Pre-Employment Checks Made Easy

Many organisations in the UK carry out pre-employment checks on prospective employees.  Most recruiting managers ask for references from previous employers and may ask to see a passport or some other form of identity.

But there are a whole range of checks you could carry out – and some are a legal requirement.  This article will help to explain what you should be checking (as a UK employer).  It also looks at what you should avoid!

Why do you need to carry out pre-employment checks?

You have found your ideal candidate and made a conditional offer of employment.  But you need to check out a couple of things before you can confirm the offer.  Employing someone is a big investment and you will want to safeguard your business.  Otherwise,  recruiting that individual could have a negative impact.  It could even prove to be a costly mistake.

But background screening can be complex.  It is easy to cross the boundary and breach data protection laws. This article will give you a brief overview of what you should and should not be checking.

As with any contractual negotiation, you need to carry out due diligence.  You want to ensure the candidate is not likely to bring the company into disrepute.  You want to avoid them having a negative impact on colleagues or customers.

Additionally, employers need to comply with  some legal requirements.  This iwll  depend on the type of business and work the individual will be doing.  For instance, you may need to check whether an individual has a criminal record or a poor credit reference.

Legal checks you must do

If you are in the UK, you have the legal obligation as an employer to carry out checks to ensure that a potential employee has a right to work in the UK.

You must apply this to every potential employees, regardless of their race, nationality or ethnic origin.  It is important that you don’t assume someone has the right to work.  If you neglect to do this, you could face a discrimination claim.

It is also important to keep records of these checks, with copies of the documents provided by individuals (such as passports).  If asked, you must be able to prove you did the check.  The fine for non-compliance is up to £20,000.

Pre-Employment Checks which depend on the specific job or industry

There are a number of other checks which you may need to do for the specific type of work or industry. This includes things such as criminal record checks, health checks, credit checks.

For example, the job might involve working with vulnerable adults, or children.  Or it might be in security or policing.  In those cases, specific checks may include criminal record checks.   Or if the job is in finance,  then  you may need to do a credit check.  You need to ensure that the type of checks you require are in line with the responsibilities of the job or industry in which the person will be employed. You should not be doing checks unless there is a specific need for them.  Otherwise you may break data protection laws.

If the role involves driving, then you may want to check their driving licence and whether they have any driving restrictions.  You might also do a health check.

Health checks should only be carried out if there is a legal requirement for them (for example doing eye tests for commercial vehicle drivers).  There may be a job related requirement for a health check (for example, if there is an insurance requirement for some aspect of the role).

Pre-Employment Checks for any employer

There are some checks which you may want to carry out to ensure you are hiring the best person for the role.   Things such as reference checks come under this heading.  But remember there are still pitfalls you need to avoid when carrying out these checks.   You may need to withdraw an offer based on the outcome of pre-employment checks.  If so, you want to be able to avoid potential liability for things such as loss of earnings, or injury to feelings.

As an example, most employers carry out reference checks as an effective way of checking the suitability of a candidate, but you must avoid asking discriminatory questions.

Likewise, you might carry out social media screening and decide not to employ based on something in their social media history.  But you must beware of any kind of bias based on such things as religion or sexual orientation evidenced through their social media.  If an applicant can successfully argue that your decision not to employ them was based on some discrimination, then compensation (potentially unlimited) may be payable.   This is the case even if the individual has never been employed by you.

Educational Qualifications

It is sensible to check up on the educational and other qualifications which an applicant says they have.  If your vacancy requires someone to have a specific qualification to be able to do the job, then you would be wise to check that the preferred candidate does actually have that qualification.  You need to beware of a check on the web, as there are some websites now which provide fake certification, for a fee.  There are even realistic university websites, which are fake. So don’t rely on the documentation provided by candidates, or on a website to verify the qualification. It is worth doing a check direct with the University or issuing body.

Potential pitfalls for recruiters

When you are carrying out pre-employment checks, you must be sure they are in line with data protection legislation. In general terms, this means that you must only carry out checks which are necessary.  You must carry them out fairly, lawfully and with transparency.   Any data which you record and keep on employment records must be kept up to date and must be accurate.   It must not be kept any longer than is necessary and it must be kept secure.

You must beware of discrimination in your recruitment process as a whole.  With regard to pre-employment checks, you must be sure not to only target specific people or types of people.  For example, don’t do health checks only for older people.  Don’t do right to work checks only for people you think may not have the right.  You must also be careful not to discriminate against a candidate who has a disability if that disability would not stop them from being able to do the job.

