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Why we need a risk mindset in recruitment

We make some very big decisions based on very little information when we are recruiting people.


In many cases a couple of interviews and maybe an assessment around personality and characteristics and the offer is made.  And then we hope it doesn’t all go wrong. In recruitment, how often do we do an honest assessment of the risk involved in hiring people?


At our last Resourcing Leaders Lunch, hosted by CVCheck, Andrew Maffett spoke about some of those stories that have made news of people that have been hired on false pretences or went on to commit crimes at work. Often at great cost to the reputation of the company.  


Indeed, one of our leaders owned up to hire an infamous person which had made news when she was found out at another company.  The candidate had presented with a different name and experience but knew enough about the topic to get the job having presented the best CV they had ever seen. They worked it out quickly after they hired her but they hadn’t done any screening checks before she started.

Ask any talent acquisition professional, that the reference checking process is the worst part of the process. We groan to do it and can, in the heat of making a time efficient offer, forgo the process to get that person offered and onboard quickly. We may leave it to the hiring manager to make the call around the risk of doing so.


However as specialists in our field, we should be advising on the risk and ensuring the process is quick, valid and completed. But faced with hard to track referees, timeframes around getting the checks completed and the administration involved, we do not always ensure it is done.   As recruitment professionals, we need to work with a risk mindset to ensure the right person is working with you and the correct governance is in place.


To ensure a safe workplace and give a clear picture of a candidate, CVCheck recommended nine core principles for a risk based approach to employment screening.


  1. Standardise screening across your organisation

  2. Conduct  screening to verify, at source, information provided by candidates  

  3. Conduct screening to assess the suitability of a candidate’s character

  4. Know the personnel risks to your organisation and tolerance for each risk

  5. Identify risk factors related to employee roles

  6. Conduct appropriate checks to reduce risks to an acceptable level

  7. Conduct  screening activities at the most appropriate time.

  8. Recognise that risks recur and change over time (so consider rescreening for certain roles)

  9. Protect the interests of the candidate



In New Zealand, before hiring a person there are on average at least three checks done on the person’s qualifications, credentials and records. In Australia, we average 1.2 checks. These checks are more often done at that point in time, when we are close to offer.

How often do we think of rescreening our people, particularly when finances are involved? Life moves on and for many of us and as our circumstances change (such as promotions involving more responsibility) so how often to do we consider screening for the new role’s risk?


At our recent Reconverse event on change and transformation, Ben Rynja from Sodexo talked through the process he went through to build a business case for using an external agency. He estimated it took one whole recruiter away from the team and the results were mixed. Whilst the business originally baulked at the added expense, the results have proven his case. The external provider identified at least four potential risky hires however the most surprising data that he found is that the majority of the references were being done when his team were not working.


Whether you move to an external provider or continue to do it within your recruitment team, maybe it’s time you re-evaluated your background screening processes. We should be helping the business understand the risks or making a premature decision and the time it takes to take a candidate through this process as it could affect the business, its culture and its reputation.


Andrea Kirby is the Director, The Recruitment Events Co. Australia. In 2019, the RL100 will be launching. An invite or recommendation only group of the top Resourcing Leaders in Australia. We will be meeting regularly to discuss many issues and strategies for the continuous improvement on our corporate recruitment functions.

CVCheck sponsored the Resourcing Leaders Lunch held in November and will be a partner to the RL100 in 2019.