How to Conduct a Risk Assessment of Potential Candidates

For some professions, conducting police checks on candidates and employees is a mandatory requirement under legislation and industry regulations. Many organisations also conduct background screening voluntarily to guard against potential risks, such as fraud, identity theft and false credentials. However, managing your risk goes beyond a simple police check.

To manage the potential risks in your organisation and the roles you’re hiring, it’s a good idea to conduct a risk assessment. It will help you understand which background checks may be valuable and how to determine whether a candidate is the right person for the job. A risk assessment involves determining the inherent requirements of the role, plotting the risk and establishing disclosable court outcomes.

1. Determine the inherent requirements

Depending on the circumstances, an employer can refuse to employ someone if their criminal record prevents them from performing the ‘inherent requirements’ of the job. Inherent requirements are the essential activities, tasks or skills required for a particular organisation and position. They are a major part of the role, can’t be allocated to someone else and lead to significant consequences if not performed.

It’s your responsibility as an employer to determine whether a criminal record will hinder the candidate’s ability to fulfil their job requirements. To determine the inherent requirements of a job, document the critical tasks and responsibilities of each role on a case by case basis. Make sure job descriptions across the organisation are up to date and reviewed on a regular basis.

2. Plot the risk of each role

To take a professional and objective approach to whether a check is genuinely relevant to the core function of the job, plot your organisation’s job roles on a risk assessment curve. Where the role sits on the curve (mandatory, discretionary or not required) is determined by its inherent requirements and the type of risks each position may be exposed to.

For positions with a higher risk, it’s a good idea to use a risk matrix to measure the likelihood of each risk (almost certain, likely, possible, unlikely or rare). This allows you to take into account individual circumstances. For example, if a candidate has lived and worked overseas, an International Criminal History Check might be valuable. The risk assessment curve and matrix are available in our free eBook.

3. Establish disclosable court outcomes

Disclosable court outcomes include any charge proven in court, or findings of guilt by a court. It’s up to you as an employer to determine which disclosable court outcomes are unacceptable for each role. For example, if a police check reveals that a candidate has a theft conviction, they may not be suitable for a role that has any direct responsibility for finance.

On the other hand, a traffic conviction may not preclude the candidate from the same position unless there was a driving requirement. Remember, a disclosable court outcome doesn’t automatically preclude a candidate from a position. Use the risk matrix you have created to determine which disclosable court outcomes are relevant to the job and whether there are controls in place to mitigate any potential risks.

4. Be transparent with candidates

It’s a good idea to be transparent with candidates, to help them feel more at ease with the process and ensure they understand which checks will be conducted and why. Many organisations choose to divulge this information in the job advertisement and again during the interview. You’ll also need to understand your privacy obligations, especially when dealing with information relating to a person’s criminal record.

A risk assessment is the first step to understanding which background screening checks are relevant to the roles you’re hiring. Once you’ve completed this, you can start planning for implementation. Download our free eBook to continue learning how to develop an effective background screening program and make it a seamless part of your talent acquisition and employee management process.  


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