One of the oddities in the pre-employment screening industry is the misconception, primarily in the media and among legislators, that a “background check” is synonymous with a court check. Most of the news about background checks focuses on the fairness or unfairness of basing a hiring decision on the results of a court check. Nothing could be further from the truth!
A background check also includes verifying all the information a candidate puts on a resume or job application. Did the candidate work where he said he did for as long as he claims he did? Did the candidate really earn the degree claimed? Did the candidate list his correct job title on his resume or job application? It makes sense to talk to the candidate’s references to discover what they have to say about his job performance, his responsibilities, his ability to work with others, and dozens of other questions – none of which have to do with whether the candidate was ever convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor.
Even if a conviction turns up, was it the candidate or just someone with the same name and birth date? Does the crime have anything to do with the requirements of the job for which the candidate is being considered?
Of equal importance: How long ago was the conviction? Was it more than seven years ago? Or was it a foolish mistake made when the candidate was just a college student? And, if it was, should the conviction haunt the candidate throughout his career?
There’s obviously more to making a good hiring decision than just doing a court check and considering it to be a “background check.” A court check is only part of a thorough background check – not a synonym for it!