The revelation earlier this year of an unqualified psychiatrist deceiving the NHS for years with a falsified degree sent shockwaves through the industry, highlights Roger Bescoby.

A glaring oversight, with potentially fatal consequences, the news once again shone a light on the importance of due diligence when it comes to hiring new talent.

Businesses risk a host of consequences should they fail to conduct comprehensive checks in the pre-employment phase, including both financial and reputation losses. In recent months, there has been a surge in queries for pre-employment screening, particularly with social media bringing past and present attitudes and behaviour into the public eye. What’s more, given the rising sophistication of fraudsters, rigorous pre-employment checks are an essential step to provide peace of mind for businesses in today’s busy labour market.

The impacts of dodging due diligence

Forged qualifications and improper checks can greatly harm a business’ operations, reputation and integrity. Fraudulent qualifications can lead to the hiring of unqualified candidates, resulting in a subpar performance, errors, and mistakes that can have catastrophic consequences. This can expose businesses to a host of legal and compliance risks. For example, if an employee with forged qualifications is hired for a position that requires specific certifications or licenses, the business will likely be in violation of industry regulations, leading to legal repercussions, fines, or loss of licenses.

There are also intangible implications to insufficient checks and hiring individuals with fake credentials, such as losing trust among consumers, clients, and stakeholders – eroding integrity and professionalism in the long-term. Importantly, the time, effort, and resources expended in training and onboarding unqualified individuals may deplete budgets, while organisations may incur additional costs when rehiring, retraining, or correcting performance difficulties.

Safeguarding your business – new approaches available

To protect against the risks of fraudulent qualifications and credentials, businesses should implement robust and innovative pre-employment screening processes, including thorough CV and qualification checks, reference checks, and international verification of credentials from reputable sources.

There are a number of agencies available that specialise in conducting comprehensive background checks, including criminal records, employment history, education verification, and reference checks. For example, private investigators often employ specialist analysts proficient in social media interrogation, which is recognised as one of the richest sources of intelligence for pre-employment research. Using their expertise, they can identify any discrepancies or red flags in a candidate’s background, providing businesses with accurate and reliable information to make informed hiring decisions.

There are also a number of products coming to the market that businesses can be utilising, such as Social Media Check Plus, a first of its kind product that can undertake integrated social media searches. Once granted consent by a prospective employee, the tool uses a rapid, algorithm-based solution, to audit the most leading social media platforms and flags content on private and public profiles related to extremism, negative sentiment, hate speech, violent images, potential nudity, profanity and toxic language into a private report. With social media constantly evolving and expanding, these types of tools will become increasingly essential in providing employers peace of mind and ensuring that an employee’s past doesn’t jeopardise carefully curated reputations.

When considering the services of private investigation firms for pre-employment screening, it’s crucial that businesses confirm they are well-versed in the laws regarding data privacy and employment regulations. It is important to remember that reputable operators adhere to industry associations such as the Association of British Investigators, whose Code of Conduct is recognised by The Law Society. This ensures that the screening process is conducted in compliance with applicable laws, helping businesses avoid legal risks and liabilities.

Outside help

Conducting pre-employment checks in-house can be time-consuming and resource-intensive for businesses. Yet, specialist organisations are available that can offer a heightened level of thoroughness in the screening process, enabling businesses to uncover potential risks and issues that will often go unnoticed through standard HR procedures.

Outsourcing this process can free up internal resources, allowing businesses to focus on their core operations while ensuring that the screening process is conducted efficiently and effectively.

However, be sure to ensure that the firms you employ are bound by professional ethics and confidentiality requirements, which mean they can handle sensitive information with discretion and maintain confidentiality throughout the screening process, protecting the privacy and rights of candidates and businesses alike. Maintaining the integrity of a business is vital throughout this process.


Roger Bescoby is Director of Compliance & Development at Conflict International.