5 Questions to Consider When Hiring a Candidate With a Criminal History

Hiba Haider

Do you really know who you're hiring? If you're not completing an employment background check, you may be missing red flags about your potential hires.

Every effective hiring strategy includes a few essential steps. Phone screens, in-person interviews, and office tours. But every veteran recruiter, hiring manager, or HR professional knows there is yet another integral step in job candidate consideration: a thorough pre-employment screening.

This final step helps ensure that every candidate you bring on board has been truthful about their experience and most importantly, doesn't pose a safety or a liability threat to your company.

Candidates who have criminal records need additional consideration. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission discourages employers from blanket bansagainst hiring people with criminal records. Instead, the agency requires that employers conduct an individual assessment to evaluate the age of the record, its relevance to the position, and other factors. 

Consider the following five questions when hiring an employee with an alert on their pre-employment background check.

What type of an alert is it?

Not all records carry the same weight or importance. Seeing that a candidate has an alert is not enough reason to reject them from the role altogether. Take the time to investigate the offense and its severity before making any final decisions.

Example #1: A candidate being considered for a receptionist role has several traffic violations on their record. Because this alert does not dictate the candidate's ability to perform their job, the employer extends a job offer to the individual.

When did it happen?

Since laws and policies constantly change, it's important to consider the dates of certain events in order to understand if they are still relevant in a hiring situation. Dates can also be a good indicator to gauge if a candidate took the time to pay their necessary dues or learn from their mistakes.

Example #2: A candidate being considered for a entry level sales position has a record pertaining to underage drinking. The candidate is now over 21 years of age and has proven to be a reliable and trustworthy employee through various interviews. The employer moves forward with this candidate and offers them the job.

Does it affect the candidate's ability to perform their job?

It is illegal for employers to reject job candidates without concrete proof that the individual is not qualified for the position they applied for. In fact, doing so can result in serious negligent hiring lawsuits. Running a pre-employment screen on a candidate is an effective way to determine with confidence if an individual meets a certain set of requirements for a certain job.

Example #3: A candidate being considered for a teacher's assistant position has come back with a sexual harassment record. The candidate is immediately eliminated from the applicant pool because state laws prohibit individuals from having such a history when employed in the childcare and education sector.

Is this person a potential risk to your company?

Every new employee you hire impacts how your business operates and contributes to your brand reputation. If you're not careful, a single bad hiring decision can cost your business more harm than good. Employment background checks limit this risk by providing you with detailed, factual information about the individual before you make the hiring decision.

Example #4: A candidate being considered for a driving position at an app-based transportation service company has a total of three DUIs on his record. While the transgressions happened more than five years ago, the employer chooses not to hire this individual since the job offer was contingent on a clean driving record.

What's the context?

As with every relationship, open and honest communication is the key to success. If questionable alerts arise within a job candidate's record, get the full story before eliminating them from the running.

Example #5: A candidate being considered for an accounting position has a record of illegal possession of marijuana. Because this candidate was a top choice for the role, the employer asks for more details around what this alert. The candidate explains his poor choices during his teenage years and has shown recent evidence of maintaining a drug-free lifestyle. After understanding the full story, the employer extends an offer to this individual.

Opening The Conversation

Talking about criminal records can be uncomfortable for anyone: candidate, hiring manager, and even seasoned HR professionals. After all, a criminal record likely represents a low moment in the candidate's life. 

GoodHire recently introduced a way to make this process easier. Called Comments For Context, the new feature lets candidates write comments about any criminal record they may have and save them to their background check results. 

The new candidate portal that powers this feature also gives candidates significant control over their information so they feel empowered, rather than judged, by the background check process.

Read more about hiring candidates with criminal records here, then join the conversation online @goodhiretweets #fairhiring #goodhiring. 


Hiba Haider

Hiba Haider


Hiba is an expert product marketer with a background in inbound and digital marketing. She writes about recruiting, HR laws, and how to build a great culture and is a proud Babson alumna.

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