Choosing a Screening Provider
Unlike other western countries, the employment screening industry in New Zealand is unregulated and there is no approved Standard - anyone can establish themselves in the marketplace.
Some factors you might want to consider when looking for a company to provide you with employment screening services, include:
How experienced is the company and its staff?
You will be entrusting the provider, as your representative, with the responsibility of verifying the background of future employees. This is a sensitive matter.
Does the provider's promotional material and web site state explicitly what qualifications and experience they have to undertake pre employment screening?
Is the provider willing to declare and verify its own background credentials? You need to be satisfied that they are sufficiently professional and experienced to act for you.
And is it relevant to this work? For example, many companies that offer screening services are staffed by ex-Police Officers and they promote this as their qualification to act for you. But former Police Officers have no previous experience of pre employment background screening - it's never been a Police Officer's job to undertake this form of specialised Human Resources enquiry and assessment.
Does the company’s published information (e.g. telephone book entry, internet web site, brochures or forms) include a physical contact address?
Be cautious about engaging an employment screening company that does not include a physical address on its web site, trading instead from behind an anonymous post office box number.
It's a good idea to confirm a provider is listed in the Telephone book or Electronic White Pages. A reputable company will always have a physical address in these publications.
Also, avoid companies that demand your credit card number so they can charge you before they do the work. Only pay on an invoice after you have received your background screening report.
Always ask a screening company for a sample report, so you can compare it with those of other providers. This will assist you to determine if their reports really are going to meet your needs and expectations.
And be skeptical of any provider that publishes so-called "testimonials" or "customer feedback" on their web site from un-named "clients". These are invariably fictitious, made up by the provider themselves, and reflect poorly on their credibility (notice how they are always un-dated). If you require a reference, a professional provider will be able to put you in touch with genuine clients willing to discuss the provider's competency.
How does the provider obtain information from a candidate’s nominated referees?
Many employment screening companies, and almost all employment agencies, interview referees over the telephone, sometimes they send them a questionnaire. It is rarely possible to obtain useful and meaningful information from referees other than by conducting personal face-to-face interviews.
At a minimum it enables the employment screening company to confirm the referee’s identity (undeclared family members have been known to masquerade as “friends”, and candidates have been known to act as referees for themselves).
Does the company prepare a written report, or does it encourage you to accept a verbal recommendation over the telephone?
A professional and fully accountable employment screening provider will submit a written report. This also ensures compliance with the Privacy Act, allowing candidates the opportunity to see and correct non-evaluative information.
Does the provider simply pass on the empirical information it has obtained (i.e. copies of criminal records checks and credit reports) and leave you to interpret them? Or does it include its own assessment of the relevance and significance of the information?
Only professional providers will have the skill and confidence to interpret all the information collected, and be able to prepare an overall assessment and evaluation of the candidate’s reliability and trustworthiness.
It can be a mistake to rely on an internal database maintained by an individual screening provider.
These records are of limited use and dubious quality because they rely entirely on input from other clients. This may be interesting but it is not likely to be objective. The Privacy Commissioner has publicly expressed concern about this practice by some New Zealand screening providers.
In New Zealand, the only reputable databases are those maintained by the Government, or long-established commercial credit reporting companies.
Be wary of selecting a provider solely on the basis that they claim a rapid “turn-around” or "priority service".
They are likely to be cutting corners. The foundation upon which any pre-employment screening rests is a criminal records check. In New Zealand, these are processed by the Ministry of Justice which under the Official Information Act is allowed up to 20 working days to respond (ie. about a calendar month) with the result of the criminal check. There are no shortcuts with this check.
Although a provider is working for you, they have an obligation to observe the candidate’s legal rights and address and allay any concerns a potential employee might have about the background checking and verification process.
Should the candidate be successful in their application, appropriate treatment by the employment screening provider will enhance the transition to becoming a company employee.