When should you run a criminal background check on new employees?

When Should You Run a Criminal Background Check on New Employees?

If you’re not careful, hiring the wrong person could utterly destroy your livelihood and endanger your current staff and customers. Learn more about when it’s important to run criminal background checks while hiring new employees, criminal background red flags to watch out for, tips for pre-employment screening timing, and other advice to help you get the most out of getting criminal record reports on job applicants. 

Remember that this material is intended to provide you with helpful information and is not to be relied upon to make decisions, nor is this material intended to be or construed as legal advice. You are encouraged to consult your legal counsel for advice on your specific business operations and responsibilities under applicable law. Trademarks used in this material are the property of their respective owners and no affiliation or endorsement is implied.

Would you feel comfortable choosing from 100 doors, knowing a live bomb was waiting behind five of them? Probably not. Yet, thousands of small business owners play these odds everyday  by not conducting sufficient pre-employment screening. 

According to job site Monster, at least 5% of applicants are outright denied jobs by employers on the basis of their criminal past. That means five in every 100 applicants were deemed too risky to hire due to history of relevant offenses. Are you doing enough to filter out these potentially explosive applicants?

Between potential safety issues for your current staff and customers, negligent hiring claims, and threats to company property, you can’t be too careful when picking the right candidate for the job.  

Most small business owners already know it’s essential to conduct pre-employment screening of all job finalists through a reputable service like ShareAble for Hires. However, many don’t know when you should run a criminal background check in the hiring process or what types of employees you need to screen. 

This article covers details about employment screening, how to decide when to do a background check on someone, advice for strategic timing, and other tips to help you get the most out of your screening process. Keep reading for an in-depth look, or click on the links below to jump ahead:

About Criminal Background Checks for Employees

Before getting into when you should run criminal background checks for potential new hires, it’s helpful to learn more about the process. These FAQs provide insight into common questions about employee background screening.

What is a Criminal Background Check?

For job applicants, a criminal records check is a deep dive into a person’s past run-ins with the law.  Reports may include information about arrests, charges, and/or convictions for felonies or misdemeanors.

Criminal background checks are used by the majority of employers to provide more information about job candidates and allow for more confident hiring decisions. These background checks are typically issued through one of two channels:

  • From a law enforcement agency or record-keeper directly. Private citizens and (under certain circumstances) others can request a criminal record check directly from an individual agency or record keeper. Examples could include requesting reports from the FBI, State Police, or local County Clerk's office.

    For employment background checks, going through individual agencies can be expensive and time-consuming, as each agency has different permission requirements, application processes, and costs. In all the mess, it’s easy for small businesses to overlook important information. 

  • Third-party background check providers. Some companies work between citizens and record-keeping agencies to gather information from multiple sources and bring it together. For example, after a job applicant provides consent, ShareAble for Hires scours 370+ criminal records from dozens of agencies, including the FBI’s Most Wanted, Customers and Border Protection, the National Sex Offender Public Registry, and most U.S. state databases.

    Having all criminal records checks in one place can make it easier and much cheaper for small business owners to run more efficient background checks on job applicants.

What Should a Criminal Background Check Include?

What does a ShareAble for Hires background check scan?

Depending on where you’re sourcing your criminal background check, the report could include a variety of information. At the very least, you should run criminal background checks that are most relevant for your line of work.

For example, if the position handles money, it might be wise to use a service that roots through Federal Trade Commission and the Office of Foreign Assets Control records to check for fraud charges. 

ShareAble for Hires criminal background check scours nearly 400 million criminal records from dozens of federal and state-level databases, including:

  • FBI’s Most Wanted
  • Felony and misdemeanor records for 43 states
  • National Sex Offender Public Registry
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection
  • U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency
  • Federal Trade Commission

Instead of trying to do it yourself, using a professional service like ShareAble for Hires  can help prevent common gaps in small business background checks.

What are some Red Flags on Job Applicant Criminal Background Checks?

First, it’s important to remember that everyone is different. Someone’s past mistakes might’ve been a fluke or have no bearing on their current ability to fulfill your open position successfully.

For example, many people have some driving-related marks on their record, usually from speeding or other misdemeanors. Unless your job involves driving or using company vehicles, a past traffic violation may not be relevant to your hiring decision. However, a long and colorful history of reckless driving and collisions may be more relevant if you’re hiring someone to make deliveries. 

Regardless of the position, it’s absolutely critical to understand every job finalist’s past, so that you can make more informed hiring decisions. As mentioned, it’s essential to review background checks for relevant criminal history. That is, past patterns that could spell trouble for your small business.

what red flags should you look for on a job applicant criminal background check

Examples of past crimes that may be relevant while hiring:

  • A frequent and recent history of embezzlement, extortion, theft, or fraud when hiring for a financial position
  • Violent assault or criminal sexual offenses when hiring someone to work with vulnerable populations, such as children or the elderly

Examples of past crimes that may not be relevant while hiring:

  • Minor traffic violations when hiring a cashier or office assistant role that does not require driving
  • Decades-old shoplifting charges for a remote position that never comes into contact with company property

That said, every case is different. Someone with a relevant criminal history could be completely reformed. Likewise, someone with a squeaky clean history could just be really good at hiding their crimes.

