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Employment tips - A well-written pre-employment questionnaire, appropriate for the job position, can help prevent hiring someone who is unsuitable.
A well-written questionnaire can help prevent hiring someone who is unsuitable.

Recruitment: Pre-employment questionnaire and employee checks

It is important to ask all potential employees to fill out a pre-employment questionnaire.

A well-written pre-employment questionnaire, appropriate for the job position, can help prevent hiring someone who is unsuitable.

Additionally there are also a number of checks that you can run on prospective employees. If the employee consents and the check is appropriate to the nature of their employment these checks can include criminal and traffic convictions, credit checks, medical checks and drug testing.

Criminal Convictions

The applicant’s criminal record is certainly one thing you should ask about, therefore your pre-employment questionnaire should include the following;

  • have they have ever been convicted of a criminal offence
  • are they currently waiting for any criminal charges against them to be heard

Obtain the applicants permission for a copy of their criminal record from the Criminal Records Unit of the Ministry of Justice on the following form:

Valid Drivers Licence

If as a condition of employment the employee is required to drive a company vehicle, travel by car or use a certified form of vehicle, you should consider asking job applicants the following questions:

  • do they have any driving licence demerit points and
  • do they have any court cases pending which could affect their driver’s licence

You may also consider registering for Driver Check: DRIVER CHECK is an NZ Transport Agency (NZTA or Agency) service that enables the status of driver licences to be queried by authorised users. Driver Check enables drivers to be linked to a company or operator and when a change occurs to the status of their licence, the company or operator will be automatically advised.

It is also a good idea to ask applicants directly why they left their last job.

Then depending on the nature of your business and / or the nature of employment, you may want to include the following questions, although they do not relate directly to criminal convictions.

  • * Questions whether the applicant is involved in anything that might conflict with working for you, such as another job or outside interests.
  • * Whether there is anything you should know about their health.
  • * Whether they are taking any medication that could affect their ability to do the job they are applying for.
  • * Whether they are legally entitled to work in New Zealand (and for how long their entitlement lasts if they have a work permit).
  • * Whether they have ever been declared bankrupt
  • * You should also ask for supporting documentation including copies of qualifications, written references and citizenship or work permit documents.

During all parts of the interview and application process you should be careful not to discriminate against a job applicant on any of the prohibited grounds in the Human Rights Act 1993. The prohibited grounds include:

  • Sex (including whether they are pregnant)
  • Marital status
  • Religious belief
  • Ethical belief
  • Colour
  • Race
  • Ethnic or national origins
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Political opinion
  • Employment status
  • Family status
  • Sexual orientation

So you should generally avoid questions that appear to relate to any of these prohibited grounds of discrimination. Examples of the sorts of questions that should generally be avoided include asking applicants whether they intend to have children, what religion they are or which political party they vote for. There are some exceptions. For example, religious organisations could have good reason to ask about a job applicant’s religion.

Finally, you may wish to consider asking for applicants’ consent to run checks on them. Again, the sorts of checks that are appropriate depend on the nature of your business. Available checks include police checks, credit checks, medical checks and drug testing. If the employee consents and the check is appropriate, there are agencies that will run the checks for you. It is best for a pre-employment questionnaire and pre-employment checks to be tailored to your particular business.

If you do not already have someone with the skills to draft a questionnaire for you, I suggest you contact a human resources consultant or employer lawyer for specific advice about your circumstances.