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A World Without Criminal Background Checks

August 16, 2011

Recently the EEOC has questioned the fairness of criminal background checks as a pre-employment screening tool. They are reviewing the practice of utilizing these checks to decide whether or not they discriminate against certain demographics.
Today, many employers order criminal background checks as a part of the screening process, and use those findings in their hiring decisions. (It’s estimated that between 80-90% of employers conducted some sort of criminal background check in 2010). If and when criminal background checks are eliminated or restricted, the landscape of the hiring process for many businesses will change.
What will employers need to consider if this happens?
1: An overhaul of best employment screening practices. Human resource and hiring managers would need to take a look at the current screening process that their company has in place. During this review, changes would need to be implemented so that the process would still ‘weed out’ the applicants that are not a fit, or who may create an unsafe working environment. Blanket refusal to hire anyone with a criminal history would be out the window. Policy would need to be re-written to still be effective.
2: Greater importance on drug testing. 70% of drug abusers currently hold jobs in the workforce. Employees who abuse drugs and alcohol are much more likely to miss work, be late for work, be less productive, steal, and cause conflict with other employees. Without the benefit of criminal searches, it would be super important for a company to have a solid drug screening program in place.
3: Make assessment testing a priority. Assessment testing can offer insight into character, attitudes, and behaviors a job candidate possesses. A broad view of these aspects of an applicant’s personality would paint a clearer picture as to their fit into the organization.
4: Social media screening. This is a new idea that has been born out of the explosion of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. With the absence of criminal searches, the content that a person posts on their profiles would prove to be a valuable look into the person’s opinions and habits. (Remember, there would need to be a social media policy in place so that your company is protected).
5. A prolonged interviewing process. Without criminal searches, the hiring process may need to be extended beyond one or two interviews. A thoughtful interviewing process will assist in determining if the applicant is being truthful. In depth questioning and thorough verification of the answers will provide a greater chance for any mistruth or red flag to be uncovered.
The main goals of most companies when hiring are to recruit a valuable and productive employee and maintain a safe and healthy work environment. Will criminal background checks become completely obsolete? That’s doubtful. However, if they become restricted, new policies would need to be adapted quickly in order to minimize risk and maintain a stable workplace.

~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 22 year old Memphis-based company that provides pre-employment screening solutions to companies nationwide.

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