Recruit the right person
Pre-employment checks are the foundation of good personnel security. They reduce the risk of a trusted person harming your organisation or business.
Pre-employment checks allow you to:
- confirm the identity, eligibility, suitability, and capability of a person you’re recruiting
- find out if an applicant has concealed important information or misrepresented themselves.
Carry out pre-employment checks on everyone you’re considering employing, including existing employees changing roles, contractors, short-term staff, and secondees. Don’t skip pre-employment checks because of a person’s work experience or seniority.
PERSEC1 - Recruit the right person
Ensure that all people working for your organisation (employees, contractors, and temporary staff) who access New Zealand Government information and assets: • have had their identity established • have the right to work in New Zealand • are suitable for having access • agree to comply with government policies, standards, protocols, and requirements that safeguard people, information, and assets from harm.
Carry out the right pre-employment checks
The three main types of pre-employment checks are:
- baseline checks you need to do for all roles
- optional checks to use when you identify an increased security risk
- mandatory checks for national security clearance holders.
Some organisations may have extra baseline checks because of the nature of their work. For example, Police vetting is mandatory for roles in organisations that provide services for children.
Do baseline checks for all roles
You must carry out the following pre-employment checks for each person.
- Confirm their identity
- Confirm their nationality
- Confirm their right to work in New Zealand
- Check their references with their former employer
- Conduct a criminal record check.
You can do your own pre-employment checks or get a third party, such as a recruitment agency, to do all or some of them for you.
Remember to get the applicant’s consent first. Under the Privacy Act, you should get consent in writing before you or a third party gather information from referees or other sources. You should also tell the applicant how you will use the information that is gathered.
If you use a third party, make sure you’re clear about what checks they’ll do and to what standard. It’s good practice to ask for:
- confirmation they’ve done the checks you requested
- copies of reference checks.
Confirm their identity
You need to check that people are who they say they are. To confirm someone’s identity, ask to see an original document, such as their passport or birth certificate.
Be mindful that:
- some people may have an alias (for example, a previous family name)
- some people may be known by other first names
- naming conventions differ between cultures.
If you find unexplained discrepancies in someone’s identity documentation, ask your HR team for advice.
Meet the evidence of identity standard
When you’re doing identity checks, you must meet the standard for evidence set by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA).
The DIA provides helpful advice on checking and confirming identity documents, such as birth certificates and passports.
Confirm their nationality
It’s important to confirm a person’s nationality as it may affect which information, assets, and work locations they can access.
Confirm their right to work in New Zealand
If you’re recruiting someone to work for your organisation in New Zealand, make sure they’re either a New Zealand citizen or have the right kind of visa to work in New Zealand.
For people who aren’t New Zealand citizens, check which visa they hold and whether the visa conditions allow them to do the job they’re applying for.
If you’re recruiting for an overseas posting
If you’re recruiting someone to work for your organisation in an overseas location, check they have the right to work in that country. For example, if your organisation has an office in China and you need to recruit someone to work there, confirm the person is eligible to work in China.
For advice to help you confirm work eligibility, contact the relevant embassy.
Check their references with their former employer
How a person has performed and behaved in the past is a good indicator of their future performance and behaviour. Checking references thoroughly gives you an opportunity to:
- check the person can do what they say they can
- get an insight into the person’s character.
Check that any referees are:
- recent (from their last employer)
- appropriate for the role (remember to also verify the person worked for the organisation, as evidenced in their CV)
- from a legitimate source (ask your HR team for help with this if needed)
- free from any conflicts of interest (such as being in a close personal relationship with the applicant).
It's good practice to take detailed notes from any verbal checks, such as phone conversations. File your notes for future reference.
If you have any concerns after checking references, consider doing some of the optional pre-employment checks as well.
Checking references from overseas
Overseas references can be harder to check but you should still check them as thoroughly as you can.
Conduct a criminal record check
A criminal record check helps you to identify any:
- criminal convictions that may make a person unsuitable for the role
- measures you might need in place to manage risk if you decide to recruit the person.
You must have the person’s consent in writing before you go ahead with a criminal record check. You also need to understand your obligations as an employer.
If you’re concerned about the results of a criminal record check, some of the optional pre-employment checks might help you to get a clearer picture of the person’s trustworthiness and suitability.
Getting a New Zealand criminal record check
In New Zealand, the Ministry of Justice does criminal record checks. This is the minimum requirement for criminal record checks. More detailed information is available through police vetting. Your organisation’s policies and procedures should determine what check you request.
Ministry of Justice criminal record check versus Police vetting
A Ministry of Justice criminal record check only covers convictions. Police vetting can also include information on any contact that a person has had with the police including:
- active charges and warrants to arrest
- any interaction a person has had with the NZ Police, including family violence incidents and investigations that did not result in a conviction
- information subject to name suppression where the information is necessary for vetting purposes.
A Ministry of Justice criminal record check is currently free if you request one directly from them. Police vetting currently costs $8.50 plus GST.
