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How do I check a candidates references?

How do I check a candidates references?

Our company recently hired someone who, it turned out, had lied on their CV about their qualifications. Legally, what measures can I take in hiring this person’s replacement to make certain this does not happen again?

You are not alone in having been taken in by an inaccurate or dishonest CV. This is what Wikipedia has to say on the subject:

“A number of annual reports…have showed a rising level of major discrepancies and embellishments on CVs over previous years.

Almost half (48%) of organisations with fewer than 100 staff experienced problems with vetted employees. 39% of UK organisations have experienced a situation where their vetting procedures have allowed an employee to be hired who was later found to have lied or misrepresented themselves in their application.”

Take these simple steps to check each hire and your company should avoid any such problems again.

Be upfront about your procedures
Don’t be ashamed or secretive about your thoroughness. State on the initial application form exactly what form your background checks will take e.g. that all references will be sought and criminal background and other checks will be carried out as necessary according the position being sought. By being forthright, this may discourage dishonest candidates from even applying in the first place.

Thoroughly check with former employers
When asking for references, be specific about what you want to know. Include the job description with your request, and ask relevant questions to enable you to deepen your knowledge about the candidate's abilities e.g. to confirm start and end dates, position title, salary, performance, ability, attendance, time-keeping and responsibilities. Do not ask former employers for personal information or speculation about the applicant. It is also worth checking out the relationship between the candidate and referee — whether theirs is a more professional or friend-based relationship. If a referee is avoiding speaking to you, this could tell you something important about your candidate. But don’t forget too , many companies do not give references or only give factual information such as start and end dates, position and salary.

Do check criminal records
After all, it is your company’s reputation that can be put at risk if an employee turns out to have a record that could have been picked up by background screening. You may not wish to seem to doubt the word of the candidate but ensuring their integrity is vital. For some financial services roles, credit history should also be checked. In all cases, candidates applying for a job:

  • as an accountant or barrister
  • in the police
  • working with children or vulnerable adults
  • relating to the administration of justice or financial regulation

MUST disclose any convictions and you must check the veracity of this information.

Other hiring considerations:

  • Eligibility to work in UK. If this is in doubt, always ask the candidate to produce relevant documents e.g. a passport, a visa or a work permit
  • Health tests. You may ask a health check if it's a legal requirement of the job (e.g. an eye test for drivers). You must state any health checks to be carried out in your offer letter.
  • Particular qualifications. For skilled jobs requiring specific qualifications or licences such as surgeons or pilots, these should always be rigorously verified with the qualifying body concerned.

If your company has not the time or resources to carry out these checks, rather than simply not doing them, consider hiring a reputable vetting agency. Applicants should be shown the final report, giving them a chance to refute or explain and to see the depth and range of checks are in keeping with the nature of the job.

For instance, it may be essential to carry out credit checks for a candidate for a role handling cash or dealing with accounts. But, the same check could be viewed as excessive for the person applying to be his or her PA.

Happy hiring!