Many clients carry out a series of checks on contractors before offering them a new role. With the help of an expert, we look at what pre-employment screening involves, and how it may affect you.
What is Pre-Employment Screening?
The majority of large organisations, including all regulated ones (such as financial institutions) carry out checks to ensure their employees are honest and fit for the role. Most of these organisations extend these checks to cover third party employees working with them, including consultants, contractors and freelancers.
The scope of the checks can vary considerably, but typically include identity, credit and criminal checks, and employment history; they can include more comprehensive checks like sanctions checks or adverse media mentions.
For contractors sometimes these checks are carried out by the end client, and sometimes by an intermediary like a recruitment agent.
Here, we asked Simon Bichara, co-founder of HiredByMe, for the lowdown on pre-employment screening.
Do all contractors get screened, or just those in financial services?
Financial Services firms probably insist on the most comprehensive set of checks, but firms in other regulated sectors (like health and education) also carry out more complex checks. Almost all large firms do some form of checking and it’s easy to see why: the Sunday newspaper headline “Firm X employed convicted fraudster to work on customer accounts” is one to be avoided!
What type of information can be accessed?
Very intrusive and sensitive data! With your permission the client will access credit and criminal records, take up references from previous employers, check whether you appear in sanctions databases – even go back to check your school and university qualifications.
Have checks become more rigorous in recent years?
Yes, undoubtedly. And with the increasing focus on compliance issues (and media competition sensationalising every mistake companies make) there’s only one direction of travel.
We recently spoke to one contractor who had worked abroad for a few years before returning to the UK. He couldn’t believe how much more complex, painful and time consuming the checks had become in the meantime.
It can also be a frustrating process, as there is typically no visibility into what’s happening – you upload or email your screening form, and then some time later you’re told you passed (or failed). For a contractor waiting to start a role that’s quite a poor experience.
What mistakes do contractors typically make?
It’s really important to be scrupulously honest and careful throughout the process, and to make sure the data you submit is consistent at every stage. For example, minor differences in job title (such as listing yourself as a “senior BA” in your CV, and your employer referencing you as a “BA”) are enough to get you rejected from some employers.
What happens if discrepancies are unearthed via the screening process?
It will depend on the size and nature of the discrepancy, and the individual client’s attitude to these. In most cases there is some kind of adjudication process which will spit out a decision – but these can be lengthy, and can cause further time on the bench waiting for a start date.
What does the future hold for pre-employment screening?
Later this year HiredByMe is launching a new product for contractors that allows them to take control of their own screening process: the PortablePES®.
Rather than getting screened at offer, contractors can get screened in advance – and the client just downloads their screening results at offer. As a result you can start immediately rather than waiting after your offer comes in.
We make the data portable from role to role, so that we remove the tedious business of answering the same questions on every assignment. And the process becomes transparent so that you know exactly where you are at all times.