To minimise your risks, you should make sure anyone involved in the recruitment process has been properly trained.  It is also a good idea to keep records of the recruitment process and all steps taken.   There may be some cost involved in this, but it will minimise the danger of legal action and will be a saving in the long run.

In conclusion …

It is tempting for an employer to carry out a wide variety of pre-employment checks to make sure they are recruiting the right candidate for the job.  But there are pitfalls in this area and it is sensible to only carry out checks which are necessary.

This area is something to consider as part of your recruitment strategy and it is certainly worth ensuring that any staff involved in the recruitment process (including doing the checks) have been trained properly.

If you spend a little time on making sure you do the right pre-employment checks, then you will minimise the chances of legal challenge.   Additionally, you are being fair to all your employees and maximising the likelihood of taking on the right employee for the role.

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3 Secrets to Successful Recruitment Interviews

If you want to ensure successful recruitment interviews there are a few things you need to think about beforehand.  This will also help ensure that the best candidate accepts your job offer.

After many years of successful (and not always so successful!) recruiting, I can give you some tips on what works and what should be avoided. The three areas you need to focus on are your own behaviour and attitude; going the extra mile for your candidates; and remembering this is a marketing exercise as well as recruitment. 

It ain’t what you do ….

The key to successful recruitment interviews is really down to your own behaviour and attitude.  If you are bored and rushing to “get this over with”, then how can you expect the candidates to be interested in working with you?  If you are arrogant and eager to show your superiority, then that ideal person will not be keen to accept your offer.  It may sound obvious but social media is full of examples of very poor behaviour at interview.

The first thing to do is put the interviewee at their ease.  Ask them about their journey, or talk about something innocuous like the weather, just to help them settle into the conversation.  If they feel comfortable, you will get a far better picture of the real person.

… it’s the way that you do it.

Some simple tips are easy to implement and so obvious that you might assume everyone does them…. but they don’t!

  • Don’t keep candidates waiting – they have given up their time to be at the interview, so the least you can do is respect that and keep to your timescale.
  • Make sure you have read the information they have provided about themselves and you know a little about their background.  The conversation will flow more easily if they think you are really interested in them.
  • Give them time to answer your questions – don’t interrupt with your own assumptions about what they are saying.
  • If you need more explanation about something they say, then ask for it.  Don’t just write them off because they did not answer in the exact way you were expecting.
  • Explain the process, so they know what to expect.  This includes how long they will  have to wait to hear the outcome. 
  • Give them a chance to ask questions.  If they ask any you cannot answer, then get back to them after the interview with the answer.
  • Put yourself in their shoes and treat them how you would like to be treated.
  • Try to avoid making assumptions based on the way they look, their clothes, their accent, etc.  Just concentrate on their skills and experience to do your job.

Walking the extra mile

If you really want to help your candidates to shine at interview, then there are extra things you can think about which may make life easier for them.  I am sure you can also think of other things.

It is common for employers to hold all interviews for a job on one day, or at a set time of day.  I understand – it needs to fit round all the other priorities you have.  But spare some thought for your candidates.  They will probably have to make specific arrangements to get to interview at the time, date and venue set by you.  So try and be a little flexible over timing.  Don’t expect people to be there ridiculously early or late in the day (unless that suits them as well).  Don’t expect them to be there on Christmas Eve, or in the middle of another religious or cultural holiday period.

Don’t ignore the little things

You might find it pays to let people know about parking locally, whether they will have to pay for it; or about public transport options.  Firstly, they need to know for the interview itself.  Secondly, high parking charges or lack of public transport may be a reason why someone has to rule themselves out of the running for the job. 

You might want to consider video or telephone interviews, at least as a first filter of candidates.  I have recruited successfully based on nothing more than a telephone interview. 

I recently saw a social media post by a delighted candidate who had been invited to bring her children to interview if that made life easier for her.  There were facilities available for childcare on site whilst she attended the interview and it negated the need for making costly or difficult arrangements for her children for a one-off interview.   This, of course, would not be possible for every employer, but that particular employer got good free advocacy on social media.

Your employer reputation

Finally, this is your chance to market your business to your candidates.  Whether or not they are successful at interview, you can bet they will go home and talk about the interview and your organisation to friends and family.  So you need to take the opportunity to make it a glowing testimonial. 

Whilst you are interviewing people, make sure they know about all of the benefits and hidden extras that you offer as an employer. Tell them about pay and benefits, of course, but also talk about things where you might have an advantage over your competitors.  Things such as: Mental Health First Aiders; Carer Support; Child care options; Flexible Working.

