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How should we use background checks in the hiring process?

by on
in The HR Specialist Forum

Question: "We have begun running background checks on prospective new hires. But we're finding that this just adds one more layer of subjective information for us to weigh. How should we incorporate the results of background checks into our overall candidate selection process? Are there pitfalls we should watch out for?"—Linda, Arizona


Develop a consistent set of rules as relates to results of a background check. example Criminal check: felony in last 7 years can't hire!
or Any violence conviction, can't hire. Remember to always focus on convictions, not charges. Then make sure you can justify the rules as none discriminatory, and then follow the rules. Be sure it's the right person when you get results. Validation is critical.

I would be careful to write rules like those stated in comment above. You could be charged with discrimination. However, do pay attention to patterns. Bad driving records is not a desirable trait for a driver position, or someone who will do company business travel. Then you should have as part of your job description under requirements: "good driving record." If the candidate has many collection accounts, defaults, etc, and you are seeking an accountant, well then it might not be your best candidate.

On our aplication we ask: Have you ever received a verdict other than 'not guilty' in any kind of criminal proceeding including but not limited to felonies, misdemeanors or traffic related offences. Note: Do not list any criminal charges for which the records have been expunged. This information will not necessarily be a bar to employment. Factors such as the age and time of the offence, the seriousness and nature of the violation, any rehabilitation, and your subsequent employment history will be taken into account.
If yes, describe when the conviction occurred, the facts and circumstances, and any facts pertaining to rehabilitation."

If the criminal background check comes back with a record the applicant did not disclose, we won't hire because they falsified the applicaton. Make sure you give the applicant the required notification of adverse employment action as required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

If the applicant was honest about their criminal history, the company uncovers must balance the need to avoid negligent hiring suits and workplace violence with the need to avoid discriminating against ex-offenders.

The EEOC has set down three guidelines for determining if there is a business necessity for refusing to hire an ex-offender. These guidelines require employers to consider:
• The nature and gravity of the offense.
• The amount of time that has passed since the conviction and/or completion of the sentence.
• The nature of the job held or being sought.

The EEOC states that there should be a “reasonable amount of time” between the ex-offender’s release from prison and the company’s decision to hire the ex-offender. Unfortunately, neither the EEOC nor the courts have provided guidelines as to what constitutes a “reasonable” amount of time to wait before offering employment to an ex-offender. In addition, several states have laws that address this issue.

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