8 ways to vet candidates

Sorting through the masses to find the cream of the crop. It’s a tough job. And it can be extremely time consuming. Hiring takes energy, time and money, plus a good deal of strategic thinking and personal judgement. But gut instinct alone isn’t enough to prevent an unsuitable or dishonest candidate slipping through the net.

So how do you ensure you take on the right person, 99% of the time? Here are eight simple steps to separate the wheat from the chaff…

1. Contact Previous Employers

When you’re busy it’s easy to cut corners, and that’s why so many employers fail to check candidates’ references; some don’t even call to confirm that the candidate was even employed by the company they claimed to have worked at previously.

“References are an invaluable resource,” said Sara Jones, co-founder of Hiring Hub. “Potential candidates should have at least two references, and if one of them isn’t from their current employer, ask why.”

Companies are normally willing to provide a reference, even if it’s only to confirm start and finish dates. Some may go into more detail and include punctuality, attitude, and how much sick leave was taken, which is always good to know.

2. Do Not Trust CVs

Many candidates will exaggerate their talents and embellish qualifications to make themselves more appealing to employers. It’s a good idea to create your own form, which the candidate can fill in; ask them to formally declare experience and qualifications. Keep an eye on each candidate’s start and finish dates too, as it’s tempting to ‘fill in the gaps’ rather than declare a period of unemployment to a potential employer.

3. Social Media

Nowadays this is becoming more common. Hiring managers and recruitment agencies will Google candidates, and visit social media sites to learn more about a potential employee. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are popular platforms; all have the power to disclose a candidate’s true colours. There are legal issues to consider, however, as social media profiles are public this is a relatively grey area right now. Any law preventing the perusal of social websites for employment checks would be difficult to enforce in the UK.

How to screen job applicants
4. Confirm Qualifications

Failure to furnish you with an official certificate, or bona fide evidence of qualifications, should ring alarm bells. If you are suspicious, provided you have the candidate’s permission you can contact educational establishments and request confirmation of a candidate’s grades. There is no legal barrier when doing this, as professional qualifications do not fall under the Data Protection Act. It can be tricky, though. If you doubt the candidate, ask simple questions about tutors and the course content when interviewing them. This should give you more entry points when validating qualifications, it may also catch out the candidate.

5. Legal Checks

Standard checks include asking for a valid National Insurance number and passport, however, others may need to be made to confirm eligibility to work in the UK. As the employer, it is your responsibility to confirm that the candidate has the correct paperwork in place to work in Britain (a word of caution here: if you only ask those you suspect of being non-British, you could be sued for discrimination). Checks can be completed by authorised third parties, whom can be found easily online and charge a small fee. If you’re unsure, call the Home Office Employers’ Helpline.

6. Conduct Thorough Interviews

A minimum of two interviews is recommended, even if the candidate has come via a third party recruitment agency. The bulk of your questions should be prepared in advance. Try and prompt the candidate into revealing more about themselves, their previous experience and their ambitions. Grill them on your company, too. If they want to work for you they should be well researched.

7. Cultural Fit?

Cultural fit is really important if the candidate is going to slot into an existing team. It’s a good idea to give potential candidates a simple task to complete, so that you can watch how they interact within a group and present their findings. Another way of discovering if the candidate is right for you is to implement a trial period. This will give you a fair idea of the candidate’s work ethic, key attributes, fit, and commitment to your business.

How to do background checks on potential employees

8. Criminal Convictions

Some businesses, like childcare firms, are obliged by law to establish if a candidate has a criminal record, but most employers can’t get hold of this information through channels like the Criminal Records Bureau, as it is deemed confidential. This doesn’t mean the question shouldn’t be on your own form, though, because it is an offence if the candidate does have a conviction and fails to disclose it when asked. If you find out someone has lied about a conviction in an interview you have grounds for immediate dismissal.
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