What Is Vetting?

Vetting is the process of thoroughly investigating an individual, company, or other entity before making a decision to go forward with a joint project. A background review is a vetting process.

The Basics of Vetting

The verb "to vet" has its origins in 19th-century British slang. A horse was thoroughly vetted by a veterinarian before being allowed to race, so a patient undergoing an examination could be said to be vetted by a medical doctor.

In modern business usage, vetting has come to mean the process of examining a person or company for soundness and integrity.

Real World Examples of Vetting

Vetting may also be described as doing due diligence, such as:

  • A board of directors will thoroughly vet a candidate for company CEO or another top management position.
  • A business will vet a potential major supplier in order to determine whether it has conducted its business efficiently and honestly in the past.
  • An investment adviser will vet a potential investment for its track record, management quality, and growth potential before recommending it to clients.

The word is used informally in many other contexts. A refugee seeking asylum is vetted as part of the application process. Candidates for government security clearance are vetted to make sure they don't have checkered pasts. A lawyer vets a contract to find any potential pitfalls in the fine print.

What Vetting Entails

A vetting process might begin with a confirmation of facts. Is the job candidate's resume accurate in describing all the skills and experience that are claimed? Does the contractor called Worldwide Shipping have actual experience shipping worldwide?

The process continues with verification of information. Every degree, award or certification claimed by a candidate is checked for accuracy.

Whether it is a person, a company, or an investment that is being vetted, the process gets deeper, and potentially more intrusive, from there. Credit history checks, criminal background checks, and personal interviews with past and current associates all are fair game in the vetting process.

The High Cost of Vetting

A heavy reliance on vetting by governments around the world has raised some concerns related to both the high cost and the long delays they can cause.

A recent article in an Australian newspaper reported that some 350,000 people doing work for the Australian government had needed to undergo vetting processes to get their jobs. The cost to the government ranged from $300 for a minimum clearance to about $1,500 for a top security clearance. Job openings then requiring vetting included a museum coordinator, a librarian, and a veterinarian.