No matter what your background check uncovers, it’s important to take the information in context and get the story from your candidates. Additionally, remember to always follow all relevant hiring laws and check with your legal counsel, if needed

When You Should Run Criminal Background Checks

To protect your livelihood, you should screen every job finalist before ever signing a contract. This includes full-time employees, part-time employees, contractors, when hiring seasonal workers, or anyone else who will have access to company finances, data, or property. 

The good news is that many small business owners are already running some kind of screening. In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management states that 92% of employers conduct criminal records checks on potential employees, with the main motivation being “safety.”

The bad news is that your current background check methods may be insufficient. Negligent hiring claims arise when a new hire commits crimes or puts others in danger. If you didn’t do a good enough job screening the employee, you could be responsible for the damages.

To best protect your livelihood, make it clear from the start that hiring is dependent on successful completion of a comprehensive background check. It’s especially important to screen candidates who are going to work with vulnerable populations, handle money or sensitive data, or will be issued company credit cards or vehicles.

Consistent Background Screening Helps Prevent Hiring Discrimination

Hiring discrimination is a serious crime that could land you with some murky marks on your own record. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission advises that deciding to background check specific candidates and not others may be considered discrimination , especially if the decision is based on the applicant’s race, gender, religion, or other protected class identity.

Committing to screening every job finalists, regardless of background, is one major step to help prevent hiring discrimination. Before ever posting the job, decide if you will require a criminal background check for the job (you should) and stick to your decision for every hire. As always, refer to your legal counsel if you have any questions.

Background Check Timing: What Point in the Hiring Process?

To save time and money, most employers reserve background checks for only the top candidate(s) and only in the last stages of the hiring process. Some background screening, such as education verification, employment history, or previous employer reference checks occur well before an employer extends an offer to the employee.

However, many criminal background checks occur after a candidate accepts a verbal offer. In these cases, the offer is often accompanied by language stating that formal hiring is contingent on successful passing of a background check.

Additionally, some states––and even cities––have their own laws about when you can run criminal background checks on a job candidate. For example, according to employment law firm Ottinger, New York City law mandates that someone’s criminal record can only be checked  after an offer is made.

To determine when to run criminal background checks on employees, make sure to check out your state and regional laws and consult your legal counsel when necessary.

Whether you screen one candidate or many, ShareAble for Hires provides ultra-fast online criminal background checks. Even if your hiring process is delayed, you could potentially screen, get results, and officially hire a job applicant on the same day.

Adverse Action: What Happens if a Candidate Fails a Background Check

You felt great about a candidate. Then, someone unexpected, perhaps even shocking, shows up on your criminal record check. Now what?

When a criminal background check reveals a job applicant's relevant criminal past, it’s natural to feel worried or apprehensive. You might want to tell them to hit the road right then and there. However, before you reject the applicant outright, federal law requires you to go through several steps.

In general, you are required to explicitly communicate your concerns and adverse decision with the applicant and give them an opportunity to tell their side of the story or correct any incorrect information. After all, it’s possible there could be a name or records mismatch or the charge is much more innocuous than it appears.

You must also provide the job applicant with a copy of the report, information about the background check agency, and a pamphlet about their rights from the FCRA. For more information, see the full article on how to handle a candidate who fails a background check.

Remember that everyone is different. Someone’s criminal past may or may not be relevant to your open position in your company today. It’s important to follow all hiring laws while also protecting your business and current employees.

make stronger hiring decisions with ShareAble for Hires

Make Stronger Higher Decisions with ShareAble for Hires Criminal Background Checks

When hiring strangers, it’s much more fun to think of the likely benefits someone can bring to the team instead of the potentially violent destruction the wrong hire can cause. Don’t blindly open the door to people who could devastate your business. Reduce the risk of hiring a ticking time bomb by screening every employee with ShareAble for Hires.

Some criminals are good at hiding their crimes, making it harder for small business owners to track down every potential past offense. ShareAble for Hires criminal record checks scour nearly 400 million felony and misdemeanor records across federal and state dozens of agencies to help you find answers all in one easy-to-read report.  

Plus, with ultra-fast online screening through ShareAble for Hires, you don’t need to wait around to get results. You can get reliable data, backed by TransUnion (a major credit agency) on the same day you order your report. This means fewer delays and even faster hiring. Made specifically for small businesses with occasional hiring needs, you pay only for what you need and only when you need it. There are no minimums, no subscriptions, and no hidden fees.

FCRA-compliant systems mean that all required job applicant consent and communication is already built into the system, so you can focus on getting to really know your candidate’s past instead of worrying about potential federal law violations and lawsuits.

Don’t let the hiring process blow up in your face. Help protect your small business with thorough employment screening through ShareAble for Hires.

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