A Manager's Guide to Pre-Employment Background Screening Checks in Australia

How do you know if the person you're about to hire for your web design firm will prove an asset for your organisation or will instead become a liability, costing your business work disruptions, loss of revenue, a damaged reputation, plus a lawsuit.

To avoid such a nightmare scenario the best thing a manager can do is put in place a clear hiring protocol, which should necessarily include background screening checks.

What should ring an alarm bell during a job interview?

A good HR manager can assess if a candidate is suitable for the job from the first job interview. Many recruiting agents rely on their instincts and in most cases they are correct, but that shouldn’t keep them from running a proper background check. Just in case.

Naturally, the first thing a hiring manager looks at are a candidate’s professional qualifications and the employment history. It is often in the employment history a recruiting agent will notice something wrong.

If there’s a serious gap, meaning many months or years unaccounted for, the person conducting the interview should immediately ask for an explanation. No matter if the explanation is convincing or not, this should ring an alarm bell and warrant a police check, even if the company’s policy on such screening is lax.

Look at previous employments

Another thing a good hiring manager should look at are cases where the candidate was fired from a job on misconduct allegations. Such cases rarely make it to the court, but a recruiting agent should contact the HR department of the previous employment and ask for details.

In such cases it is worth checking out the applicant’s social media. You might be surprised how many people use social media to vent their anger against a past employer and how often they share confidential information on the Internet. That alone should be ground enough to turn down a job application, although using such information is a very sensitive matter because of the privacy laws. Still, someone who berates their former employer on social media might not be a good addition to the team.

Order a national police check

Police checks are not mandatory, but more and more companies discover just how useful they are and how easy it is to order one.

Many companies have moved with the times and use online agencies to conduct police checks on their employees. The main reason online agencies are rising in popularity is that they work very fast and there is no paperwork.

For instance, most online police check services only require the HR manager to input basic information on a prospective employee, which can be done in a couple of minutes. Further to this, a national police check in Australia generally only takes one to three business days and the certificate is sent via email. Zero time wasted and no hassle whatsoever. If the candidate has a clean record, you just put the certificate in his file and forget about it.

However, when you receive a certificate listing one or more past convictions you might want to reconsider your decision to hire that person. Keep in mind that an accredited agency will dig up any disclosable information regarding an offence the candidate might have committed anywhere on Australian territory. After that, it’s up to the hiring manager to decide if the offence is relevant to the job or not. In any case, if there’s something bad in a person’s past it’s best to know about it.

Alarming Facts for Managers

In a report from the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) it was highlighted that around 30% of Australian job applications contained a form of incorrect information or data in their resumes. For human resource workers that are responsible for employee hiring and promotions, a framework built around corporate compliance for the purpose of screening employees is to be a critical part of the overall recruitment and hiring processes.

The recommendations of the report outlines that employers (including human resource managers) should adopt an approach that is risk based in an attempt to prevent employee or contractor application fraud.

Further to this, hiring managers should work to ensure that any employment screening processes are shown to be standardised and justifiable to the person that is the subject of the check.

An approach that is risk-based as per the recommendations involves formulating a screening process to the characteristics and requirements of specific job roles within organisations.

It was also shown that the positions in organisations that may require the most screening steps may not necessarily bet the most senior or high paid job roles. Further to this, contractors or other non permanent workers should also be subject to background screening checks in the same standardised method way as those undertaken on all other workers that are within the organisation.

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