Will Your Criminal Record Keep You Unemployed?

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, detailed in this article by Binyamin Applebaum, 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.

This entry was posted in Applicant-Entry Solutions, Background Screening, Criminal Records, General, Industry Solutions, News, References & Credentialing and tagged , , , , , , , , , by Patricia Carlson. Bookmark the permalink.

Patricia Carlson is a content writer who specializes in B2C and B2B inbound marketing. She blogs regularly for clients about the background screening and finance industries, and generates newsletters, white papers and email campaigns for a variety of businesses. Patricia also produces a heavy rotation of editorial material for home design, law enforcement, and family magazines. She’s been writing professionally for more than a dozen years, and for Active Screening for more than two of those. Check out LinkedIn for a roster of Patricia's clients and links to published works. When she’s not interviewing sources or researching trends, she’s living a fast-paced Florida life questioning the antics of her two young children, partner and mischievous cat. Patricia loves to talk tennis and TV on Twitter - give her a shout @pattycfreelance.
Active ScreeningBarbara S.
Healthcare Industry

"Here at Holland Hospital, we have been extremely pleased with Active Screening. The report results come back quickly, usually within 24 hours or less.  The staff at Active Screening is easy accessible, knowledgeable and responds to our questions promptly."

Active ScreeningLynn C. Staffing Industry

"Benton Mobley has been and remains my Main point of contact at Active Screening from the beginning; so aside from the comfort of dealing with the same person all these years, there is the most important fact of all;  customer satisfaction. Benton knows the business like the back of his hand; and that is what we need in our fast paced industry of staffing. He is the all-time BEST!  MY employer, Leslie, believes in the notion that great service deserves to be rewarded, so we are here for the duration.We get immediate and personalized attention for any and all concerns we need addressed, and in the staffing industry, this is vital."

Active ScreeningCayce R. Education Industry

"My experience working with Active Screening for our background check process has been very positive.  The reports are almost always completed in a very timely fashion. The information reported appears to be very thorough and accurate.  On the rare occasions that we have questions or problems, the customer service team is always very quick to respond and resolve the issue.  Overall, I am very pleased with the service I receive from Active Screening."

Active ScreeningCraig H. Staffing Industry

"Your customer service is excellent.  The turn around time on background checks is quite fast.  Excellent work.  I haven't had a single problem."

Active ScreeningJackie C. Education Industry

"I wanted to thank you and your staff for being so patient and working so diligently with the Human Resources staff during our recent endeavor to process all of our work study students through background screenings.  We have never had to process so many requests within such a short period of time before, but thanks to you and your staff we made it. Again thank you, we made a good choice in selecting Active Screening."

Active ScreeningLindsey W.  Financial Industry

"I wanted to share my appreciation for your wonderful service...switching background screening companies could have been a stressful task, but your company made the transition seamless. Your website was extremely easy to navigate and the turn around time has been great. I appreciate when information is missing or entered incorrectly during ordering, your company notifies me right away to ensure that my error does not hold the reports results, causing us a delay in hiring an individual...Active Screening has been great to us and I would definitely refer them to others."

Active ScreeningTerry S. Property Management

"Working with Active Screening over the last year and half has been a wonderful experience. They deliver fast and informative results at the best price. Their level of professionalism and the speed they respond to our issues is a benefit that any company can value from. I would highly recommend using Active Screening and their amazing team."

Active ScreeningYulesis D.  Staffing Industry

“Interactive Response Technologies (IRT) has more than 2,000 employees at multiple locations across the United States. IRT has been using Active Screening to conduct criminal background checks since 2006. During this time, Active Screening has consistently returned accurate reports, usually with less than 48 hours turnaround. If there are any problems or inconsistencies with the reports, their staff has called to notify us so that we can attempt to rectify the situation. The staff at Active Screening is always courteous and congenial over the phone. In our opinion, Active Screening is outstanding.”

Active ScreeningAndy N. Software Provider

 "Active Screening has helped us screen our applicants in record time for more than two years.... we are very impressed with the professionalism and speed with which their service team responds to our questions. They understand our needs and are a pleasure to work with. I highly recommend them."

Active ScreeningCassie J. Staffing Industry

"The Active Screening team is very informative; they provided a complete consultation on all the services, so I understood what I needed, and saved me hours and hours of my time learning the various services. Their reputation, as being on the cutting edge of employment screening best practices, certainly held true in this instance. The expertise they brought to the table was invaluable to our understanding of our applicants backgrounds. I highly recommend Active Screening to anyone with the task of screening large numbers of applicants and needing reliable customer support."

Active Screening

With over 20 years of law enforcement experience I can attest to the fact that the strongest predictor of future criminal behavior is a person’s criminal history. As the manager of campus safety at my church, I depend on Active Screening to provide a thorough assessment of every criminal history background check we request. For more than 3 years, Active Screening has been faithful to this task with timely, accurate and reliable service.

Active Screening

We have benefited from knowing that we are not exposing the communities we work with or ourselves to unnecessary risk. We continue to have a perfect record in that we have never had a serious incident with a trip participant causing harm or acting inappropriately with any community member or fellow team member- thank goodness!

Active Screening

I would highly recommend any association or organization who conducts background checks to use Active Screening. In addition to my involvement with WAHA, I am an officer in a corporation with over 500 employees who provide treatment, mental health, and correctional services for children and adolescents. Our company is mandated by law to do comprehensive background searches and I can say with the utmost sincerity that Active Screening product rivals that of any government or other private sector process.

Active Screening

We have used Active Screening and their solution VERITY to screen all our coaches and volunteers working with youth. The online system gives us an easy and cost-effective solution to collecting forms and payments from our applicants...and we simply login to view the results of who passed or failed. It's so easy....thank you Active Screening.