6 Criteria for Using a Criminal Background Check in Your Hiring

An estimated 65 million Americans or 25% of working age citizens have some form of criminal record. Statistics show 92% of employers now conduct a criminal background check, at least for some positions, and many would love to be able to run a check on every candidate they consider hiring for a job.

While recruiters are fully entitled to do checks such as education verification and, in some instances, credit checks, criminal checks can only be lawfully used under certain criteria.

Here are the top 10 criteria for using these checks as part of your hiring process:

1.    Disclose Your Intention

If you’re using a background check to make a decision about whether or not to hire a person, it’s considered a professional setting that affects their livelihood. You have a duty to notify the candidate that you intend getting a criminal background check as part of the process.

2.    Get Written Consent

Once you have informed the person about the check, it’s a good time to ask for written consent. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) has standard consent forms you can use to ensure you have all the right information and permissions.

3.    Establish Relevance

Certain jobs require employees who are free of criminal records. These typically include working with vulnerable people, such as children or special needs patients, or being employed in positions of power, such as police officers. This means that the type of position you’re recruiting for establishes whether a criminal background check is required, but the result still needs to have relevance to the position. A candidate with a former conviction for fraud, for example, would find his or her criminal background is relevant to working in financial services, but a candidate with a conviction for marijuana usage would not.

4.    Confirm Arrest vs. Conviction

An arrest record, while counting as a criminal record, doesn’t mean the candidate is a criminal. Until a conviction is reached, suspects are considered innocent, so it’s important to evaluate the status of the background check results before using it to influence your hiring process.

5.    Treat All Candidates Equally

It’s vitally important in your hiring process to treat all candidates the same, whether it relates to criminal background checks or any other criteria. It’s acceptable to turn down a candidate on the basis of the background check result, provided you don’t then make a job offer to another candidate with a similar record. To ensure equality for all, it’s best to include a statement in your job posting that indicates for which positions a criminal record is unacceptable.

6.    Use the Results Lawfully

If you do find out a potential employee has a criminal record, how will you use the information? Privacy laws vary, with some states allowing potential employers to ask about a conviction only if it relates directly to the position. Other states only allow criminal background checks after a certain point in the interview process, or after an offer of employment is made.

The Last Word

Criminal checks are a valuable way to ensure you’re making the right decision for your business, but it’s best to use a reputable background check company rather than trying to do-it-yourself. The DIY route is filled with risks such as Internet-related liability from gathering information that can be considered discriminatory.

For more information on how to conduct a lawful criminal background check on a potential employee, contact us to get a quote for your business.

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