The Curve Group’s Lyndsey Simpson talks us through how to avoid making a bad hires
How much do you know about your employees? You will most likely know their names, what their partner is called, if they have any kids and what the last company that they worked for was, but how much do you really know? There have been numerous examples recently on the hidden scandals of many important individuals within huge businesses. The case of Paul Flowers, the former Co-op bank chairman, has so far been the most high-profile example, but there have been many others too. The negative impact such a story can have on the reputation of a large business can be catastrophic; do not underestimate the financial and business cost that making bad hires can have on smaller businesses too. Time and time again, I see smaller companies thinking they don’t need to adopt these processes and then get to a certain size where they have to – sometimes because their large customers demand it. They have a nightmare trying to vet existing employees who are utterly resistant to the intrusion. The silly thing is, it is a risk that can be easily prevented with an efficient pre-employment screening and re-vetting process.
We all spend a huge amount of time, money and effort ensuring that we hire the very best talent for our businesses. When we recruit, we so often focus on what these people can bring to our business, and how their exciting skill sets could be best utilised to our advantage. Despite this, very few SMEs actually do their own vetting, and fewer still really do this efficiently.
How often have you seen what on paper looks like the perfect CV, only for the candidate not to live up to your expectations either during interviews, or worse after they have joined your business? Examples such as that of Paul Flowers are unique in their enormity. However, there are smaller scale examples of employees not being vetted sufficiently, which impact on employers every single day. This is where you then find out, too late, that they have a high level of sickness absence or the reason they gave in their interview for moving on from their previous employer doesn’t now stack up. In more extreme cases I have seen, people have been put into financially responsible roles only for the employer to find out they have criminal convictions for fraud or robbery.
Vetting isn’t just checking that an individual isn’t a convicted criminal though. Given the cost of making a bad hire can be enormous, it should involve many different things that may not initially come to mind. Here are some examples:
Bending the truth: If a potential employee’s CV or LinkedIn says that they worked for a company for four years, it must be right, mustn’t it? I’ve seen numerous of examples of people who have been exited from businesses long before they would like you to believe, all in the name of strengthening their CV. Realising that they don’t actually have the experience they have led you to believe could save you from potentially making a really poor hire, and ensure that you get the right candidate for you first time around.
Criminal history: Perhaps the most obvious element of the vetting process, yet something that is so often missed is criminal history. Can you afford to take the risk of hiring someone who has been convicted of an offence relating directly to the services you provide?
Credit history: You will be amazed at how many people have significant credit history issues. You may think, ‘I’m not a bank so why should I care,’ but you should. If your business serves clients in the financial services, IT, defence or outsourcing industries, anyone with access to systems will need to be vetted to high standards. Equally, if someone is under financial distress, they are significantly more likely to be targeted by unscrupulous characters wanting to pay them for information. An example could be someone in a recruitment company selling copies of passports or visa documents.
Poor performance: Nobody is going to admit to poor performance in a previous role if they are trying to impress a potential employer, and they certainly won’t list references who could potentially scupper their chances. Without an efficient vetting process, how will you check if those very impressive sales figures on a CV are actually as accurate as you are led to believe? It is far more difficult to dismiss somebody on the grounds of poor performance than it is to run a simple vetting process before they start.
We all know how complicated, time-consuming and expensive exiting individuals from a business can be. It isn’t a pleasant experience for anyone involved and impacts on the wider employee morale and you have to start from scratch, recruiting, training and developing a new replacement.
Concerned? You don’t need to be
Vetting is a comparatively low cost, ranging from £150-300 for new employees and even less for existing ones. It can also easily be outsourced to specialist companies that can do everything for you. In my own business, our professional vetting services consistently uncover information that results in offers being revoked. When all is clear, you also get peace of mind that what a prospective employee has told you is indeed the truth.
If you don’t currently vet your employees, I would recommend implementing a phased approach. Existing employees often attach a stigma to being vetted as nobody likes to feel like they are being picked on. Start with all new employees and then gradually phase this across your business on a consistent basis based upon set criteria, such as access to client sites or seniority of position/responsibility. You are not only protecting yourselves but also your employees, and as such vetting should be portrayed as an overwhelming positive in any business.