Would you hire someone with a criminal history?
- Kevin Rosenquist
I read a solid article on the SHRM website about evaluating
applicants with criminal histories
and it inspired me to throw a few things
your way in relation to this topic. It brought up some great points. It’s easy
for HR managers and business owners to dismiss an applicant with a criminal
history, particularly when your company has a zero-tolerance policy when it
comes to misdemeanors and felonies. But consider these few ideas when you
evaluate your potential hires who may have a checkered past.We all make mistakes, right?
Obviously, there are different levels to that statement. If
you’re hiring for an accounting position and your applicant was convicted of
embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from a former employer that’s probably
not something you would consider just a “mistake”. But if you’re looking for a
customer service rep and a 26-year-old candidate with great qualifications
walks through your door with a marijuana possession misdemeanor conviction on
his or her record from when they were 20 would you automatically write them
Young people often do stupid things and often get caught
because, well, they are often stupid. We all learn from our mistakes, however,
and a conviction like this doesn’t necessarily mean they are a danger to your
workplace. It’s always good to get more information from the applicant in these
situations. Find out what happened.How far back do you want to go?
Our general practice is to go back seven years for records.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows for convictions on felonies and
misdemeanors to be reported forever although many cities and states have laws
limiting the number of years an employer can go back. How long should someone
be punished for a crime? In my example above, what if the applicant was 35
instead of 26? Think about what the best policy is as it relates to your
company and the types of positions you hire for.Be careful about bulk data.
The article referenced bulk data and how companies should be
careful when using it. Your concern with how to use it depends on how your
screening provider handles it, particularly with national criminal database
searches. Bulk data is often outdated or even sometimes inaccurate. It can be a
great guide at pointing towards potential hits but it’s dangerous to rely on it
alone for hiring decisions. We actually don’t report bulk data to our clients.
We verify it at the originating court to ensure accuracy.
For example, a potential hit comes up on an applicant in the
national database search and lists Clark county, NV as the offense location.
(Contrary to popular belief “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” isn’t
sufficient enough for a criminal defense.) We would then run a Clark County
criminal search which will get records directly from the county, ensuring that
the information we have is up to date and accurate. If the county search corroborates
the information from the national search we then would report it to our client,
as long as it falls within the parameters set by the FCRA and the state of
Nevada. If you’re using a different screening company than us check with them
to see how they use their bulk data.
The concerns with bulk data also apply when using data from
the instant online searches that claim to produce criminal data. The
millions(ish) of you who read my blogs know how much I preach against using
The most important things are to stay educated, have a
policy in place, and stay consistent. If you’re unsure of what you should be
doing talk to your counsel. Have a plan that speaks to what offenses will take
an applicant’s resume off the table.