improved to attract much-needed talent.

An increasing number of people are trying to juggle multiple applications and interviews at once.  In fact, our research showed that almost a quarter (24%) have between six and ten applications at telephone interview stage or further at the same time.  This indicates that an applicant is more likely to accept an offer from the company that can demonstrate the best employee experience, and can work through the recruitment process the quickest.

Speeding up time-to-hire is a big game changer within recruitment – with streamlined and improved background checks being an important way to accomplish this successfully.  Almost half of candidates (48%) expect a job offer “within a week” of finishing the application process, and a similar number (45%) state that it should be even sooner.

If applicants go through a painless, simple and quick background checking process, they will feel confident in the fact that your business cares about the experience of its people and the quality of its internal processes – something that candidates often look for when finding their next employer.

Stronger regulatory compliance

A poorly-executed background checking process can create serious compliance risks – caused not only by failing to conduct the right checks, but also by conducting additional, unnecessary checks.

A question that can arise from the latter is, “But how can conducting additional checks be damaging?  Surely the more checks, the better?”  Employers must be careful to consider the legal implications following the completion of checks that have no relevance to a role.  For example, if a candidate’s application is unsuccessful after sensitive personal data (such as race, religion and sexual orientation) had been revealed following an unnecessary social media check, they could claim discrimination has taken place.

On the other hand, many organisations don’t have the in-house legal expertise needed to keep up-to-date with the ever-changing rules and regulations that impact background checks.  We know that certain roles require certain checks, but they may also be affected by specific regulations.

An example of non-compliance caused by a lack of regulation knowledge is the common confusion and misunderstanding around right to work checks.  Many people think that right to work checks only need to be conducted on candidates from outside of the UK.  In fact, it’s the law to undertake right to work checks on every single candidate and employee, no matter their ethnicity or nationality.

To summarise, in today’s labour market – full of skills shortages and economic uncertainty, along with candidates requiring fast and digital recruitment processes – an effective background checking process is an absolute necessity.  If your organisation lacks the in-house skills or capacity to successfully implement this, it may be worth finding a knowledgeable partner who will work with you to improve the quality of your recruitment process.


By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.