Scrutiny from a Hirer Authority: Preemployment Screening Is Crucial If Companies Want to Minimize the Potential for Employee Problems Down the Road

Article excerpt

Comprehensive preemployment screening is crucial if a company is to weed out dishonest job applicants. Recognizing the importance of this step of the hiring process, many U.K. companies have implemented extensive screening policies. The following looks at what some of these companies are doing with regard to front-line staff, contractors, and key positions; it also examines the types of information sources available to U.K. companies and some of the special considerations involved in collecting the data.

Front-line staff. Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has a global employee screening policy. Bill Trundley, head of global security at GSK, believes mat thorough screening of employees is central to creating a strong security culture within a company. "It sends out the message to everybody straight away that the company takes security very seriously, he says.

HSBC, one of the world's biggest banks, also considers screening essential. It screens all of its own staff in-house, says Chris Smith, head of regional security for Europe at HSBC. (Some positions get an additional level of screening from outside consultants, as discussed later.) The company's human resources department runs a check on employees, scanning public records such as the Electoral Roll (a register for voters) to confirm a job applicant's personal details and contacting credit reference agencies to check up on the applicant's financial record.

Rather than handle this work in-house, GSK contracts with Alternative Investigations Management (AIM), an agency for preemployment screening. And since May, the process has been computerized and placed on the network. Forms completed by the hiring manager and job candidate are sent to GSK's screening agency via a secure network. "The electronic system speeds things up and allows you to keep track of the screening process more easily," says GSK's Trundley.

The agency runs a wide range of record checks to verify a job applicant's identity and qualifications and to determine his or her credit history and criminal record. Management reviews this information before making any hiring decision.

In addition, since the company does research using animals and has been the target of animal rights groups, GSK does a search of Web sites and media databases to see whether a job applicant is an extremist looking to infiltrate the company.

"I think it is a very good idea for companies to run these checks," says Simon Imbert, director at Capital Eye, a screening agency that vets staff for U.K corporations. If a job applicant has appeared in the press for the wrong reasons, employers have a right to know about it, says Imbert. But such media research to learn more about a prospective employee might soon be outlawed in the U.K. by the Office of the Information Commissioner, which implements data protection laws in Britain. (see "If It's Personal, It's Protected," April 2003, for more on data protection laws in the U.K and throughout Europe.)

All information collected about each GSK applicant is stored on the company's electronic vetting system. One advantage of having the information stored electronically is that the process is accessible to all hiring managers throughout GSK who have access to the system. "By having a multisite function, it stops people leaving one site under a cloud and then joining another part of the company," he says.

Contractors. The attention to preemployment screening extends to GSK's contractors too. All contractors, from the guarding finn through to the cleaning company, have to confirm that they are screening their staff to the same standard as GSK, which audits contractors' screening of staff GSK runs periodic spot checks, selecting a small group of contracted staff at random. "We will carry out our own preemployment check on these staff or ask to see an audit," says Trundley. "All contractors will say they screen their staff to the required standard, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, which is why it is necessary to have audits. …