Criminal Background Checks: a Necessary Requirement in any Hiring Process

Criminal Background Checks: a Necessary Requirement in any Hiring Process

Obtaining criminal background checks have become a routine practice in today’s human resources departments, as more and more employers recognize that they need to know as much as possible about the candidates they’re considering to hire.

You see, virtually all mistakes a person makes over the course of his/her life is recorded in some way, whether it’s a felony, driving under the influence, or simply a traffic ticket. And when employers run history checks on candidates for a job interview, all this public information becomes available online, on their computer screens, as part of the Criminal Records Registry.

But before an employer conducts a criminal background check, here are a few issues they should consider:

  • Not all criminal background checks are the same. When conducting a criminal background check on a prospective employee, make sure you choose a reputable investigations company. Many of the online firms do not conduct in-depth searches that cover federal, state, and local criminal databases. There is no such thing in the U.S. as a central criminal database, so it’s possible that some public records might reveal a few inconsistencies. And a comprehensive background check should also include extracting county records.
    In order to establish what counties to search for, it’ll be necessary to conduct a Social Security trace, in order to ascertain in what counties a person has worked in and where he/she lived.
  • Criminal convictions should be related to the job at stake. For example, driving under the influence (DUI) conviction should be relevant to the job of someone who does a lot of driving for the employer. Criminal records can not be used against the candidate if it’s not related to the job description.
  • Employers must be aware that certain types of records can not be used for employment purposes.  For example, if a prospective candidate for a job was arrested for a crime, but charges were never filed, the corresponding public record obviously still shows up. However, since they were never convicted, those public records can’t be used against them. Employers must be aware that they can only take hiring decisions based on convictions – not on arrests.
  • You normally need to make an offer of employment contingent upon successfully passing the criminal background check, before you can initiate the whole process. The criminal background check service you select can provide you with the proper forms needed in order to obtain consent from the job applicant.
  • The use of credit checks in the hiring process is controversial, because it might not be relevant to the specific job opening.  You see, the recent recession and jump in foreclosures means many more Americans have a poor credit rating. Furthermore, some job seekers claim that bad credit  is used as a way of discriminating against specific ethnic groups. In the U.S., there are very stringent regulations concerning when an employer is allowed to conduct credit checks for job seekers.

Unfortunately, criminal background checks  are a necessary requirement in any hiring process. Although most people feel they are invasive of their privacy rights – particularly for social media background checks – employers need to conduct them so that they can be prevented from making expensive recruitment mistakes. It’s much better to research thoroughly the candidate for the job opening in order to make sure they are a good fit, instead of making a bad hiring decision and then having to go through the whole process all over again in six months’.

Criminal Background Checks For Job Screening Purposes (free trial)

Criminal Background Checks For Employment / Job Screening Purposes (risk-free trial)

Recently, criminal background checks became a key part of the job screening process, both to exclude unsuitable (or even dangerous) employees, as well as to help in hiring the best possible candidate. But the whole procedure of obtaining a proper background check is full of shortcomings that vary in each state and/or county.

The optimal background check should be precise, comprehensive, consistent, instant (when obtained online) and, of course, legal.

Coordinating all these factors is normally very time-consuming, and the work performed differs in accordance with the location of the job applicant and where he/she has lived in the past.

As a result of the fact that the whole background check screening process is unregulated, employers that don’t know how to test a proper screening process may end up with a criminal background report that is both inaccurate, and incomplete.

Most employers routinely conduct background checks on job applicants as part of the hiring process.

Increased usage of criminal background checks by employers to prequalify job applicants arises from the growth of legal claims suggesting that an employer was negligent in hiring an employee who later engaged in workplace violence or some other act that might result in theft of company’s property or sexual assault to a colleague at work.

The fact that negligent hiring is so common (particularly among smaller organizations with fewer resources) greatly increases an employer’s exposure for large damages claims, making the use of criminal background checks a great defense to liability, in case violence might occur in the workplace.

Furthermore, many organizations are also conducting criminal background checks on current employees, either on a routine basis or prior to a transfer, promotion or any change in the terms and conditions of employment.

Employers utilizing  background checks for employment purposes must adhere to a number of legal requirements before they can use a criminal background check on an employee or job applicant.

Prior to obtaining a background check, the employer must make a very clear written disclosure to the job applicant that a background check may be obtained, and such disclosure can’t be incorporated into an employment application.

The employer must also get the written authorization of the job applicant to ask the background check report. However, an employer is entitled to refuse hiring any applicant who won’t complete such written authorization.

What’s Included in a Criminal Background Check?

The restrictions on an employer considering criminal histories for employment purposes are driven primarily by state law.

The state law restrictions on the use of criminal background check information for employment purposes are as diverse as the number of states in the USA.

The federal and state enforcement agencies seem to be balancing the proven effectiveness of utilizing background check information in making hiring decisions against the potential for a disparate impact on minorities.

Furthermore, arrest records are subject to the principle of innocent until proven guilty, whereas conviction records, by definition, are adjudications of guilt. Thus, the state agencies favor employment decisions based on criminal convictions (and not arrest records) because the offense has been objectively confirmed. As a result, employers are on much safer grounds relying exclusively on criminal convictions when making hiring decisions.

A comprehensive criminal background check involves accessing many sources of information.

The federal database doesn’t contain date of birth or Social Security Number (SSN) information, making an exact match difficult for individuals with common names. Date of birth and full name are the most common identifiers, but driver’s license numbers and SSN may be retrieved as well.

Because common names may pull up records for a number of different individuals, it’s important that employers ask job applicants to provide full names (including middle), maiden names and any other names used in the past. For the same reason, job applicants should provide home addresses going back as many years as will be searched.

Counties are the source of criminal information, and therefore, they generally have the most comprehensive criminal background information.

County records generally contain information about felonies, misdemeanors, infractions, and traffic violations in addition to arrests.

Such records are available to the public and generally go back at least twenty years, but it’s unlawful for employers to use all such information (e.g. arrest records) in the job screening process.

Depending on the county, a search may be performed online or in person, either by a court clerk or a private individual.

State databases of criminal information are compiled from the underlying county criminal background history data. Thus, state databases rely on local jurisdictions to report criminal information. And such reporting can be infrequent or inconsistent, and not all levels of offenses are reported.

State law determines what types of records will be transmitted from the counties to the state criminal databases. Such records include felonies, misdemeanors, infractions, traffic violations, arrests, cases without disposition, expunged records, and even juvenile records.

As with county courthouses, searches may be performed online or in person, depending on the state.

Unlike county records, which are in the public domain, states own and keep up their own criminal databases, and state laws may restrict access to various types of records. The entire criminal history is available based on information that is considered publicly accessible pursuant to that state’s laws.

Premium databases: these are privately owned databases of criminal background information maintained by companies such as and made available online to users via an initial risk-free trial.

Thus, there is no such thing as a one-stop comprehensive source (i.e., an all-inclusive national database) for criminal background information, as there are many sources – some are public, others private.

Criminal background screening for employment purposes should not be conducted lightly. Background check screening is a process that implicates a broad variety of privacy and safety concerns that people attribute great value.

Ideally, employers who seek criminal background check information want to be able to make informed decisions about whether a job applicant will contribute to a safe and productive workplace or potentially will cause some harm to a colleague or company’s property, if eventually employed. is not a consumer reporting agency as defined under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), and the information in the databases has not been collected in whole or in part for the purpose of furnishing consumer reports, as defined in the FCRA – which includes Criminal Background Check Reports.

Criminal Background Screening Report
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