Criminal Background Checks: What Employers And Recruiters Should Know

By Laura Greene - Dec. 4, 2017
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Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Laura Greene – Content Manager with TrustedEmployees. Her opinions are her own.

Are you a good judge of character? Are you good enough?

Doubting yourself may not be a sign of weakness. It can actually help you and your business survive.

Unfortunately, people lie. And your interview skills may not be enough to get them to tell the truth. Even if you’re a seasoned recruiter applicants can mislead you. So rather than trusting yourself it’s smarter to use criminal background checks to vet and hire new employees.

Luckily facts don’t lie. Criminal background checks show you what type of people have applied for your position. But don’t let the process daunt you. View it as a helpful tool to make the best possible recruitment decisions. Here are some guidelines to help you.

1. Know the law

You can’t simply jump in and do a background search. People have rights that protect them and you.

Here’s what you need to know.

Know the Law Requires it: Yes, certain positions make criminal background checks compulsory. Will the employee handle people’s personal information? Is the position connected to the healthcare, financial, or insurance industries? Avail yourself of the legal requirements if you operate in these fields.

Ask permission: Anyone you investigate must first give you permission in writing. This agreement is to protect you and the potential employee. You’re not allowed to use the information to discriminate against the person or misuse the information. This is an excellent way of communicating your business’ values. That’s how this process benefits you in the long run. Anyone working for you will know what matters to you.

Make Provision for Changes: The laws regarding criminal background checks change consistently:

  • The amount of information you’re allowed access to may alter.
  • What you must discuss with an applicant may change.
  • If the court feels your enquiries are irrelevant you can be fined. Guidelines for this may change over time.
  • Supplying the applicant with the report.
  • Telling the applicant which company performed the criminal background checks.
  • Giving the applicant time to obtain a new report and dispute information.
  • It’s your responsibility to stay up to date on legislation.

Your responsibility goes beyond asking permission: You also have to discuss the outcome with the applicant. This is especially relevant when you base your final decision on a certain report. Criminal background checks are all about finding honest, reasonable employees. It’s only fair that they’re handled in a judicious manner.

Keeping and Disposing of Information: Did you know you can’t simply throw unwanted resumes in the trash? You’re expected to keep all employee information for certain periods. This includes applications and the criminal background checks you obtain. If the report forms part of a dispute archive it until after the issue is settled. Make sure you dispose of information properly. You owe any applicant the respect of keeping personal information private.

2. It’s not about you

If you’re still doubtful whether these checks are necessary, you’re not seeing the whole picture. Criminal background checks are essential for your business’ future.

Your employees determine whether your business succeeds. Even one discredited person can ruin your business’ reputation.

This is important for recruiters too. If you recommend a candidate with a criminal background you’ll be in disrepute yourself.

Criminal acts are not limited to business premises:

  • Employees can steal from suppliers
  • Employees can lie to clients
  • Scams
  • Fraud
  • Dangerous situations
  • Burglaries of personal items
  • Through identity theft, they can become the scapegoats for criminals’ activities
  • Employees who feel safe are more productive.
  • Let workers realize the value you place on honesty. They’ll be careful not to act outside the law in their personal capacity or on behalf of the business.
  • What type of information is relevant to the position? Positions related to money require information about fraud.
  • Do you see any red flags in applications? You may not have the funds or time to do thorough searches. But small details during a first interview can help you identify problem areas. When someone does a lot of global travelling you should check for problems internationally.
  • Feedback—aside from facts—can also serve you well. Investigate someone’s character, personality and reputation. Recruiters can contact previous employers for this. No this isn’t proven or factual. But you can use it as red flags to guide further investigations.
  • Local criminal activity. Look in areas the applicant lived. But what if the person lied about his or her movements?
  • This is the way a general background check is also necessary. Confirm personal and contact details so your search is founded on accurate information.
  • Research nationwide or international criminal activity. The internet and technology mean fraudulent activities can happen on a global level:
  • It’s not only about money. What about violent individuals and sex offenders? This knowledge helps you create safe working environments.
  • Government records are often outdated.
  • Information can be faulty because of human error.
  • Certain criminal reports are only held for five or seven years. You won’t have an accurate assessment of the person before this time.
  • He or she has a legal right to know what it says. Countering some facts may bring the truth to light if a report is faulty.
  • Allow the person to explain and give reasons. This can teach you about someone’s true character.

A proper check reduces the odds of this happening. Hiring people with a spotless background is a necessary safeguard for your business.

But it’s also about your other employees. Do you want to put them at risk? As an employer, it’s your responsibility to keep your personnel safe.

3. What information is available?

Do you know what you’re looking for?

What do You Need? Criminal background checks can contain many topics. Do some research to make sure your reports are dynamic for your specific purpose. Remember the applicant must be aware of the type of investigation you launch.

Each area of investigation will require more time and expenses. If you’re filling a high profile position this is a worthwhile investment.

You can obtain information about:

  • Tax evasion
  • Immigration violations
  • Crime outside native country

4. Information may be limited

No system is foolproof. Your report may be inadequate. This is why you need professionals. Their expertise and cross-checking will prevent some inaccuracies.

But you can’t judge someone based purely on a report. Follow sensible guidelines when you receive the information.

5. The consequences of the information

Do you know your—and the applicant’s—rights regarding these reports?

Your information helps you make informed decisions. But what if you learn information that’s upsetting? You may realize someone is—or was—a violent criminal. You can’t make this information public or act upon it except for employment purposes.

Don’t use the reports to attack people. It’s more effective when used as a foundation for discussions.

Share the report with an applicant. This serves two purposes: You can see facts serve many purposes.

Can you use criminal background checks to benefit a recruiting process optimally? You can’t risk employing someone without one. But its wealth of information will only benefit you if you take the time to use the information correctly.

Laura Greene is one of the content managers for TrustedEmployees – creative people who provide businesses, non-profits, and volunteer organizations with a tailored and compliant approach to background screening through personalization, innovation, and dedication.


Laura Greene

Laura Greene is one of the content managers for TrustedEmployees – creative people who provide businesses, non-profits, and volunteer organizations with a tailored and compliant approach to background screening through personalization, innovation, and dedication.

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