4 Best Practices for Thorough Criminal and Public Record Checks

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Background checks would be simpler if one all-encompassing database housed every piece of relevant information an employer needs to make an informed hiring decision. But, unfortunately, that resource does not exist.

Nor is there a standardized checklist an organization can follow to ensure its searches return all the information necessary to fully evaluate a given candidate. Too many factors are at play in each situation for that type of list to be effective.

However, there are some general considerations that can offer much-needed guidance as an organization contemplates a background check that includes criminal and other public records:

  1. Scope and depth should reflect nature of position. It’s fairly obvious that an executive would likely merit a more extensive search than a mail clerk, but what if such distinctions weren’t as clear?

    To better determine what, where, and how far back to look during a background check, organizations should carefully consider criteria like:

    • The level and profile of the position
    • How much access the position has to assets, customers and data
    • Potential effect on safety and security
    • Financial/fiduciary responsibilities
  2. Timing. There can be a wide variance in how long it takes some sources, like county courts, to return search results, which is one way having an experienced employment screening provider by your side can help.Such a partner can help you decide what searches you should request to minimize the time required for a background check. In some instances, there may be alternate sources of data that provide faster results.
  3. Consistency across job levels. Another critical issue to keep in mind is that a background check should be consistent across similar positions.If you’re simultaneously recruiting multiple customer service representatives at the same level, for example, the scope and depth of the search should be the same for all applicants. This allows you to consider the same information across the board and helps protect against claims of discrimination and possible legal action.
  4. Legal and regulatory compliance. You should remember that a number of laws, regulations, and even guidance can affect how criminal and other public records are used as part of an employment background check.In 2012, for instance, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance regarding how it believes employers should use criminal record information to make hiring decisions. According to this guidance, employers should consider the nature, severity and how recently a crime was committed – as well as its relevance to the open position – before deciding not to hire an applicant.

    This is why you’d be well-advised to engage with your legal counsel to better ensure your background screening program is compliant with applicable laws and regulations.

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HireRight is a leading provider of on-demand employment background checks, drug and health screening, and electronic Form I-9 and E-Verify solutions that help employers automate, manage and control background screening and related programs.

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The HireRight Blog is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Any statutes or laws cited in this article should be read in their entirety. If you or your customers have questions concerning compliance and obligations under United States or International laws or regulations, we suggest that you address these directly with your legal department or outside counsel.