Today’s employers may choose to run background checks on job applicants for variety of reasons. Concerns about negligent hiring, verifying a candidate’s honesty and accountability, and other safety- or performance-related issues may all play a part in this decision. In fact, according to SHRM's 2012 survey, nearly 7 out of 10 companies report that they conduct criminal background checks on all job candidates.
Understandably, employers want to do everything they can to protect their businesses and to ensure (as much as possible) that they’re also protecting their employees. And while an interview is an important opportunity to learn about a job candidate’s character and experience, a background screen provides tangible and practical verification of a candidate’s past, and that is reassuring. What’s important to keep in mind is that background screens are most effective when they’re used judiciously and carefully. Here are a few suggestions to consider.
- Tailor background screens to search for information relevant to the specific responsibilities of the job. While it can be tempting to want to know all the information available about a candidate’s past, the ethical and legal use of background screens means that a motor vehicle report, for example, isn’t relevant for a candidate who won’t be driving as part of their job. Limiting searches to the information that is most relevant to the execution of the job functions will keep you in EEOC compliance and will yield more effective background screens.
- Use a professional background screening company to assist you. There are many excellent and affordable screening companies to choose from, and we at Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation have had great experiences in our work with Occuscreen, GoodHire, and Checkr, among others. A professional background screening company can help you get the most out of your background checks and can work with you to ensure you’re soliciting the right information for the right purpose. Additionally, quality background screening companies are able to verify information through court runners and other means, which improves accuracy and reduces the likelihood that you’ll see or use irrelevant data (arrest records not leading to convictions, for example).
- Remember to be consistent. If you have two or more applicants applying for the same job, you should be requesting the same information about them when you run their backgrounds. Varying types of job responsibilities and roles might require varying levels of inquiry, but if multiple candidates are applying for the same job with the same title, it’s important to keep your process consistent. This will help you avoid the appearance of discrimination or favoritism.
And remember, background screens may involve some level of technological or human error. The information provided from a background screen is a valuable tool to help you in your hiring decision, but it is only one tool. Thoughtfully integrating this information—with your intuition, your experiences with the candidate in the interview, and your willingness to suspend bias or assumptions about an applicant’s character based on their past—can help you to make the best hiring choice every time.
Have questions about how to proceed with a report’s findings? Many employers aren’t criminal code experts, and don’t have to be. Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation is here to help. Get in touch.
Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation is the nation’s only nonprofit foundation dedicated to inspiring and equipping employers to embrace Second Chance Employment
This post is part of a series for Second Chance Month, which highlights the need to improve re-entry for citizens returning to society and reduce recidivism. One of the primary ways to do this is by providing an opportunity for gainful employment. To sign the pledge and access the toolkit with information on how to create second chances at your company, visit GettingTalentBacktoWork.org.