Does every employee need a background check?

August 10, 2022

Often when a candidate reaches the final rounds of interviews, they face a background check before receiving an official offer. Over 90% of employers conduct an employment background screening, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.

This background check could include:

  • Criminal History
  • Drug Screening
  • References
  • Credit Check
  • Identity Verification
  • And more.

What the checks include
Criminal history would include charges and arrests on one's record. A drug screening would be a test administered by the employer or a third party to check for drugs and alcohol in one's system. References are, of course, the provided contacts a candidate provides to vouch for them. A credit check would gather a summary of their debts and payments (not their credit score), and an identity verification would solidify that the candidate is who they say and matches up with the provided identification they provide.

Should every position require a background check
Whether this step is necessary is the question. The answer varies depending on location and position. However, in certain industries it can generally be considered a yes. In others, it may not be as important to conduct background checks on every employee and some people who may have had issues in the past could end up being a top employee. Industries where background checks are important include education, healthcare, and transportation, among others. When someone is hired for a position where they are in charge of the wellbeing and safety of others, they are responsible for children, or they are responsible for operating heavy machinery or transportation that could endanger others, knowing that person's background can be important.

For example, as an employer you would want to be aware if someone had a history of arrests for aggressive tendencies or sexual assault if they are going to be responsible for children or other vulnerable people. Alternatively, it would benefit an employer to know whether someone entering a bus driving job if they have charges for driving under the influence in their recent history.

Many employers and hiring managers take serious offenses or those related to the job into account. They also assess the timeline. If someone had an incident many years ago or have proven since the arrest or incident they are ready to move on from it, there may still be opportunity for them. There are many variables at play, and not everyone has had a perfect past. For every 100,000 people in the U.S., 655 of them are behind bars at any given time.Some companies, like JP Morgan, are building programs into their organizations where they could onboard those who have been incarcerated, per Fast Company. So criminal activity in one's past shouldn't always be a deal breaker, but again this all depends on the position and industry.

The potential employee would be aware of these checks before they happen. Human resources, or the recruiter, whoever is doing the hiring is required to get written consent before they conduct a background check. In most cases, the candidate would have the opportunity to explain their background.