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Candidate Screening:
Pre-employment Screening

What is pre-employment screening?

After investing time in attracting and interviewing good quality candidates, what if it turns out that the one you choose to hire isn't who they claim to be? What if they do not have the legal right to work in the UK, or they have unspent convictions that you were not aware of? What if they’ve lied about their previous employment?

You may find yourself in a precarious situation. For this reason, it is vital for your business to be able to verify candidates’ credentials before hire, to understand what pre-employment screening is and how it applies to your own specific organisation.

Author Name

Written by Chris Phillips

Pre-employment screening is the process of undertaking the relevant background checks to verify candidates’ claims, as well as to ensure you have fulfilled your legal obligations as an employer or recruitment agency. These checks include, but are not limited to, identity verification, qualification checks, referencing, right to work and criminal backgrounds.

Why is pre-employment screening important?

Effective screening provides any company, in whatever field, with a proven strategy and process for evaluating and improving their selection processes. Screening candidates, and even the people working within some key suppliers, is now standard practice for businesses of all sizes.

In today’s increasingly competitive job market, it’s becoming more tempting than ever for candidates to embellish their employment history and educational results, or to hide negative information. Research studies typically reveal that between half and up to three quarters of all CVs or applications provided by applicants contain inaccurate information. There can be innocent reasons for applicants making false claims during the hiring process, such as bolstering their CV or having a little artistic licence with their university degree; however, there can be more sinister reasons for misrepresentation. 

Screening can be time-consuming, and involves a lot of administration, but it is essential to do this each and every time to protect your company, no matter how low risk a person may appear. There are a number of risks associated with not checking the credentials of a candidate, such as lack of suitability and underperformance, and the importance of pre employment screening cannot be understated from a legal compliance perspective.

In worst case scenarios, hiring the wrong person could also make your business vulnerable to:

  • Employee fraud
  • Employing individuals who do not have the right to work in the UK
  • The costs of recruiting and training unsuitable candidates
  • Reputational damage
  • Legal action
  • Absenteeism
  • Corporate espionage
  • Terrorism and organised crime

What does pre-employment screening consist of?

Many companies that haven’t as yet outlined a specific screening policy will be wondering exactly what is a pre-employment screening process? 

The simple answer is a defined way of asserting that the business has completed its due diligence in respect of candidate compliance by putting in place workflows, including if necessary integrated third party checks. The outline of the pre-screening process can look very different for every organisation. There are many things to take into account including the industry that your business operates and the specific job requirements that are needed for a candidate to fulfil a role.

Despite pre-employment screening checks being different for every company, there are always some certainties that apply. There are 3 key screening questions that you should ask the candidate:

  1. Are you concerned that we will be conducting background checks including criminal record checks?
  2. Will the employment recorded on your CV or profile match the information that your past employers will supply?
  3. Can you tell me about any unexplained gaps in your employment history?
what is pre-employment screening

How long does pre-employment screening take?

As alluded to previously, with the specifications for every business and job varying in many ways, the number of checks that need to be conducted and the outline of every workflow can vary too. This has a huge impact on the time it takes to conduct background checks and complete the pre-employment screening process.

Additionally, how long it takes to complete pre-screening checks will be impacted by how they are conducted. Manual collation of data by the hiring organisation will likely slow down the start date. If requests are made via a stream of emails it is possible that requests for information will get missed by the applicant and take longer to collate once returned. On the other hand, automating the process via screening software that pulls together all checks into a single platform can considerably reduce the time-to-hire from weeks to days.

The time it takes for a candidate to complete their details in a screening portal - this depends on the complexity of the required compliance workflow, but candidates should be able to complete the process in as little as five minutes if they’re only filling in employment reference and Right to Work details. 

The time it takes for third party checks to be returned - this duration is contingent on the check provider. DBS turnaround time can range from anywhere between five to ten days; referencing can take a little longer depending on the employer’s response time. This can be accelerated with screening software and the automatic chasing it facilitates. Right to Work and credit checks can both deliver instantaneous results.

The time it takes to complete the entire screening process from start to finish - this duration is completely dependent on the length of the compliance workflow, but could be done by the applicant within five minutes if they’re only filling in employment reference and Right to Work details. The better user experience you provide, the faster the turnaround you can expect.

What are the benefits of pre-employment screening?

Every business is focused on delivering its products or services to its customers, and cannot afford to be caught up with human resourcing issues that impact productivity. Not having the right screening in place could prove very costly in terms of reduced time-to-hire across multiple roles, and possibly even candidates dropping out through the hiring process in a competitive talent market .

In order to reduce the risk of the worst case scenarios developing, it’s essential to have a robust employment screening procedure in place that ensures you reap the benefits of pre employment screening. By investing in the right screening software or service, you can even decrease the time and cost it takes to process applications. There’s a wide range of options available for all levels of requirement and budget.

Effective background screening provides you with objective data that ensures:

  • Your candidate is who they claim to be
  • Your business reputation is protected
  • You adhere to legal requirements/industry regulations
  • Your company is protected from legal action
  • You save on the costs of bad hires
  • Your procedures cover every relevant check

Conducting a detailed and thorough background check, or pre-employment screening on every candidate is becoming increasingly essential practice for employers, HR professionals and recruiters. Assessing applicants requires full credential verifications and these need to be performed according to documented policies. For many organisations, these advanced screening practices are being documented through their HR processes and procedures, with the aim of methodically assembling standardised types of information concerning applicants, so that the screening techniques are fully legal and are not too time consuming or onerous.

Final notes

Overall, the screening process should protect your business from making poor employment decisions.

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