Charity begins with the Pre-Employment check!

Lessons from the crises in the charity sector – the value of pre-employment checking

 Throughout 2017 and into 2018 we have seen countless revelations in respect of the conduct of individuals across different sectors from sport to the church to the movie industry, and now the third sector seems to be the latest to struggle with its responses to scandalous behaviours from its staff. Oxfam and Save the Children are of course the more high profile cases, but just like the movie industry, we should expect this one to shed light also on a few more skeletons in the closet.

Central to a number of these stories, below, is the principal of disclosure, where many individuals appear to have moved from one organisation to another within the sector with ease and without issue despite growing knowledge about inappropriate behaviours.

It does beg the big question of how, given their previous behaviours, the individuals involved have had the opportunity to secure important and public facing positions with their new employers.

And these are the cases we know about. What about those cases that have been successful at sweeping everything under the carpet, with individuals still in post – potentially still getting away with damaging behaviour?

How can the third sector shed light on this and improve its governance policies? Does this also raise issues about the quality and even the value of the pre-employment process? Was there a pre-employment process followed at all, or was it just an administrative tick box exercise? Or, no matter how effective the pre-employment process was, would such relevant information have ever been disclosed?

All employers have usually received the references which state only the positon, start and end dates. These bland factual based references do not give the new employer an understanding of character, performance or behaviour.

How can a prospective employer, and especially an employer such as a charity that has to be beyond reproach, peer beyond this bland factual wall?

A good pre-employment process is comprehensive. It not only verifies the individual’s identity and checks their stated employment dates, it also checks the character of the prospective employee. This process requires more than a few machine algorithms and automation much loved by recruiters these days. It requires the human touch and human judgement – a process that allows for digging a little deeper if something doesn’t seem right and if the statements on a candidate’s CV don’t seem to add up. Checking their character by speaking to character referees as well as previous employers, checking their qualifications and where appropriate their finances. These can all prove useful insights to establish a candidate’s character. But it’s also important to take this further. Technology these days means we all have our digital personas and lives, so by looking into a candidate’s social and digital presence can paint a picture of a person that no automated software can yet pick up on.

When an employer can glean a more comprehensive story of the individual, and from this an employer can be more confident that the person is not only right for the role but fits with their business culture and values. In a charity, values and integrity are paramount.

Unfortunately, in this rapidly moving world we now live in, organisations often put expediency first in their desire to snap up talent in an increasingly competitive market. This means they are still undervaluing the pre-employment process, and it can be a very costly mistake. In the case of Oxfam, rogue individuals are putting the very organisation itself at risk!

Whether you are a charity or a third sector company, or whether you are an SME or a global corporate, if you rely on processes that are no more than tick box exercises, you need to consider the risks. Recruiting staff, especially senior managers and executives is one of the biggest investments any organisation can make, not just in the costs of recruitment but in what impact that person has on the company when in post.

These revelations should act as a strong reminder that hiring talent is one of the most important business decisions they will make. If you don’t have a robust and forensic pre-employment process in place, what risk are exposing your company to and what could it do to your brand damage if you put a rogue employee in post? Is that a risk worth taking!


Signature HR carries out comprehensive pre-employment checks, with a range of services on offer. Call us today for an informal chat.