Coaches Corner: Why it's important to screen candidates fairly and sensitively

Vetting employees is a crucial part of the hiring process, especially with the rise in fraud and illegal immigration, which are putting employers are under increasing pressure to screen employees thoroughly.

In a report by BBC News, Simon Bichara, Founder of HiredByMe, told the publication: "It can take two or three weeks for a recruiter to find a suitable candidate then perhaps the same time again to go through all the background checks - it's the grit in the machine.”

With the increased importance in going through criminal and credit records, bankruptcies, and any career gaps we spoke to Melanie Pearl, Employment Advisor at Work Avenue and Career Coach, about how to eliminate any issues with screening.

She tells us: “Employers check passports and other identification documents but are not trained to spot a fake identity. References have decreased in value since they give very little information with employers fearing legal comeback.   

“In terms of medical background, employers are often keen to get their own independent opinion but this can be expensive.  The DBS provides the recognised method for checking an applicant's criminal record but must be considered with caution, reviewing the disclosure in light of the job in question rather than automatically banning the recruitment of anyone with a criminal record.  This requires training so as not to unfairly discriminate.”

She adds that candidates may have concerns about the screening process. “There is concern about medical history screening, particularly with regard to mental health if people are not treated as individuals,” she explains.

“Other issues also arise with applicants with a career gap who may have difficulty finding helpful referees and settle for character references from a relative or friend with limited value.

“Providing DBS checks can be expensive for applicants who often are asked to fund the cost of the check themselves. However with each one only being valid at that time they may need repeated checks.”

Pearl also gave us tips for employers involved in vetting: “Transparency and consistency are key.  Employers should request references and identity checks once an appointment has been made, a health questionnaire, relevant certificates and a criminal record check where applicable. In order to put candidates' minds at rest they should explain the full process at the outset.  Policies and procedures should be followed and critically employers also need to be trained to handle any information received and take advice in considering the significance and relevance to the role. In accordance with the Equality Act candidates must no longer be screened for mental health issues or any other disability related matters prior to appointment unless there are specific exempted reasons.”

We also asked her if technology can facilitate screening candidates. She says: “There is specialist software that can highlight psychological issues at the point of recruitment.  However employers and candidates alike would need to be convinced both of their accuracy and confidentiality, as well as being able to afford to use them. The key question is what you do with that information and how it is interpreted.”

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