A crucial part of any recruitment process is the background check. You’ve gone through the interview and found the perfect candidate, only to find out they were convicted of a crime. Now, you’ve got to start all over after sending that resume to the circular file. At least, that’s the logical thing to do, right? Turns out, maybe not. You would be hard-pressed to find a candidate, especially an older one, who hasn’t had some run-in with the police and perhaps been charged with a crime. However, that’s not necessarily indicative of their character. That’s why so many cities and counties across the United States have banned the “Have you been convicted of a crime?” question from job applications. Before you automatically disqualify a candidate after a shaky background check, consider these factors.

The Age of the Crime

Between brain chemistry, hormones and trying to impress that good-looker in the corner, young people tend to do stupid things.  It’s a fact. While their actions are often (relatively) harmless,sometimes laws are broken.  An arrest is made, the young person spends a bit of time in the slammer and then they are released. Though they generally get on with their lives pretty easily, that criminal charge can follow them for the rest of their lives. More often than not, these were minor offenses that just about everyone commits, but they were unlucky enough to be caught. Should they really be punished forever for stealing a shirt or getting into a scuffle? Though some more violent crimes are harder to overlook, the value that the candidate brings to your business should be considered over a crime committed early on in life.

The Nature of the Crime

As mentioned before, a candidate having a criminal record involving a relatively minor crime should not be a deal breaker. This is especially true if said crime has nothing to do with the position being interviewed for. For instance, a potential marketing manager shouldn’t be disqualified because they were previously charged with vandalism. However, a potential accountant who was previously charged with embezzlement should certainly raise a red flag! If a rather serious crime is discovered during a background check, don’t be afraid to ask the candidate about it. It may have been a misunderstanding or a mistake outright by law enforcement agencies. In some cases, the candidate may have even been a victim of identity theft, and that thief committed crimes under the candidate’s name. In an ideal world, those crimes would be cleared up quickly. However, bureaucracy has a way of slowing everything down. Before disqualifying a potential employee outright, be willing to hear their side of the story.

Don’t Break the Law

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, plus state and local governments, all have strict laws regarding the criminal backgrounds of applicants. For instance, a candidate does not have to say anything about their criminal record if it has been expunged. In addition, just an arrest record — ones that didn’t lead to a conviction — is also not allowed to be used to make a decision about hiring. There are many factors that can contribute to the recruitment and hiring process.