Most people won’t even go on a blind date without at least Googling the person they’re going out with. When hiring, many HR departments won’t go beyond a quick criminal records check and a phone call to three references (provided by the potential employee) before making the decision to hire.
This posts discusses the limits of basic criminal records checks, context, and how to make the best hire possible with the due diligence of a thorough employee background check.
Isn’t a criminal check enough?
A criminal records check shows you the tip of the iceberg. When you don’t find a criminal record, you also might not find out the applicant is a deadbeat dad who hasn’t paid child support in the past ten years, has flunked out of anger management classes, or that his best friend is involved with a drug-smuggling ring.
In other words, a criminal records check gives you little insight into what type of person your applicant really is.
Conversely, if you rely too heavily on the criminal check, you might miss out on someone you really should have hired. Imagine you’ve done a criminal check on Joe, and see that he was convicted of aggravated assault a few years ago. You won’t get the subtext, which could be something along the lines of Joe having broken Frank’s nose because Frank a) cheated with Joe’s wife, b) slashed the tires on Joe’s car, c) kicked Joe’s dog, or d) all of the above.
One specific criminal conviction does not necessarily make Joe an undesirable employee. Additionally, you could be in for an EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunities Commission) investigation if you exclude Joe from consideration based on his criminal record.
I need to do more?
If you find something when you do your background check, you should at the very least discuss it with your potential employee. Everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes have legal consequences. Smart people learn from them, move on, and can become very honorable, worthwhile people.
Ideally, you should check references, and also ask those references for additional contacts. This helps you to determine patterns of behavior. A thorough check of references and cross-references will help find both the positives and the negatives. Then you can make an informed decision after weighing both.
What specifically should I consider?
In addition to looking into an employee’s criminal history, you’ll want to look at their educational background, their finances, and their employment history. It’s important to make sure that you follow the same process for every applicant in order to avoid the possibility of being accused of discrimination.
If you’re in doubt, it’s wise to consult your company’s legal department to make sure that everything you’re doing is within the law. Some types of inquiries could constitute an invasion of privacy.
Should I hire a pro to perform background checks?
Comprehensive employee background checks give you a better overall picture of a potential employee. This can be very important when it comes to your security, not just financially, but in terms of the safety of your other workers. You hear about acts of workplace violence on the news, and most of these instances could have been prevented with a thorough background check done by a professional investigative agency. Most first-class private investigative agencies have their own in-house computer system or have access to databases of information not available to the public or through the internet. Most comprehensive background checks can be completed for a few hundred dollars.
When you hire someone, you’re allowing them into your space and that of your other workers. Be sure you’re making an informed decision.