It’s great news when your business becomes so busy that you need to hire an employee to keep up the good work.

Unfortunately, job applications can be a competitive and stressful process, leading to candidates at times feeling the pressure to apply ‘artistic licence’ to their credentials – or omit a part of their background completely. That’s why it’s important (and in some cases mandatory) to carry out some checks before your successful candidate starts in their new role. 

Below are just some of the pre-employment checks you might want or need to carry out:


Employers have a duty to prevent illegal working in the UK which means you must conduct specific documentation checks. There are serious penalties to punish employers who flout this law, which extends to an unlimited fine and up to 5 years in prison. Even if you have carried out some checks but have not done them properly, you can face up to a £20,000 fine per illegal worker you employ. It is not just the financial hurt either as your business details could be published as a warning to others.


Not all roles need a DBS check but for some roles it might be appropriate to carry out due diligence (for example, a security guard) and for specific industries it is an offence not to have carried out a DBS check.

Perhaps the most known example is a role which gives a person unsupervised access to children, but there are other less obvious examples such as dispensing opticians, chartered accountants and dental hygienists. It is always worth investigating if you should carry out a check.


If you are employing a more senior role, such as a company director, you should consider additional checks. Anyone who has a bankruptcy order, debt relief order or bankruptcy restriction is banned from being a director. You might also want to check if they hold a position that could amount to a conflict of interest. 


You must remember to act proportionately when collecting information about people, especially their health data (which is a special category of data). But some requests can be justified. For example, drivers can be prosecuted if they drive without meeting the DVLA standards of vision so you could require an eyesight exam. Your insurer might also require information about your employee for specific types of cover. 


If you have an employee who will be managing your bank accounts it could be appropriate to carry out a credit check. 


Brand is one of the most important aspects to protect in your business. You might want to scan the major social media platforms to make sure that your prospective employee has not posted any content that goes against your company culture. You should consider when this is appropriate and when it might be too invasive – it is more justifiable for high profile individuals that will be the face of your company.


There are few circumstances where you must obtain employment references (for example, where the Financial Conduct Authority requires you to). Don’t ask for reference or referee contact details unless you intend to follow up on the check.

It is good practice to carry out due diligence but remember that you must be able to justify any pre-employment checks which are not compulsory. Don’t do checks or collect information just because you’ve seen it on other application forms – think about why you are doing the check and if you really need to do it. 

Where you do decide (or you have to) carry out a check, you should be clear with candidates about what checks you plan to carry out and how long you plan to keep the results. You also should decide what record of the check you should keep, you might just need a record that the candidate passed your check rather than retaining the documentation (it will help you minimise the personal data you hold about your staff).

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, click here.