The New York Times is tackling a tough subject – the correlation between having a criminal record and the likelihood of being unemployed. At the center of the issue is the use of background checks to vet candidates. It’s a very good read and should be added to your queue.

The man profiled in the article claims he has had difficulty landing a job since pleading guilty to a resisting arrest charge. The problem is that every time he applies for a job he knows they will want to run a background check and that his arrest and conviction will show up. Here is an excerpt:

“The reluctance of employers to hire people with criminal records, combined with laws that place broad categories of jobs off-limits, is not just a frustration for men…; it is also taking a toll on the broader economy. It is preventing millions of American men from becoming, in that old phrase, productive members of society.”

We’ve tackled criminal record issues and how they related to the screening industry before on ActiveCare. Here’s two of our best:

The Criminal Record Effect: Do Pending Charges Show Up on a Background Check?

The Rise of the Ban The Box Movement: Ban The Box 101

And, as we’ve done in the past, we like to dissect portions of articles like this and offer our perspective as a nationally-accredited screening agency. Click here to read our dissection of an op-ed about a proposed bill that would require teachers to undergo a financial background check.

The NYT article has plenty of solid information but also offers us a platform to remind you WHY background checks are, and should continue to be, an essential component to any hiring policy. Let’s examine some of the article’s most compelling points.

“Employers, of course, have always taken an interest in the histories of prospective employees. Banks do not want to hire embezzlers; trucking companies do not want drunken drivers. Schools and security companies don’t want to hire criminals of any kind. But the easy availability of online databases lets employers investigate everyone — indeed, it makes hard to justify not looking. Surveys show roughly nine in 10 United States employers check databases of criminal records when hiring for at least some positions. Some focus solely on felony convictions; others also consider misdemeanors or arrests.” – NYT

What Active Screening Says: Yes, certain industries do have high standards about who they hire and why they don’t want to onboard a convicted criminal. Do you really want to have to explain how this guy slipped through the cracks as a high school football coach? Background checks provide pre-emptive security measures, protect your company’s pocketbook, and provide peace of mind that your hard-earned reputation will stay in tact. This Boston Globe article says it boils down to this: “the question of which value we hold most dear: to guard our safety by permanently tracking those accused of crimes, or to preserve our identity as a country of second chances.” Regardless of your industry, would you EVER really want to justify NOT looking? We didn’t think so. Honestly, every company should be working as hard as those nine out of ten companies to protect its employees and assets by vetting every employee and volunteer who cashes a check with your company’s name on it.

“Rising concern that background checks are being used to systematically exclude applicants with criminal records is fueling a national “ban the box” movement to improve their chances. The name refers to the box that job applicants are sometimes required to check if they have been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor. Fourteen states and several dozen cities have passed laws, mostly in recent years, that generally require employers to postpone background checks until the later stages of the hiring process.” – NYT


What Active Screening Says: We’ve written extensively about Ban The Box on ActiveCare. Our last post about it – Ban The Box: Have a Criminal Record? Here’s How to Land Your Next Job – is full of helpful tips to help those people struggling with this very issue look for gigs and present themselves in a better light. It’s not easy to find a job with a
criminal record – it’s true. It’s also true that nothing, so far, has been proven that shows eliminating the question ups a candidate’s chances of getting hired (although we’re pretty sure researchers are keeping a close eye on this and will have data on this within a couple of years). What’s key to understanding Ban The Box is the real point of it – not preventing employers from having access to background information, but eliminating its use as a preliminary screening tool. Proponents want candidates evaluated on all their merits first, and then factor in a criminal record if a check turns one up. Walmart, Target and Home Depot no longer ask about criminal convictions at the beginning of the application process.

“Lucia Bone worries that background checks are getting a bad rap. Ms. Bone is the founder of a nonprofit called Sue Weaver Cause that urges employers — particularly those that send workers into homes — to check the backgrounds of new hires and to conduct regular checks on existing employees. She says that many companies are not being careful enough… “I very strongly believe that everyone has the right to work, but not every job is right for everyone,” Ms. Bone said. “It is the employer’s responsibility to protect both their business, their employees and their customers.” – NYT


What Active Screening Says: There are so many Federal restrictions to how a company may advertise, interview and hire applicants that background checks are almost the last tool available to protect their customers, their employees and themselves from criminal behavior. Active Screening is a nationally-accredited background check agency who prides itself on accurate results, timely turnarounds and in-depth research. In fact, 80% of all criminal research is conducted in-house, with another 20% gathered by professionally-trained, boots-on-the-ground research staff. When you have this type of collaboration between researchers, information is re-verified and errors are virtually eliminated (reporting errors are often cited as a critique of background checks). There will always be people who attack the screening industry, but there is no better option available for employers who wish to vet the candidates who want to work for them. And, at this point, there is no better screening agency than Active Screening.

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