Contractors' Questions: What checks should I expect?

Contractor's Question: I'm looking for what will be my second contract role via my limited company in the banking sector. What is the typical story with references and background check? Will the agency and client just want to do the normal two references for me personally and just need to see Certificate of Incorporation, Proof of Indemnity insurance and so forth for my 'Ltd'? Or do they look into the Ltd in any more detail and ask for documents like prior accounts, proof tax payments are up to date?

Expert's Answer: The depth of the background check depends very much on the financial institution you are being contracted into. Some banks will require a full array of checks, which include, credit checks, sanctions checks, 3-year employment checks covering all gaps over three months, criminal checks, directorship checks and reputational checks. A minority of banks will be happy with 2 year referencing, directorships and credit checks. The two main stumbling blocks for most contractors in our experience are:

- The ability to prove every address you have lived at for the past 5
- The ability to cover gaps in employment in an auditable and sensible way (without using character referees).

For example, if you were at home for six months and did not register unemployed, go travelling or had a baby (to be evidenced by a birth certificate), one of the largest banks in this country would refuse to give you access to their premises.

My advice to you is to keep excellent records of your assignments, written proof of all your addresses and a readily available and auditable trail of all your activities. If your file is too difficult to reference, you may lose out over another contractor who has
everything at hand, especially if the client is in a hurry.

As a final point, in the majority of cases, the recruitment firm is there to facilitate the process. The actual referencing will normally be carried out by a screening company. If you have your ducks in a row the process will be smooth and painless. Good luck.

The Expert was Alexandra Kelly, the founding partner of Powerchex, part of pre-employment screening firm HireRight.

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