You have an open position, and you’ve found an amazing candidate. So, should you consider running a criminal record search before you hire them? It’s probably a smart idea! Here’s a brief overview of this type of screening.
What Does a Criminal Record Search Uncover?
Criminal record searches uncover convicted felonies, misdemeanors and infractions as well as pending cases and any history of incarceration. Felonies are the most serious offenses, and they usually result in more than a year of jail time. Examples of felonies include murder, burglary and rape as well as white-collar crimes like fraud. Misdemeanors are crimes such as assault, shoplifting and drunk driving. Punishment for misdemeanors often involves less than a year of jail time, fines, community service and/or restitution. Infractions or violations are petty offenses punishable by fines or possibly a few days in jail. Individuals may petition to have infractions expunged or removed from their record. Therefore, infractions are less likely to appear than felonies or misdemeanors.
What Doesn’t a Criminal Record Search Uncover?
Pending cases and arrests that did not lead to convictions may or may not show up on background checks. (Some states limit the reporting of this information.) Sealed juvenile records also typically don’t appear. Additionally, criminal record searches don’t show civil records. Civil cases are filed by wronged parties or individuals and include personal injury, contract disputes, divorce, child support and bankruptcy. In some states driving violations like traffic tickets are listed as civil citations too. Thus, they can only be found on a motor vehicle record search.
How Far Back Will It Go?
In most cases, criminal record searches go back 7 to 10 years. Yet, there are many exceptions. Several cities and states have laws restricting lookback times to anywhere between 3 to 10 years. Hawaii, for example, limits reporting on felonies to 7 years and reporting on misdemeanors/infractions to 5 years.
Are There Different Types of Criminal Record Searches?
There are four kinds of criminal record searches federal, national, state and county. National criminal record searches provide a good overview with faster turnaround times. Yet unfortunately, they may miss crimes at the federal and/or local level. Federal criminal records searches examine 94 federal U.S. district and appellate court databases not included in national checks. These could uncover federal-level crimes such as identity theft, tax evasion, counterfeiting, illegal firearms sales and kidnapping. State and county level criminal record searches are conducted in areas where a candidate has lived. Since these searches are more thorough, they often find crimes a national check missed.
How Can This Information Protect Your Business?
- Identify Potential Problems
No one’s perfect. As a result, you shouldn’t be surprised if a new hire doesn’t have a 100% clean record. Nevertheless, be on the lookout troublesome trends. For instance, if a candidate has several reckless driving charges, you don’t want them operating company vehicles.
- Prevent Theft
According to a recent report, employee theft costs U.S. businesses $50 billion a year. Criminal record searches will tip you off to any problematic behaviors ranging from shoplifting to embezzlement. And this could save your organization both money and embarrassment.
- Avoid Negligent Hiring Lawsuits
Employers have an ethical and legal responsibility to practice due diligence when hiring. This means you organization will be held liable if you know or should have known an employee was a threat. Thorough background screening practices help you avoid this costly litigation.
- Keep Everyone Safer
Ultimately, neglecting to background check your employees is reckless. While theft or a lawsuit is distressing, a preventable tragedy is devastating. Your company owes it to your employees, your customers and the public, to keep everyone as safe as possible.
- Maintain Your Reputation
When a story about a company not properly screening their employees hits the news, that organization looks bad. If they aren’t taking the time to conduct background checks, where else are they cutting corners? Vetting your workforce allows you to maintain your image as a trustworthy and responsible employer.
How Do You Run a Criminal Record Search?
Although the internet offers lots of “fast and free” background check options, don’t be fooled. These services are not only unreliable but also inappropriate for pre-employment screening. Criminal records are classified as consumer reports. As such, they are protected by the Fair Credit Reporting Act or FCRA. In other words, before you collect information on a candidate through a third-party provider, you must receive their consent. Plus, many states, counties and cities have additional regulations. Failure to follow any of these rules could lead to a lawsuit. In fact, within the last ten years, companies including Amazon and Wells Fargo have paid out $174 million for FCRA violations. (CBS News, 2019) If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry. A background screening provider can help you successfully navigate any applicable laws. For the best results, search for firms with the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) seal of approval.
Should You Conduct Background Checks Before or After Extending a Job Offer?
You’ve decided to run a criminal record search and you’ve partnered with a PBSA accredited provider. Now, should you conduct the background check and then make a job offer or the other way around? The federal government allows for either scenario, but individual states have various laws. Therefore, you may need to make a contingent offer before screening. Usually, this is part of ban-the-box legislation which seeks to give those with criminal records a fair chance at employment. Again, if you’re not sure what the rules are in your area, consult with your screening firm or legal team. They will be able to give you up-to-date advice.
Would You Like to Run a Criminal Record Search Before Offering Your Next Candidate A Job?
Metrodata Services is here for you! As Western New York’s leading pre-employment screening provider, we offer multiple background check services including federal, national, state and county criminal record searches. Contact us today to make the best-possible hiring decisions!