The history of vetting
These days, screening potential new employees is standard practice for a huge number of businesses and organisations around the world, and we believe, should be an essential part of the recruitment process for all.
But how did the practice of vetting come about? Here we plot a brief history of assessing individuals prior to appointment, how vetting became what it is today and the impact of cyber vetting.
The term ‘vetting’ takes it origins from the world of horse racing – the verb ‘to vet’ was used to describe the act of checking the health and fitness of race horses by a veterinarian as far back as the 1890s.
A couple of decades later, the expression had extended its meaning to denote the general action of ‘evaluating’ or ‘assessing’ not just horses, but individuals, particularly when talking about checking for weaknesses or shortcomings.
By the 1930s, ‘vetting’ was a moderately popular term and a fairly common practice, most often carried out during the appointment of military positions. References to the ‘vetting’ of manuscripts and public speeches ahead of their delivery can also be found.
The development of national security throughout the 20th century resulted in an increasing need for vetting and screening processes. After the USA entered into World War II in 1941, the appearance of classified information in the American press highlighted the fact that Britain’s security classifications were not understood across the pond. This led to Britain bringing its security classifications in line with those of the United States, and the standardisation of terms between the two.
No longer just a prerequisite of the military domain, pre-employment vetting is now an established and indispensable procedure. As well as verifying an applicant’s experience and skillset with previous employers, many other checks can be carried out, often depending on the sector and level of the position in question.
For example, since the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) was set up by the Home Office in 2002, employers have been able to access information about candidates’ criminal record history, and the now well-known CRB check is designed to safeguard potentially vulnerable individuals by vetting the people permitted to come into contact with them.
UK government policy dictates that staff must undergo numerous stages of security vetting prior to employment, ranging from the entry level Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS) to the highest clearance of Developed Vetting (DV).
With the wealth of personal information many people self-publish online today, it’s no surprise that employers are using this freely available material to make judgements on their prospective employee’s suitability.
A 2007 survey found that over half of UK employees would be outraged if they knew that their employers had investigated them on social media, and 56% of them would find it unethical (wikipedia.com). It’s likely that these numbers have dropped considerably since then, as this kind of online check is now much more widely accepted and even expected during recruitment.
This can be a tricky field to navigate however, as basing employment decisions on this kind of information, processing it or storing it could be illegal under the Data Protection Act 1998, a fact many businesses may be unaware of.
If you are after a failsafe method of vetting your prospective employees, talk to us about how PASS can help. Our Personnel Automated Screening Software is an efficient, cost-effective and thoroughly comprehensive route to a fully vetted workforce.