The length of pre-employment checks shows no sign of decreasing. In fact, over the last five years the delay in hiring brought about by candidate vetting has increased by half to 15.2 days*. This figure is even higher for organisations working within the financial sector in Scotland.
So what can you, the applicant, do to help shorten the process, lessen the stress and worry, and ultimately ensure you start your new job sooner rather than later?
Preparing for success
When you are writing or tailoring your CV, your focus shouldn’t just be on getting the job – it should also be on creating a resume which provides an accurate reflection of your history.
Here’s 10 tips to help you.
Make sure any dates on your CV are as accurate as possible. Don’t be vague about them. Have them to the closest month possible. You don’t need to include individual dates.
If you’re unsure, check your contract, P45 or your bank account (to see when your last salary payment was processed).
Assume you will be asked to produce evidence of each qualification you list on your CV – professional as well as educational. If you can’t get hold of the original document, an electronic version will often be sufficient.
If you cannot provide any evidence of a qualification, avoid listing it on your CV. In reality, however, there are very few occasions when evidence for a certificate cannot be found – or a fee cannot be paid for a replacement.
So don’t leave the search to the screening agency. This will only slow down your checks.
And beware. If you do list a qualification for which evidence cannot be found, the hiring organisation could assume you have falsified your CV.
3. Job titles
Don’t embellish or fabricate current or past job titles. Check the exact wording on your contract(s) - pre-employment screening companies will check this. If you inflate the importance or status of previous roles this could lead to problems.
Don’t, for example, state you were a senior manager when you were in fact simply a manager. Most checks will highlight this discrepancy and the hiring organisation will take a dim view.
If, however, you’ve had a job title which is long and confusing, it is acceptable to include simplification in brackets, e.g. ‘Welcoming Agent & Telephone Intermediary’ (Receptionist).
4. Employment references
Make sure that the person or people you list as referees know that you are putting their names forward. Talk to them in advance and confirm they are willing to vouch for you.
Double-check they are still at the company you have cited. If not, provide HR department details instead.
Any ‘chasing’ on the part of the screening agency will prolong the process and could delay your start date.
5. Mind the gaps
Don’t leave any unexplained, undefined or unaccounted gaps on your CV. If you have been travelling, say so. If you’ve taken a planned career break, detail this. If you’ve been actively seeking employment, don’t be frightened to include this.
If you think it’s relevant – i.e. worth mentioning – provide fuller details of what you actually did, e.g. spent time with family, took time out to learn a new skill, achieved a personal ambition, etc.
6. Character reference
To corroborate these gaps some companies require a character reference. The reference should come from a professional individual who is able to verify their position, often via a corporate or educational email account or business card.
And the referee will need to have known you during the period in question. Again, speak to them beforehand to ensure they know what is required of them.
7. Social media
Be aware of your profile and appearance on social media channels, e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
How are you presented? Do you look professional? Are there any photographs or comments that might be construed by a potential employer as ‘incriminating’?
Some employers are now conducting social media audits of applicants. This is not unusual. So investigate how you may look to prospective companies if they choose to use this process.
Remove any incriminating photos, links or comments - even if you haven’t made them. If you’re not willing to do this, review your security settings and make your account is only accessible to your private network.
8. Criminal check
Do not lie about something that might surface during a criminal background check. The vast majority of screening agencies will carry out this check. So if you suspect you have an ‘unspent’ conviction it is always advisable to disclose this during the process.
If you are unsure what constitutes a ‘spent’ conviction(s), you can check the definition online.
A forgotten speeding fine might be explainable, but don’t be tempted to cover up any serious misdemeanours. You will only be compounding the problem by adding deception to the original crime.
9. Financial probity check
First, be aware of your credit rating. Check with the main credit rating companies, e.g. Experian, Equifax, etc. If you have a ‘sub-optimal’ credit rating there are steps you can take to improve your rating or update any old or inaccurate information.
In the meantime, ensure that any poor credit history is declared to the screening agency during the process.
Moreover, demonstrate you have steps in place to deal with the issue, i.e. evidence that you are in control of the situation. Most firms include a section covering this area. So if there are problems, be upfront and have a plan.
10. Read the instructions
This may sound blindingly obvious, but you would be amazed at the number of problems that can be avoided if you take five minutes to read through the instructions that accompany the form you are completing.
As is the case when building flat-pack furniture, the better versed you are with the instructions the quicker and less frustrating the process!
Not a passive affair
The reference checking and screening process doesn’t have to be a passive affair, where you simply cross your fingers and hope for the best. You have a huge influence over the length, and the outcome. So be prepared.
*’The Client Paradox’ by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (November 2013)
Jenny Smith, Divisional Manager, Core-Asset Verify