Corporate Responsibility

Make sure you talk about your corporate responsibility initiatives and any charity support or local community work you do.  People like to work somewhere they feel they are making a difference – not all employers can do that by the work itself, but they can all contribute in other ways. 

If there are any negatives, then it is sensible to touch on those as well.  If the parking is non-existent and it is expensive to park, then be honest.  But if you can, then give advice on season tickets, etc. which can make it easier. 

Finally, it is always useful to give them a contact name or email address in case they have any questions or concerns after the interview.  This gives the message that it really is a two-way process and that you want them to feel they have had the chance to raise any concerns or questions.

In Conclusion ….

The key to successful recruitment interviews, as always, is good communication.   The three things you need to think about are: a) how you are coming across to the candidate; b) how you can make it easier for the candidate and c) the message the candidate takes away about your Company.

If you can get those three things right, then your interviews should have a successful outcome, both in terms of recruiting the right person and making sure everyone else has a positive experience.  Your reputation as an employer of choice will grow and blossom.

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How To Plan Recruitment To Cover Gaps In Availability

One of the questions which several different employers (particularly in hospitality or retail environments) have raised with me is around students who are only available to work at certain times of the year (summer holidays, and sometimes shorter holiday seasons such as Christmas). 

The problems raised are threefold:

  1. These students are only available at certain times;
  2. There is a gap between the end of the College or University Year and people arriving in their home town, available for work. So the people who study locally are no longer available and the people who are going home for the summer have not yet arrived.
  3. The students don’t want to stay and come back every holiday period, so there is no continuity.

I have supported businesses with their recruitment for many years and I think there are several actions which employers could take which might help solve these problems.

Set Up a Recruitment Strategy

You know you are going to have this problem every holiday period and so you need to plan a strategy for dealing with it. 

If you include Total Talent Management in your Recruitment Strategy, then part of that will be to consider other ways of getting the job done.  This might include thinking about whether some of it be automated. Or there may be another pool of available people who could cover it.

We cover some of the options you could include in your strategy below, but the key point here is to have a strategy in place.  That way you won’t need to panic each year about how you are going to fill the gaps.

What Strategies Can You Put in Place?

  • Consider different ways of doing the work.  For instance, can some of it be automated?
  • Give some thought to different groups of people who might fulfil the same tasks as your current student workforce.  Maybe you could focus on recruiting some older people (over 60s), or young Mums who don’t want to work full time?
  • If the work has to be done by younger people, then can you recruit school leavers who are not continuing in education? Or maybe you could focus on the long-term unemployed?
  • Do you just need to recruit more students so you have a larger pool available than you actually need at any one time?

How can you encourage your current workforce to return regularly (or stay longer)?

If you collaborate with your current staff and current student workers, then they might be able to come up with alternatives or suggestions about how you can retain their services.  For example, some things which you may not have thought of yourself , such as:

  • You could agree to buy their study books for them, if they commit to return and work for you for each holiday period.
  • Offer training in some transferable skills, so they get some skills they can use, either for you or elsewhere.
  • Linked to the above, think about career planning with them, to map out a permanent career path with you, rather than just a holiday job.  It won’t keep all of them, but it might keep a few.
  • Make yourself such a good local employer that they are all queuing up to work for you.
  • Appeal to the things which make them tick ( for example, show that as a business you care for environment or get involved in the local community, or support a charity, etc).
  • Don’t insist on blanket rules which don’t work for them and which you have difficulty enforcing (like no mobile phones….), instead train them in alternatives (like not using mobile phones when dealing with a customer).

I am sure that a discussion with your staff will produce a whole variety of different ideas.

What next?

So you can see there are options to try which might either retain the staff you have or replace them with different workers.

The key to it all is planning and giving some focussed thought to the problem – and collaborate with your staff.  They will have the best ideas of all.

If you take the time to plan a Recruitment Strategy, then you will have the comfort of knowing you will be able to fill your employment gaps.  Additionally, you are making a contribution to society by employing people who otherwise might find it difficult to get work. 

Additionally, a knock-on effect will be an improved reputation with both employees and clients. 

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Total Talent Management – The Ultimate Recruitment Solution

As part of my series of articles about recruitment, I want to talk to you today about Total Talent Management, what it is and why it is important to you, even if you only employ a handful of people.

I have been helping companies to successfully recruit the right people for many years now.  Recruitment, like nearly everything else in the HR industry, has changed enormously over the years and “talent management” is about the whole process from attracting and recruiting people to retaining them within the organisation.

