Hiring Candidates with Criminal Records Isn’t Always Bad for Business

In April of 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released new guidelines that recommended employers limit their use of arrest and conviction records in hiring, promotions and other employment decisions because it could be deemed discriminatory.

As of May 2014, 60 cities and counties have removed questions concerning conviction history from job applications – a movement known as “ban the box” – to prevent businesses from immediately disqualifying candidates who have criminal records, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP).

Do these changes put your business at greater risk of hiring a dangerous employee? Not necessarily.

Here are three things you should consider before you disregard a candidate with a criminal history.

1. The amount of time that has gone by since the conviction

According to NELP, one in four adults has an arrest or conviction that will show up on a general criminal background check. And these records can follow candidates for years, long after they’ve fulfilled their sentence.

Convictions or arrests that happened many years ago may not accurately represent who the candidate is today. A lot can change between then and now. If a candidate was arrested 15 years ago, does he pose a threat to your business, your employees or your customers today?

Also, consider whether a candidate is a repeat offender. Does the applicant have a long list of criminal history or was this just a one-time incident many years ago?

With that said, it’s up to you to decide what’s best for your business. Before you make a decision, you should also consider the details of their crime.

2. The nature of the crime

Evaluating the circumstances and severity of a candidate’s criminal history can help you decide whether they pose a threat to your employees or business. Will their conviction affect the job you’re hiring for or put your employees in danger?

For example, if you’re hiring an administrative assistant and the candidate was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) 10 years ago, this may not affect how well they do their job.

On the other hand, if you’re hiring an accountant and your candidate was recently convicted of embezzling from their previous employer, you may want to reconsider.

3. Give them the opportunity to explain the conviction

If a candidate has the skills and qualifications you’re looking for, the EEOC recommends you give them a chance to explain the charges during an interview. Often candidates will share details about the crime that can help you determine whether it will impair their ability to be a successful employee.

Once you have the candidates’ side of the story, take some time to go over all the information you’ve gathered – from the background check and your conversation. Does this employee have the skills and personality to be successful in your business? Will his or her criminal past put your business or employees at risk?

It is critical to understand who you are potentially hiring. A background check is not intended to be the sole determining factor as to whether to hire a candidate. However, it offers you the opportunity to make an informed hiring decision and verify that all candidates are being considered using the same standards.

Armed with a full view, you can weigh whether the applicants background (criminal or otherwise) would adversely affect their ability to perform the job, or jeopardize your employees, clients or company, in any manner.

The more information you have about candidates, the more likely you are to make the best hiring decision for your business. A thorough background check will not only verify skills and experience, but provide you with more detail on a candidate’s convictions or arrests as well. This way you can judge each candidate on his or her merits, not on an old or irrelevant conviction.

A reputable employment screening company can help you gather all the facts you need, and enable you to make informed hiring decision. With Insperity Employment Screening, you’ll receive more current, complete and accurate information on your candidates in less time.

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