Criminal Record Isn’t Automatic Employment Background Check Disqualifier

Nick Fishman

Criminal Record Background Check


Last week, we released our official 2013 Employment Background Screening Trends Survey report.  The report includes findings from nearly 1,000 HR professionals in various industries across the United States, who responded to our survey on employee background checks at the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013.

Among this year’s key findings was sentiment that criminal records are not necessarily deal-breakers when it comes to hiring candidates.

When a criminal record is revealed on an employment background check, job candidates do not get hired 5% of the time or less, according to 71% of respondents. This finding strongly supports employers’ longstanding assertions that they look beyond an applicant’s criminal past and that qualifications, references and interviewing skills are ultimately more important.  See?  If the EEOC just would have read this report, perhaps the new guidance would be unnecessary:)  All kidding aside, this isn’t a new revelation, but rather something that is often ignored by those opposed to the concept of pre-employment background screening.

Only 3% of respondents disqualify candidates with criminal records 20% of the time or more, however it is worth noting that some employers in regulated industries such as banking, healthcare and education are prohibited from hiring individuals with certain convictions. In our experience, employers consider a number of factors when criminal records appear on background checks. These factors might include the age and severity of the records, whether the person is a repeat offender, and the relevance of the record to the job opening. The 2013 data align closely with last year’s finding that 73% of employers say that a candidate’s qualifications are more important than the absence of a criminal record.



Here’s some quick advice for employers when it comes to evaluating candidates with criminal records:

  • Avoid to the extent possible any automatic disqualifiers or brightline hiring decisions
  • Evaluate how the negative information relates to job in which the candidate is being considered
  • Consider the recency and severity of the offense and whether the person is a habitual offender
  • Conduct an individual assessment which includes allowing the candidate to provide further explanation
  • If you still chose not to hire the candidate, make sure to follow the proper Adverse Action procedures



Download the entire 2013 Trends Survey Here



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.