Many companies these days opt to either ask prospective employees about their criminal background, or run criminal record checks as a part of the hiring process.
While it’s true business owners need to protect themselves against risks, this can also be a legal and ethical minefield, and there are many issues that should be considered when it comes to this type of screening. In fact, if you get this wrong, there is even a chance that you might find yourself in legal trouble with the government!
Here are some of the most important issues to consider.
If You Want to Know, Ask
Having a criminal record shouldn’t necessarily exclude candidates from jobs, and in certain cases, this might even cross the line into discrimination. In many cases, it may not be strictly legal to ask employees about their history, or you might not be able to use information received to exclude a candidate. You can, however, use this as an opportunity to test the character of your prospects.
If you ask about criminal issues early on, and candidates are honest, it may say more about them than the record itself.
Remember, Relevance Matters
When it comes to using criminal history checks in the hiring process, it’s important to remember that relevance is a factor.
A candidate who has an old DUI, for instance, may not be unsuitable for a job in many fields in the US. However, if their job required them to travel to Canada, where a DUI would bar them from entry, then this would certainly be a relevant factor. Similarly, a vandalism charge from when your candidate was a teen probably wouldn’t affect their ability to work in a bank, but a fraud charge certainly would.
Put It In Context
Even if you do find out about a criminal offence in your candidate’s history, it might help to put it in context. If the offence occurred many years ago and has not recurred, then depending on the severity of the crime, it may not be relevant to the job at hand. Consider these types of factors when you interpret the reports you receive.
Opt for Professional Criminal Record Checks
Professional criminal record checks will often turn up a lot more information than you could on your own, particularly if candidates have travelled extensively or worked in different countries. Companies that routinely conduct these sorts of checks will know what to look for and where, and will also know which information you need to receive on your report, to make the process a little less confusing and complex.
Sometimes, Gut Feel Matters
It can be frustrating for companies to find that their favorite candidate has a criminal record. The kneejerk reaction is sometimes to immediately take them off the list, but this isn’t always the best course of action. After all, having a record doesn’t necessarily make them less honest or capable than other candidates, and indeed, the only difference may be that they were caught, while someone else wasn’t.
If you truly like a prospective employee and you find something unfavorable in their history, best employee screening practices suggest discussing the issue with them to find out the context.