What is Pre-Employment Screening? | The Employer’s Guide

Pre-employment screening is a process where employers verify the identity, background, and credentials of a candidate. This process has other names including employment background checks, pre-employment checks, background screening, to name a few.

The aim of pre-employment screening is to prevent employers from hiring staff who may cause irreparable legal, financial, and/or reputational damage.

Pre-employment screening is made up of background checks. There are several types of background checks that you, the employer, must apply to your pre-employment screening and recruitment process.

In this guide, we will discuss the different types of background checks you must consider as part of your recruitment process, and how to ensure compliance throughout.

Pre-Employment Screening in the UK

As an employer, it is your legal duty to ensure your recruitment process covers the ten essential employment background checks:

  1. Right to Work Checks
  2. Criminal Record Checks (DBS Checks)
  3. Employment References
  4. Educational References
  5. Credit Check
  6. DVLA Check
  7. Social Media Screening
  8. Medical Checks
  9. International Sanctions
  10. UK Sanctions Checks

Human Resources usually handle pre-employment screening for organisations. As a human resources professional, you must conduct these checks using various databases to verify the status of each applicant.

Some background checks are required by law, such as right to work checks. Other checks are required by law in certain sectors. For example, DVLA checks within the transportation industry; and credit checks within the financial industry.

And other checks are advisory, such as employment and educational reference checks. However, even if a certain background check is not required by law, you must consider each and assess the consequences if they are not conducted.

Right to Work Checks

A right to work check is a process that establishes if an employee has the right to work in the UK. Despite what industry you are working in, you (the employer) are legal obliged to take out right to work checks on every single member of staff.

An employer who dismisses their obligations may be subject to a maximum civil fine of £20,000 per individual and/or a criminal sanction of an unlimited fine or imprisonment of five years.

It should also be noted that digital right to work checks will be allowed from 6th April 2022. Face-to-face checks will no longer be necessary. We discussed this recently here.

Read our complete guide on Right to Work Checks here.

A full guide of the documents required can be found here (page 31).

Criminal Record Checks/DBS Checks

Also known as DBS checks in England and Wales, Disclosure Scotland in Scotland, and Access NI in Northern Ireland, criminal record checks investigate whether a candidate has a criminal record.

It is highly recommended that you conduct a criminal record check on new starters (even if it is a basic check).

In certain industries, criminal record checks are a legal requirement. For example, if you hiring someone who will be working with vulnerable groups (e.g. children or vulnerable adults), you will need to perform an ‘Enhanced’ DBS check.

Furthermore, you will need to implement a process to ensure these checks are performed regularly. This is based on the premise that the circumstances of an employee might change, which could make it illegal to continue hiring them. It is advised to perform these checks once a year or six months. The frequency of a criminal record check will vary on the organisation, industry, and the nature of the work conducted.

We discuss criminal record checks further in our DBS checks guide, which you can find here.

For an A-Z list of job roles and the type of DBS check required, click here.

Basic DBS Check - EBC Global

Employment and Educational Reference Checks

Does your organisation need to perform employment and educational reference checks?

There is no legal obligation for you to perform these checks on new starters. However, it would be in your best interest to perform these checks to prevent hiring staff who claim to be suitable for a job.

Another aspect to note is the abundance of candidates who provide fraudulent details on their application. This can include fake employer references, certificates from bogus online colleges, to name a few.

Therefore, you must ensure you have a process in place to ensure employment and educational references are genuine and valid.

Credit Checks

If you work in the financial sector, it is vital to perform credit checks on new starters, to prevent things such as fraud.

As an employer in the financial sector, you should examine public and private databases for County Court Judgements (CCJs), bankruptcies, voluntary arrangements, decrees, and administration orders.

Even outside of the financial sector, employers are encouraged to conduct credit checks on employees who will be handling monies and/or financial data.

DVLA Checks

DVLA checks are common practice within the transport and logistics industry. However, this does not mean that organisations outside of this sector should not implement such checks.

If anyone drives on behalf of your company then you must perform a DVLA check. This includes third parties who have access to your company vehicles.

Failure to complete DVLA checks could lead to the hiring of unsuitably qualified or dangerous drivers. And if they are involved in an accident, and it is proved they were driving as part of their job, the organisation in question can face large fines.

We discuss DVLA checks in more detail here, including how to handle hundreds or thousands of DVLA checks with efficiency.

Social Media Screening

It is commonly assumed that candidates without a criminal record nor an adverse employment history are incapable of anti-social, illegal, or violent behaviour. However, this is simply not true.

This is where social media screening can be beneficial. To prevent hiring someone who may damage your company’s online reputation, you should perform a social media screening.

This process can include viewing a candidate’s presence on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, Twitter, and other social media platforms. Because this information is within the public domain, you do not need to ask permission from the candidate to view this data (assuming the candidate has not set their profiles to private).

