There’s Only One Right Answer to This Stupid Poll Question

Nick Fishman


Those of you who have been following this blog for a while know I do my best writing when I am outraged. This also explains why I haven’t been writing as much over the last few months. I just haven’t had anything juicy to sink my teeth into. Until now!

PBS just posed the most ridiculous poll question to their viewers, listeners, and readers:

Should employers doing background checks be blocked from seeing non-violent criminal offenses?

Response Choices:

  • Yes, a non-violent offense should not be an obstacle to gainful employment.
  • Yes, non-violent offenses should be sealed from background checks, but only after 10 years.
  • No, a business owner has the right to know the full background of the individual he/she is hiring.

Before you answer, let’s analyze each of these responses to make sure you’re making an informed decision.

Are you a fan of hiring people without all the information?

If you are leaning towards the first choice (you’re just wrong and by the way, why are you reading this blog?), you should consider the following examples of how this policy could go awry.

One of the most common convictions uncovered while performing an employment background check is Driving Under the Influence (DUI). While this isn’t a violent crime on its own, what happens if the person does it and then crashes into another vehicle? Would you be comfortable hiring a driver that has one or many drivers who have such convictions on their record? Not only is this an issue of sound due diligence on behalf of the employer, it also protects the people in the other vehicle.

Not convinced, let’s take another example. Robbery isn’t a violent crime. Don’t you think a financial institution such as a bank would want to know about that when conducting employee background checks? A bank would be derelict hiring someone with this type of criminal history (not to mention face millions in fines from the FDIC). And from the consumer standpoint, how would you feel if you fell victim to this person? I know, the FDIC insures your deposits, but American tax-payers are ultimately on the hook.

I could go on all day, but you get the gist.

Maybe You Think There’s No Harm After 10 Years

I am more understanding when it comes to the second response, but it is important to consider some important factors here.

Let’s say that someone was a habitual offender prior to the 10 year period. However, they also committed the same or a similar crime in the recent past. If the offense was non-hirable anyway, there’s no issue, but pre-employment background screening is often evaluated as a body of work. If one offense alone wouldn’t overly concern the employer, knowing that there were other similar offenses might.

What if it was just one offense, but it was a biggie? There are some non-violent criminal convictions that need to be evaluated regardless of age.

For example, let’s say that you are hiring a procurement manager. You might pause if you know the person had been convicted of embezzlement, right? Embezzlement is a non-violent offense and therefore wouldn’t be discoverable beyond the 10 year limitation.

Perhaps You’re Not Into Hiring Blindly

If you’d answer “No”, welcome to the club. Bottom line, employers have the responsibility to protect their employees, their customers, and themselves from those that would pose an unnecessary risk to the organization. It is important to understand that employers don’t generally eliminate a candidate simply because they have a conviction. They consider the severity of the crime, how long ago it occurred, whether someone is a repeat offender and most importantly, and how the criminal activity revealed in the background check might correlate to the position they are being hired for.

In fact, our most recent marketplace survey indicates that employers hire 90% or more of candidates who have convictions on their records. This indicates that a criminal record in and of itself is not an automatic scarlet letter.

Regardless, I can’t wait to see the results. I’m sure they’ll provide plenty more reasons for outrage.

In conclusion, I’m not against the employment of those with convictions. I am against not performing the proper due diligence required to make an informed hiring decision or limiting the information that an employer is lawfully entitled to evaluate.

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Nick Fishman
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Nick Fishman

Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
Nick Fishman
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