Criminal History — A Hiring Deal Breaker?

Has this ever happened to you? You think you've found the perfect candidate for an open position — but when you settle down to take a better look at the application you discover that the criminal conviction question has been checked “yes.”

OR you get deeper into the process, run a background check and a prior conviction shows up. What do you do when you discover a candidate has a criminal history? Pass over this person automatically? Hire them and hope for the best?

We all know that our justice system deems us "innocent until proven guilty." That is why we base decisions on conviction records rather than arrest records. Also...and here's where it gets's a sad but true fact that minorities are arrested at a higher rate than non-minorities. So, not hiring a candidate based on arrest record alone could prove to be discriminatory.

In my case, half the time I've hired the person and the other half, I haven't. I take into consideration whether or not the applicant was truthful on the application (I personally don't hire if he/she is not), the nature of the crime (peace protest or murder conviction) and how recently it was committed. I also consider whether or not the offender might be a risk in my particular workplace.

Of course, the final decision is yours. Just keep in mind you'll need to comply with "pesky little issues" such as negligent hiring, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and any applicable state laws regarding background checks and permissible questions on applications.

- Maurice Rosenberg, Human Resources Manager

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