Use of Background Checks Requires Common Sense

by Michael Haberman on August 23, 2011 · 0 comments


I have written an number of times on the importance of and the use of background checks. You can find those previous posts by clicking on these titles: Background Checks and the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Background Checks: Why the FCRA Basics Are Important, and Credit Checks: Yes or No? At Omega HR Solutions, Inc. we value the importance enough of background checks to have a partner that is connected to us on our website. You can find them here: Worksite Products. Using background checks requires that you follow the law, so you must understand what you have to do. If you don’t read my posts. The use of background checks also requires a very big dose of common sense.

An article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution points out some of the mistakes that companies make. The article, entitled “More Companies Check for Arrests” (available only in print), reports that more and more employers are moving to protect themselves by conducting background checks. While it is important for employers to do this they are making mistakes in their use. A local district attorney points out that these records, which were set up for use by police agencies, often have arrests records that may have resulted in no conviction or where even made in error. A representative of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said that many of the public records may not be accurate. And many of employers using these records do not have training in intrerpreting these records.

Some employers may reject a candidate based upon a record of arrests, regardless of when the arrest(s) occurred or whether they resulted in a conviction. This is a violation of the law which requires that ONLY convictions are to be considered. Off handed rejection of any candidate for something that occurs on a background check can cause trouble for employers. This is why common sense needs to be used. If you are an employer that is using background checks here are a few considerations you need to make before rejecting a candidate.

  1. Review the record to determine if you are dealing with an arrest or a conviction.
  2. If dealing with a conviction, review the nature of the conviction. Is it applicable to the position for which the person is being considered? A conviction of embezzlement certainly may disqualify someone from an accounting position, but a conviction of DUI has no bearing on the position.
  3. When was the conviction? Someone convicted as a result of a youthful mistake should not be penalized 15 years later.

If you are an applicant with such a background you are often torn between reporting it up front or hoping that you are not found out. Teela Jackson of the recruiting firm Talent Connections advises job seekers to be honest. I agree with that. Employers are not inclined to be forgiving of candidates that have tried to decieve them. Be up front, explain the circumstances and rely on the good graces of an understanding employer.

There are a lot of ins and outs of the background checking process. Employers need to understand the best, and legal use, of this very valuable tool to getting the best workforce possible. So education is important.

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