Recently I was chatting with two friends from the recruitment industry about the challenges employers face when finding new talent. After I had bleated on for a while, David and Katrina Birchall (directors of candidate screening consultancy Employrite) kindly shared with me a really great way to determine the suitability of potential candidates using their "3 Rs".

How recent an event or fact is should be in direct proportion to the overall weight it carries in the employment decision.

For example, looking at a candidate's career history, how recently has the person been employed in a similar role or industry? If they have not had recent exposure, it's important to take this into account.

Criminal history is relevant here, too. If a person was prosecuted in 2008 for smoking a joint, but has had no criminal history since, this should be factored in. Sadly many companies have an unofficial policy that excludes people with convictions. This means a stupid indiscretion a few years ago would significantly affect your employment chances today.


Are the history and facts determined relevant to the role? Again this is where I counsel clients to "mirror" in their application what the employer is asking for in the job description and advertisement, making them a "relevant solution" to the screener.

A bad credit rating, for example, would probably discount you from a role involving significant cash handling, or a position in the finance industry. However it should not negatively affect other opportunities outside these fields.

Recidivism, or repeat behaviours, can include both positive and negative behaviour, repeated consistently over time.

For example, if a person historically demonstrates a positive work ethic and gets on well with team members, chances are this will continue to take place over the long term.

However, if a person is discovered to be consistently late, they would struggle as a shift worker where they would be replacing a colleague coming off a 12-hour shift at 8am sharp.

Alcohol and drug issues are important here too. A drink-driving conviction 20 years ago would not usually affect a person's performance on the job today. However, repeat offences indicate a candidate has some serious problems that need to be addressed before employment.

If not managed properly, these can cause major repercussions in the future, including ongoing performance issues, as well as health and safety and business risk.

Don't just trust your 'gut'
It's vital to ensure you do proper background checks when you start screening potential candidates. Time and again employers can get caught in the "candidate bias loop", where they will let some negative facts slide. This could be because they genuinely like the person, feel sorry for them or have some ulterior payoff if this candidate gets over the line.

With all the technology and information accessible to us in today's recruitment market, I can't understand why so many employers (both SME and corporate) continue to use their "gut feel" as their main indicator of candidate suitability.

Remember, the time it takes to complete full and unbiased screening of candidates will pay for itself quickly compared with getting it wrong and having to do it all over again, this time with the wrong person in place.

Tom O'Neil is an award-winning business speaker, international author of The 1 per cent Principle and chief executive of both CV.CO.NZ and Contact him at