Annual employee background screening statistics

March 2010 Security Services & Risk Management

EMPS, South Africa’s oldest background verifications company has just released its Annual Background Screening Report. The report is a statistical analysis of all pre-employment vetting checks conducted from January 2009 to December 2009. These statistics cover a variety of industries within the South African business sector, including, but not limited to; retail, FMCG, fast food, transport, motor, security, courier, legal, hospitality, entertainment, recruitment, finance and insurance.

The statistics are based on unverifiable data, fraudulent information submitted by applicants and criminal or credit records established. Most checks show an upward trend on the 2008 statistics.

When analysing criminal record checks, name/ID searches revealed five out of 100 applicants with a criminal record. Using newly released fingerprint technology (AFIS) to check criminal records proved three times more reliable, revealing as many as 14 in 100 applicants with a criminal record.

In order to further analyse the criminal record data, we took a closer look at those applicants with criminal convictions and found the most common convictions picked up were theft at 28%, road traffic act offences at 19% and assault at 18%. Housebreaking and fraud each as high as 7% of the convictions held. Even more frightening was the fact that 22% of applicants with a criminal record are repeat offenders, 9% have three convictions and 4% have four convictions. A further 5% have between five and nine convictions each.

EMPS also took a look at the date of convictions picked up, with records dating as far back as 1968. The relevance of this is that many employers are now not only looking at the type of conviction to establish relevance to the job but they are now also looking at the conviction date of applicants. Convictions older than 10–20 years are often overlooked in order not to discriminate against individuals who may have been rehabilitated. The majority, however, were between 1993 and 2007.

The percentage of applicants with credit records has remained quite constant, although very high, over the years, at between 21% to 25%. At least one in four applicants has been listed with a credit bureau. We estimate a further dramatic increase in 2010 due to tough economic circumstances experienced by applicants in 2009.

Although the trend is on the up, drivers licence verifications improved from 2008’s staggering 20%, down to 13% in 2009, of invalid licences. This change is most likely due to the fact that people are renewing licences more as invalid licences not only refer to ones that don’t exist, but also those that have expired or not been renewed.

2009 was a tough year for many job applicants. Many companies placed a moratorium on any recruitment and it would seem that many applicants felt desperate as we saw 8,5% of all qualifications submitted for verification as unverified.

Remaining the same as 2008, 8% of ID documents in 2009 were also invalid/unverifiable.

Finally, for those measuring integrity, 10 out of every 100 applicants tested, using psychometric assessment did not show integrity levels suitable for employment. A further 20% of those tested using the pre-employment polygraph failed on the issue of previous theft or dishonesty.

There are so many tools at the disposal of any company recruiting staff, and the statistical evidence is overwhelming that these checks are not done in vain but do in fact reduce the risk of companies who screen.

Kirsten Halcrow, MD, EMPS
Kirsten Halcrow, MD, EMPS

For more information contact Kirsten Halcrow, MD, Employers’ Mutual Protection Service, +27 (0)11 678 0807,,

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