Do you know which background checks are relevant to the roles you're recruiting? Screening specialist Peter Stackpole explains when each type of check is warranted.
Stackpole, the South Asia managing director of background screening specialist First Advantage, says the types of pre-employment checks you conduct will depend on the role you're aiming to fill, but they must be relevant to the requirements of the job.
He says that as well as in the industries where there is a legislative requirement to conduct background checks (such as aviation, maritime and aged care), screening should be conducted for "any organisation where individuals can potentially cause a lot of damage".
It's essential to seek permission before beginning any checks, he says (this also helps to ensure that unsuitable candidates remove themselves from the selection process), and it's a good idea to let candidates know as early as possible - for example, in the job ad - what types of screening will be conducted during the recruitment process.
Stackpole outlines the various background checks below and examples of when they're required or most useful:
An electoral roll search forms part of an overall identification check and adds to verification that "the person is who they say they are" and that they have lived at their stated address.
A bankruptcy file search is necessary for certain roles that can't be held by a bankrupt - these are designated by APRA and ASIC. It indicates the candidate's ability (or lack thereof) to manage their financial affairs and will be relevant to any role that involves handling significant sums of money.
A Supreme Court and civil litigation search can also be an indicator of a candidate's financial management skills as it reveals whether they have been taken to court over non-payment of debts, credit cards and loans.
ASIC searches are often specifically required for certain roles including responsible officer positions, as they show if a candidate has been banned or disqualified from holding such a position due to failure in a previous role.
While these four checks above don't require specific consent from a candidate (because the information is in the public domain), HR managers should be aware that recording and storing the information puts it in the private space and requires compliance with the Privacy Act, Stackpole says.
A check on academic transcripts and qualifications is necessary where certain qualifications are required for the role, such as an accounting degree for accountants or a medical degree for doctors.
Stackpole says it's also increasingly common for potential employers to want to verify the actual institution from where the claimed qualifications were obtained, due to the rise in fake degrees sold on the internet.
A check on a candidate's employment history can help identify any gaps in their experience, Stackpole says, as often someone who has been unsuccessful in a role will "make it disappear" by adjusting the start and finish dates of other jobs. This check should also verify the candidate's previous job title, responsibilities and salary.
A birth certificate can be used towards a candidate's 100 points of identification, but its authenticity can't actually be verified with Births, Deaths and Marriages, Stackpole says.
A criminal history check is necessary for certain occupations where employees must not have any criminal convictions, but it can also be used to check a candidate's character.
Stackpole warns that care must be taken when interpreting information from criminal checks, as it can be illegal to discriminate against a candidate on the basis of a criminal conviction. An employer might not consider one DUI conviction serious - unless the candidate is applying for a role that involves driving - however five convictions could indicate they have issues with authority, or a drinking problem. Assault charges might mean the candidate has anger management issues or has difficulty dealing with social environments, he says.
Stackpole says it's important to consider the severity of the offence, and points out that the checks are particularly useful for identifying acts of dishonesty.
The Australian Human Rights Commission's (formerly HREOC) guidelines on preventing discrimination in employment on the basis of criminal record specifically state that where an employer decides that a criminal record is relevant to a particular job, "an employer should state this requirement clearly in job advertisements, information sent out to job applicants and recruitment briefs to agencies".
Convictions more than 10 years old are generally exempted from checks under the spent conviction scheme, unless they have been repeated. As well, there are exceptions to the scheme where, for example, a financial institution could obtain an exemption to check solely for acts of dishonesty beyond the 10-year history.
A drivers' licence check can form part of an identification check (and is verifiable), but a driving history check would need to be relevant to the role the candidate has applied for.
Recruiters and HR managers can use a personal reference check with a candidate's previous manager to obtain information about past performance in order to determine their fit for the role, and about the candidate's behaviour generally.
Checking professional affiliations and associations is important to find out whether a candidate has been banned or disqualified, Stackpole says. For example, a doctor might have the right qualifications for a job but have been struck off the register in another country where he or she has worked.
Anti-money-laundering checks are becoming more common, Stackpole says, due to the new legislation in this area.