What is vetting and screening?

Vetting and screening are often used interchangeably, but the two involve differing processes. So what is vetting and screening?

What is vetting and screening?

Pre-employment checks are a vital part of the recruitment process for almost all employers. By verifying the background and credentials of a potential employee, hirers can ensure applicants are not only legally able to move into a particular role, but also they are likely to be a great fit for the position and wider organisation.   

These checks may include, but are not exclusive to, criminal record checks, qualification verification, and confirming the applicant has a right to work in the country of employment. 

In recent years, rapid technological advancements have impacted candidate vetting and screening significantly, making it easier for employers to verify the identity and credentials of applicants remotely – however managing pre-employment checks effectively can still be a challenge for many businesses.

What is vetting?

Candidate vetting is the practice of checking, through third-party verification, whether the information a candidate supplies during the recruitment process is correct. The law requires employers to suitably vet potential recruits to ensure they have not provided false information and that they are eligible for the role they have applied for. 

All organisations have a legal duty to prevent illegal working by carrying out right-to-work checks to ensure prospective employees can legally work for the organisation.

What is screening?

Pre-employment screening is the wider process of making sure that applicants have the hard and soft skills, experience and values needed to perform well in their prospective future roles.

What is the vetting process?

From an employer’s perspective, the vetting process should be considered from the earliest stages of the recruitment process, with the job description and person specification clearly outlining requirements. The job offer letter and terms and conditions of employment should also be drafted to include what checks will be undertaken. Thereafter, a vetting process will most likely include a ‘right to work’ check and criminal record check, although the latter is often dependent on the sector, organisation, and specific role.

What is the screening process?

As with vetting, screening should be built into the recruitment process from the beginning of the candidate journey. Every company will manage the screening process differently. For example, some may ask for references at the shortlist stage, while others will wait until a job offer has been made. 

The screening process may include:

  • CV sifting to screen out unsuitable applicants
  • Telephone interviews
  • Further interviews – either face-to-face or online, one-to-one or panel style
  • Reference checks
Vetting process in Australia

Guidance on best practice vetting processes, the Australian Standard for Employment Screening (or AS 4811-2006), was published in 2006. While the standards are detailed in nature, they are broken down into three key areas:

  • Identify: Employers need to be able to verify physical identity and home address of an individual
  • Integrity: Prior work experience and referee integrity should be checked and police checks should be conducted
  • Credentials: Prior work experience, qualifications or professional memberships should be confirmed and references sought for prior positions.

Employers are required to undertake right to work checks to verify a person can legally work in Australia. Other vetting to ensure the “eligibility and suitability” of personnel is completed based on individual roles and business requirements. For example, Criminal Background checks – also referred to as Police Checks, National Police Clearance or National Police Certificates – are required for certain roles and employers. Checks are conducted through providers accredited by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission. These checks can also be carried out online to streamline the process, though in-person checks are also still utilised. 

Vetting process in the UK

From April 2022, right to work in the UK checks can now be carried out online permanently, following a temporary change in procedure in response to the pandemic. Holders of biometric residence permits are now only able to evidence their right to work using the Home Office online checking service. Those without biometric permits can still go through a manual system which includes presenting physical documents which are verified with copies stored and dated.

For criminal record checks, employers can apply though the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) in England and Wales, Disclosure Scotland, or AccessNI in Northern Ireland. Applications can now be made online and must be countersigned. Some sectors and job roles, such as roles working with vulnerable adults within the care sector, will require organisations to carry out a criminal record check before employment can commence.

Some roles will include a medical questionnaire as part of the vetting process. However, employers should be mindful that the Equality Act 2010 prohibits asking health and disability-related questions without a valid reason. For example, to determine if the candidate can carry out a function that is intrinsic to the role or if they require reasonable adjustments to be made for them to do their job.

Is screening the same as vetting?

The terms ‘screening’ and ‘vetting’ are often used interchangeably to refer to the practice of pre-employment checks. The processes around screening or vetting will vary considerably between different countries, sectors and individual employers. Generally speaking, pre-employment vetting is making sure applicants meet the legal requirements for a role. Candidate screening refers to carrying out checks beyond those required by law to establish if a candidate is a good fit for a role.

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