follow us here and on twitter @ukhrhub to get all the latest HR hints, tips, advice and news

For many businesses, particular those in the finance sector, employee’s pasts have always come under some scrutiny in an effort to limit the risk for those employing them. However these days it’s recognised that risks aren’t limited in this area to just one sector, as more and more businesses understand that their employees are their number one data risk. But if the standard reference checks when recruiting just aren’t enough. How far should you go? Here we delve into the world of pre employment screening, what it means and if it’s relevant to your business:

Pre Employment Screening is an umbrella term for a series of checks which include the following:

  • Credit history
  • Criminal record.
  • Personal information (DVLA, FCA, social media, etc)
  • Identify fraud
  • General reference checking

Credit History? That’s A Bit Much….

Whilst you may think it seems fair that a potential employer can find out if you are who you say you are and if you’ve murky criminal past you’d like to hide, you’d not be alone in thinking that assessing a candidate’s financial position is a step too far. But checking to see if an employee is under financial strain (and thus perhaps more likely to be urged into fraudulent or criminal activity) is relatively commonplace in industries where money or data are the key commodities. 

What Can Employers Really Find Out About A Candidate’s Credit History?

A little – but not nearly as much as a lender might when assessing viability for credit applications. Access to data stored on an individual’s credit file is tightly controlled. Typically, when a pre employment credit check is run, numerous public and private databases are searched for any adverse financial warning signs such as County Court Judgements (CCJs), bankruptcies, voluntary arrangements, decrees and administration orders. Oh, and if you were wondering, don’t worry a check like this won’t affect their credit score.

I’m Not In Finance Or Data – Is This Relevant To My Business?

Whilst money and data might not be your business area – there will be functions within your business who deal with one or both of these. So do consider a little extra digging when recruiting for roles in these areas – particularly in your finance/accounts department.

Sounds A Bit Tricky – Can I Get Someone To Do It For Me?

There are a plethora of specialist staff vetting providers out there. If you are just dipping your toe in the water you might prefer to use a credit referencing agency such as Experian who offer up to 10 online pre (or existing) employee checks for £54.99 a year, which includes a basic criminal record check, identity check and adverse financial check.

Employment references are a dying breed

For compliance purposes, employment references are useful as they confirm whether an employee was where they said they were employed. However that is where their use pretty much stops. If you think that an employment reference is going to tell you all you need to know about how your soon-to-be employee performed and behaved whilst in their previous employment, then think again. Not only is relying on them one of the weakest ways you can predict performance (think about it – most only provide names of people that they know will provide a positive reference) but many companies are fearful of the comeback from any litigious employee and these days shy away from providing anything more than a perfunctory ‘Jane Smith was employed between the period of x and y’. 

Final Thoughts

Ultimately pre-employment vetting can’t tell you if a candidate is trustworthy or not. Indeed, someone’s personal financial situation may have little impact on their professionalism and ability to do a good job. All these checks can do is highlight any anomalies that might put someone’s character into question – the interpretation is down to you.

And of course, for some offenders there will always be a first time. And no amount vetting is going to help there. So regularly review your working practices with fresh eyes – focussing on any possible loop holes that could allow fraud or other criminal activity to occur.

For help with recruitment, or any other HR issue, contact thehrhub today. Call us on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at

Image: Canva