Background Checks in More Detail

In the article on Proper Preparation & Planning! (PP&P) I touched on a few of the background checks potential employers could carry out as part of the recruitment process. I know that the thought of some of these checks can be a little daunting for job hunters so I thought it was important to also take a peek at some of them in a little bit more depth, expand our knowledge of them so they don’t take us by surprise and see if there is anything we can do to see ourselves through the eyes of the recruiter. If we can see ourselves in their eyes before we begin the recruitment process then we give ourselves the opportunity to make any possible tweaks and adjustments so that we can boost our personal brand rather than taint it through the checking process.

I’m not going to discuss the Right To Work check as I know we covered pretty much everything in the PP&P article, but just a reminder that it’s handy to make sure you have access to 2 or 3 of the documents on the accepted evidence list in advance as it is just one less thing for you to think about before interviews and meeting new employers. But let’s take a look into; references, background checks inc credit history reports, criminal record, qualification and health checks. Why, when, how might a recruiter carry these out and is there anything you can do to enhance the results before the recruiter gets them?


Potential new employers will ask for references in order to back up the information you provide in your CV and in order to gain an overall image of the type of employee you might be. They are likely to your referees quite basic information, i.e start and end date, amount of days of sick leave.  In fact, some companies limit the amount of information they will give as a referee solely to the stats and refuse to embellish further as part of their policies. However character references can also be highly valued and some recruiters may specify that they would like both an employee and a character reference. You can ensure that your references come back squeaky clean by ensuring that you get the facts correct on your CV, don’t embellish and don’t get key dates wrong. You can also select your referees wisely. A recruiter will expect referees to be a; former employer (ideally line manager/mentor) or a character reference to be someone who has a professional title and has known you over two years but is not a close friend or relative. So once you have whittled the list down using that criteria, consider people who; you have recently worked closely with, who have gone out of their way to give positive feedback in the past and that know enough about you to demonstrate that you have the suitable positive traits to get on in your new potential role. It doesn’t harm to ask your selected referees beforehand if they would be happy to do this as it may stop you making a mistake in your selection and it will also give them time to prep a positive and sympathetic reference rather than being on the spot.

Background Checks:

It’s unlikely these will be requested until you’re at the final stages of the recruitment process, it’s a good sign, it means they think you are worth the time and close to landing that new role! And, due to data protection regulations you’ll always be made aware/asked that the checks are to be carried out. To make sure the results of these checks don’t make the employer think twice, it is a good idea to make sure you try to get everything in as much order as possible right at the beginning of your job search.

Credit report checks are sometimes carried out as part of the character checks, however it is more likely that this kind of check will be carried out if you are looking for work within the financial sector. You can sign up to companies like My Credit Monitor to get a look at your report. If you do this at the beginning of your job search it might buy you enough time to add explanations to any blemishes or even have some of them removed if there are any inaccuracies.

Criminal record checks won’t be carried out by all employers. Although some employers may choose to do a criminal record check as part of the character assessment, it is not usual practice. However, an application to the Disclosure Barring Service (DBS) will be a certainty in any profession where you will be working with children, vulnerable adults or usually in health services. It is best to be open and honest during the recruitment process as if there is something on your criminal record, especially something considered a ‘minor offense’ (such as a speeding penalty perhaps) it is more likely a recruiter will try to work around it if it does not come to a surprise to them at the end of the process.

Other Checks:

It’s quite possible that recruiters will check your qualifications to ensure that you have not embellished your CV so in short, don’t. But if you are applying for a roll that requires specific qualifications for health and safety reasons you can be absolutely sure the recruitment process will include validating these. In fact, if a company recruits a person for a roll and neglects to do such checks, and that person causes a fatal accident (for example a bus driver who’s license has not been validated) the company could actually be accused of corporate manslaughter. Best practice for a candidate is to ensure they have any such qualifications available and ready to be produced for validation during the process.

Health checks may be carried out to ensure suitability for a role, this is usually only likely to happen if health conditions cause health and safety issues and it is made absolutely clear to employers that health checks cannot be used as a means of discrimination, i.e targeting them at only a specific age group. If you are going for a role operating heavy machinery, driving etc then it wouldn’t hurt to ensure your eye sight and other health is checked if you are in any doubt about them.