Getting an overseas criminal record check
When you’re doing pre-employment checks for people who are overseas residents or recent migrants, consider whether you need to do an overseas criminal record check.
Be aware that rules for requesting criminal records differ by country, and sometimes by state or territory too.
View the following guide from the United Kingdom’s Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure for helpful advice.
In some places, only the person the criminal record belongs to can apply for their record. In this situation, you could ask the person to apply for their record and give you an authenticated copy of it.
Be alert to warning signs
Factors that on their own, or together, may raise concerns about a person’s integrity and suitability to work in your organisation, include:
- any current involvement with criminal activity
- withholding information about criminal convictions not covered by the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004
- false statements in a CV or job application form
- false claims about qualifications or achievements
- unexplained gaps in the applicant’s employment or residential history
- adverse character references
- conflicts of interest
- evasive behaviour when asked to verify information they have provided
- evasive behaviour or a refusal when asked to supply references or give consent for criminal record checks or credit checks.
- social media presence.
Use optional checks to reduce risks you’ve identified
When you identify an increased security risk with a role or the nature of your organisation’s work, additional checks could be necessary. For example, for an IT administrator who has broad access to your organisation’s information, you may wish to take greater steps to ensure they’re trustworthy.
The additional checks you apply will depend on various factors including your organisation’s security context and culture, and operating environment.
You can use psychometric testing to test for various abilities and personality traits. This type of testing can be useful in the following situations:
- you’re concerned about the results from baseline pre-employment checks
- it’s difficult to assess whether someone has the abilities and traits required for the role.
Use a qualification check to help your organisation find out if educational qualifications, professional body memberships, or practising certificates listed in a CV are legitimate.
If a qualification is critical to the role, consider making this check mandatory to avoid serious harm to your organisation.
Make sure you sight original documents rather than copies. If you’re not sure whether the documents are genuine, consider contacting the educational institute or professional body to verify the qualification.
Checking occupational registrations
Immigration NZ’s website lists occupations that require registration in New Zealand and the contact details for authorities that can verify whether a person is registered.
Checking university qualifications
Some universities make their graduate databases available online so you can search a person’s name and check what qualifications they’ve achieved and when.
Checking overseas qualifications
You can ask the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) to check whether a qualification from overseas is recognised in New Zealand or comparable to a New Zealand qualification. This service has a fee and takes about 25 working days.
A credit check is a commercial check of public records associated with the applicant’s financial history and any associations with businesses.
You should do a credit check if the role carries a significant financial risk or the person will have a financial delegation. Get the person’s consent first.
Be aware that the results of credit checks can be subjective. Make sure you:
- get an appropriately experienced person to review the results
- have policies and processes to address any questions that a check brings up.
Remember that under the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004, some minor offences won’t show up in a credit check if the person has completed the rehabilitation period (7 years without criminal convictions).
Bankruptcy is removed from records 4 years after a person is discharged.
Police vetting covers more than convictions. It also checks for:
- active charges and warrants to arrest
- any interaction the person had with the NZ Police, including family violence incidents and investigations that didn’t result in a conviction
- information subject to name suppression where the information is necessary for vetting purposes.
Under the Vulnerable Children’s Act 2014, applicants for certain roles must go through police vetting.
In other situations, police vetting may give you more assurance about a person’s suitability for a role.
Before you apply for police vetting, make sure you get the person’s consent in writing and follow your obligations as an employer.
Requesting police vetting
To request police vetting, your organisation must be registered with the Police Vetting Service.
Requesting an Australian criminal history check
If your organisation is registered for NZ Police vetting, you can ask to use their Australian Criminal History Checking Service.
Drug and alcohol check
It might be part of your organisation’s policy to do drug and alcohol testing for roles which:
- involve working in safety-sensitive areas
- directly affect the safety of other people.
You may also decide these checks are appropriate when your baseline checks suggest a person may have problems with drug or alcohol use.
Get legal advice before you decide to do drug and alcohol testing as privacy and employment laws apply.
Do mandatory checks for national security clearance holders
The vetting process for people who need a national security clearance includes mandatory checks and is carried out by the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS).
Be cautious about employing a person before the vetting process is complete to avoid potential employment issues.
Address any concerns from pre-employment checks
If you have any concerns arising from pre-employment checks, you should:
- assess how the risks are likely to affect the role the person may be employed for
- work out whether you can reduce the risks to an acceptable and manageable level.
A qualification can’t be verified
You can’t verify a qualification that is essential to a role, so you decide the risk is too great and rule that person out.
A credit check reveals a small debt
A credit check reveals a small debt from many years ago, but the role doesn’t include managing finances, so you decide it’s safe to hire the person (assuming you are satisfied with the outcome of your other checks).
Record what you discover
Remember to record all:
- concerns that come up during pre-employment checks
- risk assessments you carry out
- decisions you make to reduce or manage risks.
Create a risk management plan if necessary
If you employ a person with identified risks, work with them to create an individual risk management plan. Use the plan to support the person in their work, treat risks, and maintain your organisation’s security.
Page last modified: 17/11/2022