If you get this wrong, there are legal risks. If after a social media screening you decide not to hire a candidate then this must be justified. For example, you cannot turn down a candidate because of one of their personal characteristics (race, religion, or sexual orientation). In these instances, candidates can take legal action and be awarded considerable compensation.

Medical Checks

You should only implement medical checks if a good bill of health is required to perform the role. For example, a pilot working in commercial aviation.

This prevents employers hiring staff who could endanger other people due to their health issues.

It should be noted that you cannot ask health questions before a candidate is offered employment. This comes under the Equality Act of 2010, which prevents discriminatory decisions based on physical health, mental health and/or a disability.

If a good bill of health is not strictly required for the role then you do not have to include this as part of your pre-employment screening process.

International Sanctions

If you work for a political organisation or government body, you should implement a process to perform an international sanctions check. However, this check is not limited to these sectors and you should implement it if its proportionate to the role.

An International Sanctions check detects if a candidate is suspected to be affiliated with terrorism, animal rights, money laundering, drug trafficking, arms dealing, war crimes, white collar fraud, or other illegal activities. These checks can also extend to detecting ‘Politically Exposed Persons’ (PEPs), as well as an ‘Adverse Media’ search.

The aim of these checks is to prevent you and your organisation attracting adverse media attention and affiliations with illegal entities.

UK Sanction Checks

In instances where you are hiring a new CEO, COO or director, you should implement a sanctions check. This prevents you hiring individuals who have taken part in illegal activities whilst operating a company. This can include continuing company trading when the company was insolvent; failing to prepare and file accounts or make returns to Companies House; failing to send in returns or pay to the Crown any tax that is due; and any fraudulent activity.

For more information on sanctions checks (also known as a sanctions search) click here.

Ensuring compliance whilst performing pre-employment screening

These 10 checks are vital to ensure your organisation hire new staff lawfully and compliantly. However, it can be easy to for this process to become arduous, time-consuming, and inefficient.

We have listed some tips to help you with your background checks:

Ensure all 10 background checks are considered throughout your process

Even though some background checks are not legally required by law, does not mean you should not consider all 10 background checks?

For example, if you are hiring a digital marketing executive, what does their current social media presence look like?

Or if you are hiring a driver with 25 years’ experience, how often will you perform a DVLA check on them?

Or perhaps you are hiring a new accountant. Should you perform a credit check?

Have a look at your current process and decide where and when to implement specific background checks. But make sure the check is proportionate to the role. For example, if you are hiring a baker, do you need to know their credit score? Keep all background checks relevant to the role and industry.


With all the personal data you are handling, how are you ensuring you are doing your background checks compliantly? Are you asking for the candidate’s permission to handle their data?

Your process must be GDPR-compliant. To ensure this, ask yourself and your company how personal data is handled. Is there a data handling policy? Do you use consent forms? After a candidate has been hired, what do you do with their data?

Workable offer an informative article on GDPR and hiring here.

Dating and filing

Pre-employment screening requires the examination, copying, and storage of a lot of sensitive personal data.

Your organisation must check and store employment background checks in either a filing cabinet (with restricted access), on a hard drive within the organisation, via a reputable third-party, or on the cloud. Of course, all these storage systems carry their own risks.

To ensure you storing your checks correctly and securely, ask yourself:

  • How are we storing personal data and background checks?
  • Do we have a dating process in place? For example, date of data entry, date for deletion, etc?
  • Does our data deletion policy comply with GDPR?
  • Is our current storage process secure? For example, is our background checks software provider accredited in data security?
  • Could our current storage facility improve? For example, you may use filing cabinets. Would cloud or hard drive storage be safer and more efficient?

Frequency of checks

Each industry has its own rules and regulations when it comes to their background checks. For example, some large transport companies will perform DVLA checks on their drivers annually. Care homes will perform enhanced DBS checks annually, or more frequently depending on the nature of their care.

The key here is not to make the process laborious by performing checks too regularly.

Define the employment background checks your company and industry need to perform and determine how often you need to do these checks. Bi-annually? (e.g. DBS checks). Only once? (e.g. right to work).

Pre Employment Screening Process


Pre-Employment Screening Software

There is compliant, fast, and automated software that will help you with your background checks. We provide this software in the form of Employment Check Pro.

Pre-employment Screening with Employment Check Pro

Not only is Pro GDPR-compliant, but it also assists with automatic referencing, scheduling of checks (e.g. DVLA every six months), and provides instant DBS checks. Pro can help your organisation reduce the time associated with the new hire process by approximately 70%.

Pro is suitable for all sectors, requirements, and checks. And as an ISO27001-accredited organisation, we perform regular internal audits to ensure our information security framework (and software) is strong.

To book a demo or learn more, please visit https://ebcglobal.co.uk/pro/ or fill out the form below:


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