How Should the Results of Criminal Background Checks Affect Hiring Decisions?

Criminal background checks are a routine part of the hiring process, but some employers do not fully engage with their importance until they reach a challenging decision point. It is easy enough to think of such screening as basic due diligence that you do as a matter of routine. However, what happens when a promising applicant's record isn't entirely clean? 

Denying someone a job solely based on their record — any kind of criminal record- is a discriminatory act. So when a background check doesn't come back completely clean, what do you do? Ultimately, your decision is yours alone, but it can be helpful to understand more about balancing risks and potential rewards.

What are the risks of hiring someone with a criminal record?

Hiring someone with a record does not necessarily mean you've automatically compromised safety. Some types of criminal records, such as non-violent misdemeanours, may pose almost no concern to you compared, for example, to felony assault. When you hire someone with a record, you assume some risks. These include:

  • The risk that someone will re-offend as a representative of your business.
  • The possible need to terminate an employee after a new arrest and the costs and time associated with replacing them all over again.
  • Possible blowback in public opinion if you hire someone who then commits a serious crime on the job.

The goal of expanding second-chance legislation

Using a criminal background check for employment shouldn't mean creating an absolute barrier to those with records. In recent years, many states and local areas have mandated "fair chance" and "ban the box" rules. For a recent example, legislators in Illinois have considered allowing casinos to begin hiring those with criminal records.

Providing a "second chance" offers its own benefits:

  • You may find individuals exceptionally skilled or suited for your position.
  • You contribute to improving the pipeline for reintegrating into society.
  • You can make your workforce more diverse.
  • You maintain legal compliance with regulations.

How can you balance the need for fairness with safety?

The first step is to develop a sense of what is acceptable to your business and what is not in terms of criminal records. Your goal should be to give every candidate a level playing field to earn your approval. However, some types of records may be deal-breakers. Providing applicants with an individualized assessment using the EEOC factors of time, relevance, and rehabilitation can help provide clarity.

Some businesses choose to create hiring matrices that let them score a candidate's suitability across multiple categories. Evaluating criminal records and their severity can be a part of this process. Ultimately, you should strive to provide every applicant with the same opportunity. Evaluate them consistently, and you can make smarter hiring choices while providing valuable second chances.

Equip Your Business to Be Smarter and Safer

Hiring is a complex process already. Seeking to find the person with the right skills to suit your needs can be time-consuming, and troublesome results on criminal background checks can be stressful to see. However, understanding how to balance the risks and potential positive outcomes with a better analysis of vetting results can position you to make safer, smarter hiring decisions.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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