Best Practice Checklist for Selecting Criminal History Searches

Contributed by Sterling, CU Quarterly , June 2012 Criminal record searches are the most commonly used employment screen, but they are also the mos

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Contributed by Sterling, CU Quarterly, June 2012

Criminal record searches are the most commonly used employment screen, but they are also the most complex. There are numerous criminal search options and literally thousands of sources to pick from. With all these searches available, how do you know which combination to use on each candidate? Following is a best practice checklist to help guide you in selecting the most effective set of criminal searches for ultimate risk mitigation.

Review guidelines in your company’s screening policy. Every company that performs background screening should have a policy in place to minimize risks and ensure consistency in its hiring practices. Consult your policy first to identify the list of positions to be screened, the background checks that should be used and any other guidelines your organization has set forth.

Consider your industry, the position and acceptable level of risk tolerance. When selecting background checks, it is important to consider your industry and the type of work or access the position involves. Extra care and more rigorous screening may be needed for individuals who will be working with vulnerable populations (like the elderly and children) or who will have access to money or assets. In some industries, there are additional laws that mandate the use of specific checks. Ultimately, you should consider the role of the position and the level of risk that is acceptable to your organization.

Use an address trace to identify candidate address history. The first step to obtaining the most complete criminal history is identifying where to search for potential records. Conducting a criminal history based solely on the addresses disclosed by the candidate may not lead you to a record because candidates may omit addresses in court jurisdictions where an offense occurred. An address trace can identify the candidate’s current and previous addresses so you know where to search.

Perform a national scan to identify other potential counties or states to search. Consider running a national criminal history database search to reveal potential records from jurisdictions outside of locations where the candidate has taken residency, such as neighboring counties or places visited. National criminal scan data cannot be used standalone, but can be used to identify places to conduct indepth verification searches.

Utilize a combination of county and statewide criminal history searches. Once you have identified locations to search, you can use a mix of county and statewide criminal history searches to get the most accurate, detailed information available.

Run federal searches if required by your company or relevant to the position. Some companies require that federal criminal searches be run on highlevel candidates or on all positions. Consider the nature of the position, your industry and your company policy to determine if federal searches should be used to get a more complete picture of your candidate. Criminal record searches are an important, valuable part of the hiring process. Utilizing them in the manner outlined above can help you to achieve maximum benefit from your screening budget while minimizing hiring liability.