Conducting a criminal background check: Everything recruiters need to know

You are a recruiter assessing a potential candidate for a job role in your organization. You have reviewed resumes, conducted interviews, and weighed their qualifications and experience. 

Everything seems perfect, and you're ready to extend that job offer. But wait – have you considered one essential element, the one that often hides in plain sight? We're talking about conducting a criminal background check.

Why is this so important, you ask? It ensures that the people you hire align with your organization's values and safety standards.

Let’s walkthrough everything you need to know about criminal background checks so you can conduct them in the best manner. 

What are criminal background checks?

A criminal background check is a process that involves digging into an individual's history to uncover any past criminal activities.

If relevant to the job, a candidate's criminal history can provide valuable insights into their suitability for a role. 

The decision to hire a candidate isn't just about their resume or interview performance; it's also about ensuring the safety and security of your organization. 

Hence, criminal background checks ensure there are no red flags in their background that could hamper your project or the well-being of your team. 

6 reasons why criminal background checks are  necessary
  1. Ensuring workplace safety

Above all else, your responsibility as a recruiter is to provide your employees with a safe and secure work environment. 

Conducting a background check helps you identify and mitigate potential risks before they become issues.

  1. Protecting company reputation

Imagine hiring someone with a hidden criminal history whose actions within your organization reflect poorly on your company. 

The damage to your reputation could be irreparable. Background checks serve as a safeguard against such situations.

  1. Legal compliance

Operating within the bounds of the law is non-negotiable. 

Background checks help you remain compliant with federal and state regulations, preventing potential legal troubles down the road.

  1. Avoiding negligent hiring claims

Negligent hiring claims can be costly and damaging. 

By conducting thorough background checks, you demonstrate due diligence in your hiring process, reducing the risk of such claims.

  1. Matching company values

Criminal background checks allow you to align your hiring decisions with your organization's values. 

You can ensure the individuals you bring on board share your commitment to ethics and integrity.

  1. Boosts employee morale 

Knowing that their workplace prioritizes safety can boost employee morale. When your team feels secure, they are more likely to be productive and engaged.

9 types of criminal background checks
  1. National criminal database searches

It uses nationwide databases to scan criminal records across the country. It may include information from county and state records and federal databases.

National database searches are an excellent starting point to quickly identify potential criminal records. 

However, they should be complemented by more detailed county-level searches for accuracy.

  1. County criminal records checks

This is where you dive deep into the candidate's history, focusing on specific counties where they have lived or worked.

It provides the most accurate and up-to-date information on criminal records.

  1. Federal criminal records checks

These searches specifically target federal-level criminal records, including crimes prosecuted in federal courts. 

Consider federal checks for positions involving national security, government contracts, or other roles subject to federal regulations.

  1. State criminal records checks

This check focuses on an individual's criminal history within a specific state. 

They are valuable when you want to explore a candidate's criminal record in a specific state of concern.

  1. Sex offender registry checks

This search identifies individuals registered as sex offenders. It helps ensure a safe environment. 

Consider sex offender registry checks for positions in education, healthcare, childcare, or any role that requires close contact with the public.

  1. International background checks

For candidates who have lived or worked abroad, international background checks can uncover any criminal records from other countries.

  1. Credit history checks

This type of check examines a candidate's financial history, including credit scores and any financial issues. 

They are typically relevant for positions involving financial responsibility or access to sensitive financial data.

  1. Driving records checks

Driving records reveal a candidate's history of traffic violations, accidents, and license status. 

These checks are essential for jobs that require driving, such as delivery drivers, commercial drivers, or field sales representatives.

  1. Reference checks

Reference checks involve contacting a candidate's former employers or colleagues to gather insights into their work history and character. 

Make sure you include reference check questions that provide valuable context and can be used for nearly any type of job.

Step-by-step guide to conducting an effective criminal background check
Step 1: Candidate consent

Before you begin any background check, you must obtain the candidate's consent. This is not only a best practice but often a legal requirement. 

You should provide the candidate with a clear and concise disclosure that you intend to conduct a background check, and they must agree to it in writing.

Step 2: Gathering candidate information

Once you have the candidate's consent, gather the necessary information to initiate the background check. 

This includes the candidate's full name, date of birth, Social Security Number (where applicable), and a list of addresses where they've lived and worked.

Step 3: Choosing the right background screening provider

Select a reputable background screening provider.

They will be responsible for conducting the actual checks, compiling the information, and delivering the results to you. 

Ensure that the provider complies with all relevant laws and regulations. Some reputable and trustworthy providers include Checkr, GoodHire, and Sterling.

Step 4: Conducting the checks

The chosen background screening provider will conduct the checks based on the information provided. 

Various checks involve credit history checks, driving records checks, international background checks, and more.

Step 5: Compliance with laws

Ensure strict compliance with federal, state, and local laws throughout the screening process. Be aware of the relevant regulations in your jurisdiction. 

You must handle candidate information with care and respect their rights.

Step 6: Reviewing the results

Once the background checks are complete, carefully review the results. 

Pay attention to any adverse information, such as criminal convictions or concerning records. 

It's important to assess the relevance of this information to the job in question.

Step 7: Notifying the candidate

If adverse information is discovered that could negatively impact the candidate's eligibility for the position, notify them promptly. 

Provide a copy of the background check report and give the candidate an opportunity to dispute or explain the findings.

Step 8: Finalizing the decision

Based on the results of the background check and any additional information provided by the candidate, make a well-informed hiring decision. 

Consider the nature of the offense, the time that has elapsed, and the relevance to the job.

Step 9: Documenting the process

Maintain thorough records of the entire background check process. 

This includes documentation of the candidate's consent, the disclosure provided, and all communications related to the background check. 

Documentation is essential for legal compliance and transparency.

Step 10: Adhering to data security

Protect candidate data throughout the process. 

Ensure that sensitive information is stored securely. Also, parties involved in the screening process must follow best practices for data security.

Take charge of finding the best talent while safeguarding your organization, employees, and reputation.

Following the step-by-step process, you can effectively conduct background checks, contributing to your organization's safety, integrity, and successful hiring decisions.