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Career Guidance

Navigating public sector pre-employment checks

Written by Jess Littlewood16 April 2024

This guide is intended for built environment professionals navigating the pre-employment checks for a job in the public sector.

If you have been successful in a public sector job application and have received a conditional job offer, congratulations!

This page will provide some guidance on what you might expect and how you can prepare for the next steps in navigating the pre-employment stages of a public sector role. It's worth noting that each Authority will have a different approach, so do ask the HR contact for specifics.

Pre-employment Checks

There are often more pre-employment checks for roles in the public sector9 than what you may have experienced when securing a job in the private sector.

These checks serve multiple purposes, including safeguarding vulnerable individuals, maintaining public trust, and upholding the reputation of the Authority. While the specific requirements may vary depending on the nature of the job and the sector, these are the most common pre-employment checks:

Employment History and References

Employment checks in the public sector are often thorough and might be conducted by an external organisation. Sometimes, you will not have a choice of which references are contacted; as an example, one of your referees is likely to be a line manager from within your last three years of recent employment.

The Authority is required to get your approval before contacting references. We recommend letting your references know they will be about to be contacted by the Authority and encourage them to respond quickly when they receive the formal request. Delays in references will impact you're receiving a contract offer and can often come with a time limit for a response.

Prove your Identity and Right to Work in the UK

You will be asked to prove your identity and right to work. This is typically done with a passport or birth/adoption certificate if you’re a British or Irish citizen and a sharecode and immigration documents if not a British or Irish citizen. You may be asked to present these documents in their original form and in person or have them officially verified. You may also need to provide further proof of address through a utility bill or bank statement.

Qualification Checks

You may be asked to provide evidence of your professional qualifications or accreditations depending on the role requirements. This could include your academic certificates, professional licenses, or registration/membership numbers for relevant associations.

Occupational Health Assessment

For some roles, applicants must get medical clearance to verify their mental and physical fitness for the job. Obtaining this clearance normally involves filling in a self-assessment form about your health and a follow-up medical assessment if required. If you have any reasonable adjustment requests, these may be checked at this stage, too, to ensure you have access to everything involved in doing the role.

DBS and Security Clearance

Some roles require applicants to have a security clearance and/or a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check to verify whether they have a criminal record. Certain types of criminal records may prevent you from doing certain roles. These checks vary from basic to enhanced, depending on the role and the level of access to sensitive information or contact with vulnerable groups.

Preparing for these checks

This pre-employment stage can take some time to process through, so if you can ensure you have everything prepared ahead of time, it will reduce any delays from your side. Here are some tips to help you prepare effectively:

  • Seek HR Guidance: Get clarification from the HR contact for the role on what to expect so you can prepare effectively, and do not hesitate to seek guidance if you need it.
  • Proactively Gather Documents: Be ready with those required for the standard checks, such as your proof of identity, education certificates, and membership numbers. Have them readily available for a quick response once they are requested.
  • Be Responsive: Provide accurate and timely responses to information requests. Any discrepancies or omissions may raise red flags during the checks and jeopardise your employment confirmation.
  • Notify your References: Let them know that they will be contacted by your potential employer and check in to see if they have received and responded to the request.

Key Takeaways

  • Be proactive in preparing relevant documentation.

  • Don't hesitate to ask the HR contact or your Hiring Manager for clarifications.

  • Remember, this process can sometimes take time

Written by

Jess Littlewood

Programmes Manager

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