Pre-employment checks and screening – What you can do and what you should do!

There is no doubt that pre-employment checks and screening have become increasingly popular and are now widely used in many Australian businesses. With businesses facing increased costs in most aspects of their day-to-day business operations, it makes sense that business owners want to get the best, most suitable, and well-equipped candidates to fill their vacant roles.

However, whilst employers are chopping at the bit to obtain and retain quality candidates, many employers are confused, and perhaps a little dubious as to how far they can delve into the backgrounds of their potential new employees, and what types of pre-employment testing and screening are suitable and relevant to their businesses.

We take a look at what employers can and should do in terms of pre-employment checks and screening, to ensure they recruit the best and most suitable applicant for any role.

Pre-employment checks and screening – What does the process involve?

Naturally, the ultimate goal of the recruitment process is to find and engage the best and most suitable applicant for the role and there are many ways in which employers achieve this. For example, some employers ask applicants to address certain key selection criteria as part of their applications, while others prefer to have a discussion at the interview stage and gauge the applicants verbal responses. Both methods can certainly be effective, however, pre-employment checks and screening are also an extremely useful tool that employers can use as part of this process.

Pre-employment checks and screening involves candidates undergoing a series of tests and checks, which determine their suitability and compatibility for the role. These checks and screening can be;

  • Skill-based – assessing a candidates professional skills and abilities. An example of a skill-based assessment includes ability to operate machinery or utilise specific technology in a simulated workplace environment. Skill based assessments can also include aptitude tests and written assessments.

  • Experience based – where candidates are required to highlight their level of experience, which may include provision of certificates of qualification and referee checks.

  • Personality based – psychological testing to establish candidates ability to perform under pressure or in certain environments relevant to the workplace.

  • Physically based – physical tests which indicate a candidates general level of fitness and health to ensure suitability in the workplace to perform the requirements and physical aspects of the role.

Whilst these checks and screening provide employers with vital information to user as part of their decision-making process when recruiting, these checks cannot be used in a discriminatory manner.

The benefits of pre-employment checks and screening

There are many benefits of pre-employment checks and thorough applicant screening for businesses, which include;

  • Reduced staff turnover, with employers selecting candidates that are more likely to be well suited to the role and more likely to stay in the role for a greater period of time.

  • Sound safety and injury prevention, with staff more aware of the requirements of the role and having the ability whether physically or mentally to complete the role, which can greatly reduce the incidence of accidents and workplace injuries.

  • Minimised downtime, with a reduced staff turnover and well-suited employees the business is able to consistently operate at full capacity, with less incidents of staff illness and absenteeism which can caused lost hours and dysfunction within the workplace.

  • Reduced training costs, not having to consistently train new staff.

Where it gets messy

Australian employers have every right to conduct pre-employment checks and screening, however they need to be conscious of completing this in a way that does not breach a candidates privacy.

As stated earlier, applicant screening can be a fantastic tool for businesses, however it can get messy, if employers implement pre-employment screening and testing procedures without the use of careful planning and implementation.

As pre-employment checks and screening provide employers with a range of confidential information often related to an employees health and person circumstances, it is vital that this information is collected and utilised in an appropriate manner and also that the information collected is directly relevant to the role.

Privacy is paramount

Privacy is one of the areas that employers are confused about, when it comes to pre-employment checks and screening. The Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) provides general requirements in terms of the types of checks that can be conducted, and the responsibility placed upon employers in terms of storing and use of the confidential information obtained during these checks. Additionally, the Australian Privacy principles (APP) also provide guidance in terms of the collection and handling of this personal information.

What employers should do

Now that we have established that pre-employment checks and screening are a perfectly normal and acceptable part of the recruitment process for many businesses, the burning question is, as an employer what you should do in terms of implementing these processes effectively within your recruitment process.

Firstly, it is essential that you seek expert advice in regard to which particular checks and screening will be relevant to your business and your role. For example, if your business involves working in an office environment, testing for physical strength and ability to operate heavy machinery, would certainly not be relevant to your business.

Secondly, make yourself aware of the Australian Privacy Principles and have sound internal processes in place to ensure that only the relevant members of your staff who play an active role within the recruitment process. This will ensure you eliminate the risk of breaching the Privacy Act, which could lead to an adverse action pursuant to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).

Finally, use the information obtained to make a decision appropriately and constructively in terms of which applicant is best suited to the role. Do not use the information to discriminate, or again, you could face adverse consequences.

With the job market heating up once again, as more Australian’s return to the workforce in a post Covid-19 environment, now is the time to consider your HR processes, including the introduction of pre-employment testing and screening procedures, which can ensure that you hire the most suited and best applicant for your role.

The team at Dreamstone HR are highly experienced with implementing compliant and efficient pre-employment procedures. Reach out to us today on (02) 8320 9320 or and let our team take the stress out of your recruitment processes.

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