So what is “Total Talent Management”?

This is about how you get the job done, whether it is by permanent employees – recruited through traditional methods – or whether the goal is achieved some other way.  So it covers a wide range of things –  from temporary workers or contractors, through to robots or technological solutions.

Whatever way you want to get your job done, you need to think about how to achieve that and include it in your Recruitment Strategy (sometimes renamed Total Talent Strategy).

Total Talent Management – the short explanation

A total talent solution moves away from the traditional recruitment of staff to get the job done and looks instead at the desired outcome and how this can best be achieved.  This could comprise one, some, or all, of the following list. And this is not comprehensive, other things could occur to you when you start to think about this in depth.

  • part-time workers
  • temporary agency staff
  • temporary staff on a fixed term, fixed task or even zero hours contract (contact us if you need a fuller explanation of these terms)
  • work shadowing
  • voluntary workers (where appropriate)
  • undertaking work experience, either as a student or as part of a back to work scheme for (women) returners (not just women -although they may be the majority – but this encompasses anybody who has been out of the workplace for a while)
  • seasonal workers
  • students on a gap year
  • internships
  • apprentices
  • self-employed contractors
  • internal deployments or promotions;
  • job sharing
  • remote workers
  • virtual workers
  • robots
  • drones
  • some other technological solution
  • outsourcing the work
  • a joint venture collaboration with a competitor

This means that when you are thinking about “recruitment” you no longer need to think only about traditional permanent workers who work a standard 9 – 5 day.  If your particular business is very traditional and only supports the standard recruitment model, then you may find that it becomes ever more difficult to recruit enough people to get the job done.

As with everything in the world of work, this requires adaptability and flexibility by you as the manager and by your staff.

What are the barriers to implementing Total Talent Management?

There may be a resistance from some managers to moving away from the more traditional ways of recruiting permanent staff and buying in temporary help.

Another issue is that you need to understand who you already have working for you and how the job is done.  This may sound simple (and it probably is for a smaller organisation), but many organisations keep separate records of who they employ on a full time basis and those for whom they have a temporary arrangement. It is also important to understand the skills you need to get a specific piece of work done and how that skill is best achieved.   Your Total Management Strategy and strategic decisions can only be completed when you think about the whole picture.

Other things to think about

You may need to look at producing a business case for all stakeholders so they can clearly see – and embrace – the benefits of implementing this kind of strategy.

If you have more than a few employees and you are considering more than one or two of the solutions outlined in the list above, then you may need to consider your record keeping and look at a technological solution to data recording.

If this seems complex and you feel you have more pressing business priorities, then the danger is that you will put off doing anything about this.  Recruitment is often only done as a reaction to a specific problem and is not always top of your agenda. The danger of that is that you will find it ever more difficult and expensive to recruit the right people at the right time to get the work done.  Some time spent up front on producing a Recruitment Strategy would be time very well spent and will be a saving in the longer term.

What are the benefits of a Total Talent Management Strategy?

In this time of increasing difficulty in recruiting people, clearly the biggest benefit of this new way of looking at the whole talent package is that you will find it easier to find the right solution to getting your job done.

You will find there is a cost benefit as well.  You will get the best solution for the particular work problem you have and you will find your skills gap disappears and you will not have a surplus of unwanted skills.  If you only have an occasional need for a niche skill, then you only need to procure it on occasion, rather than “hanging on” to that permanent employee who has one specific skill but is difficult to employ purposefully for the rest of the time.

Enhance your reputation

Your reputation with your clients will improve as they find you are able to produce what they need when they need it.  And not just your clients – your reputation as a good employer will also be enhanced as people understand that you only employ the people you need when you need them.

As your organisation grows and you find there is a change in the type of skills you need, then you can spot those gaps and fill them, either through traditional recruitment or temporary talent.  Alternatively you might reskill or upskill your existing employees, or even explore any tasks which might become automated. Likewise, if you find you have an excess of a particular skill, you will be better placed to re-arrange your talent so that productivity is not flattened by surplus skills.

You will find greater productivity in your workforce as the permanent employees are used properly to complete jobs they are skilled, competent and willing to do. Additionally,  those “one-off” or occasional jobs will also get done at the right time and cost.

And finally…

If you have read this far, I hope that you will already be thinking of the advantages of a Total Talent Management Strategy for your business. If you embrace Total Talent Management, you will find you become more competitive and find it easier to solve your recruitment dilemmas.

If you think this article is useful and you would like to know more,  please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.