Choosing a Screening Provider

Unlike other western countries,  the employment screening industry in New Zealand is unregulated and there is no approved Standard - anyone can establish themselves in the marketplace. 

Some factors you might want to consider when looking for a company to provide you with employment screening services, include:

 

How long does the company take to complete an employment background screening enquiry?

At PVL, we will generally have our written report and assesment back to you within 6-8 working days.

This will include the results of New Zealand criminal records checks, traffic conviction histories, financial and bankruptcy enquires, verification of qualifications, confirmation of previous employment, and so forth.

PVL has possibly the fastest turnaround of any New Zealand provider. Most other providers can not match this turnaround because they are owned by recruitment agencies or private investigation firms and with those competing interests your request may not necessarily receive the prompt attention it deserves.

 

How experienced is the company and its staff?

You will be entrusting the provider, as your representative,  with the responsibility of verifying the background of future employees.  This is a sensitive matter. 

Does the provider's promotional material and web site state explicitly what qualifications and experience they have to undertake pre employment screening?

Is the provider willing to declare and verify its own background credentials?  You need to be satisfied that they are sufficiently professional and experienced to act for you.

Also, some providers hire students to undertake their background screening and reference checking. Employment screening is not a job for inexperienced casual student employees. All PVL staff have university degrees and post-graduate qualifications and are full-time permanent employees - when you engage PVL you will know who is undertaking your enquires and you can contact them directly at anytime.

And is it relevant to this work? For example, many companies that offer screening services are staffed by ex-Police Officers and they promote this as their qualification to act for you. But former Police Officers have no previous experience of pre employment background screening - it's never been a Police Officer's job to undertake this form of specialised Human Resources enquiry and assessment.

 

Be wary of foreign screening providers pretending to be in New Zealand

Increasingly, foreign background screening companies are offering New Zealand checks. Mostly from Australia, they set up a New Zealand 0800-free phone number (which diverts calls to their home country) and create NZ web site and e-mail addresses to give the false impression they are located in New Zealand. Background screening is all about establishing integrity, yet these foreign-owned companies deliberately conceal the fact they are not even located in New Zealand, or New Zealand-owned.

We think this practice is deceptive. In addition these firms are not obliged to abide by New Zealand law, specifically the Privacy Act 1993, and so they are beyond the reach of the Privacy Commissioner. So if anything goes wrong with the screening process, the New Zealand employer, and not the foreign screening provider, is left legally accountable.

PVL is the only employment screening company in central Auckland that remains in New Zealand hands - all others are foreign owned.

 

Does the company’s published information (e.g. telephone book entry, internet web site, brochures or forms) include a physical contact address?

Be cautious about engaging an employment screening company that does not include a physical address on its web site, trading instead from behind an anonymous post office box number, or just their web site.

It's a good idea to confirm a provider is listed in the Telephone book or Electronic White Pages. A reputable company will always have a physical address in these publications.

Also, avoid companies that demand your credit card details so they can charge you even before they do the work - providers in Auckland and Tauranga are doing this. Only pay on a tax invoice after you have received your background screening report and are satisfied with it.

 

 

Always ask a screening company for a sample report, so you can compare it with those of other providers. This will assist you to determine if their reports really are going to meet your needs and expectations.

And be skeptical of any provider that publishes so-called "testimonials" or "customer feedback" on their web site from un-named "clients". These are invariably fictitious, made up by the provider themselves, and reflect poorly on their credibility (notice how they are always un-dated). If you require a reference, a professional provider will be able to put you in touch with genuine clients willing to discuss the provider's competency.

 

Does the company prepare a written report, or does it encourage you to accept a verbal recommendation over the telephone?

A professional and fully accountable employment screening provider will submit a written report.  This also ensures compliance with the Privacy Act,  allowing candidates the opportunity to see and correct non-evaluative information.

 

Does the provider simply pass on the empirical information it has obtained (i.e. copies of criminal records checks and credit reports) and leave you to interpret them?  Or does it include its own assessment of the relevance and significance of the information?

Only professional providers will have the skill and confidence to interpret all the information collected, and be able to prepare an overall assessment and evaluation of the candidate’s reliability and trustworthiness.

 

It can be a mistake to rely on an internal database maintained by an individual screening provider.

These records are of limited use and dubious quality because they rely entirely on input from other clients.  This may be interesting but it is not likely to be objective.  The Privacy Commissioner has publicly expressed concern about this practice by some New Zealand screening providers.

In New Zealand, the only reputable databases are those maintained by the Government,  or long-established commercial credit reporting companies.

 

Be wary of providers that make you do all the typing!

Some screening companies require their clients to enter the job applicant's personal details into the providers' own online system before they will accept a screening request.

And some providers make the candidate upload their details onto their website. This can not ensure that the information provided is actually associated with the candidate.

A diligent background screening company will always accept that responsibility for themselves - recognising the importance of assessing the completeness and accuracy of the personal information right at the beginning of the employment screening process, and not trying to offload a responsibility that is rightfully theirs, back to the client, or the candidate.

You may have chosen a background screening company to save you time, but If you are paying a provider to screen your staff you should not then have to type up all the candidate's personal information into their database - the provider is after all working for you, not the other way round.

 

Does the provider have a published privacy policy?  Does it inform candidates of their legal rights? Is it readily accessible?  And does it allow them free access to the empirical information collected about them by the employment screening company?

Although a provider is working for you, they have an obligation to observe the candidate’s legal rights and address and allay any concerns a potential employee might have about the background checking and verification process. 

Employment screening can be a stressful time for a candidate and a thorough privacy policy is the first step in ensuring that they are treated with dignity and respect throughout the process. 

Should the candidate be successful in their application, appropriate treatment by the employment screening provider will enhance the transition to becoming a company employee.

 

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