Telling lies or omitting facts in a job application for a job in the City may lead to huge financial losses. For jobs in healthcare the consequences could be catastrophic.

Anyone involved in recruitment cannot simply assume that CVs are always genuine; neither can they be tempted to take short-cuts to fill an urgent post.

The level of employee screening should always be established following a risk assessment of the work environment and the risks associated with the job in question. A screening policy should also be implemented and include post-employment screening – both at periodic intervals and when employees are promoted or transferred to new roles.

Although it may seem onerous, all original certificates and formal documents should be properly scrutinised and the authenticity of references received directly from the candidate should be verified.

In all recruitment policies, job adverts, application forms and in the interviews themselves it should be made clear which screening checks will be undertaken and written permission from each candidate must be obtained.

Likewise, because a reference represents disclosure of confidential information, candidates must give written permission for recruiters to be allowed to contact former employers. Without it, former employers may simply confirm basic details such as start and finish dates and job position which they may still do as a matter of policy.

Although restricted confirmation is better than none at all, a former employer declining to comment on a candidate’s suitability for a job should set alarm bells ringing.

In some instances it may be appropriate dig a little deeper and for example ask to see proof of activity for each month of a certain period. A P60 may appear to cover an entire year’s activity but may in reality only apply to a number of months during that tax year.

If there are periods of non-employment it is wise to seek appropriate documentation, for example Department for Work and Pensions correspondence in relation to unemployment, travel visas, flight tickets, written evidence on headed paper of voluntary work.

Although the majority of employers accept educational and qualification certificates at face value it is advisable to scrutinise them carefully. Don’t accept poor copies and check the exact dates of study if and when contacting the issuing institutes.

In a healthcare environment, checks with the Criminal Records Bureau are considered to be proportionate due to the potential risks involved, but it is important to have a policy in place which governs the handling of disclosure information and the recruitment of former offenders.

According to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 convictions should not automatically preclude employment, and the discovery that an employee has a previous conviction should not automatically result in dismissal. All candidates should be encouraged to provide details of their criminal record at an early stage in the application process and they should be reassured that CRB Disclosure information will only be seen by those who need to see it as part of the recruitment process.

For certain roles, such as senior management and finance, it may be appropriate to undertake a credit history check and again confidentiality reassurances should be given.

It is important that administrative and clinical staff involved in recruitment receive adequate training in the screening process, their legal obligations and how to interpret and manage the results of these checks.

Top Tips

  • Don’t be persuaded to short-cut the recruitment process
  • Never ignore gaps in CVs
  • Obtain proof for each month of employment or other activities
  • Check qualifications and dates of study
  • Insist on official duplicate copies of “missing” certificates
  • Check out references received directly from the candidate
  • Undertake appropriate post-employment screening
  • Don’t always believe what you see and hear


  • 1 in 3 adults lies on their CV (source: Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors)
  • 1 in 10 UK workers aged 18-24 admits to making up some part of their CV (source: Callcredit)
  • 1 in 3 applicants embellish their work experience (source: Backcheck)
  • 1 in 10 applicants lies about their education (source: Backcheck)

Mark Wilcox is chief executive of Avertis Risk Solutions