Part 2 of 4 on Employment Screening: Criminal Background Checks

In the first installment of this four part series on employment screening, we talked about the importance of validating an applicant's credentials based on the incredible data that highlighted just how frequently credentials are falsified by applicants.  Continuing on this data theme, we are focusing this installment on some of the astounding criminal record data points here in the United States and how employers should react to them.  

It is critically important to conduct a criminal background check as part of your employment screening, promotion and annual operational risk review.  This information, when combined with the other data you are using to make your decision, will help you protect your employees, customers and firm's assets.


  • 77,000,000 adults in the United States have a criminal record*

  • 9,800,000 crimes were committed in 2013, including violent and property crimes**

  • Property crimes outnumber violent crimes 8 to 1**

  • In a 2005 to 2010 study of more than 400K state prisoners released, 76.6% committed another offense within 5 years***

  • 1/3 of criminals convicted in 2013 had no prior convictions***

  • If an individual committed a property offense such as theft in the past, they were 82.1% more likely to commit another property related offense within 5 years***

  • 10% of repeat offenses occurred in a state other than the one that released them***

So how should you, as an employer digest and react to these statistics?  Below is a list of recommendations for employers to consider on how to optimize their current employment screening procedures.

Recommendations for Employers

#1 Perform a comprehensive criminal background check as part of your employment screening package at the time of hire to ensure you know who is entering your premises, talking to your customers and working side by side with your employees each day.  Information is everything! As an employer, you have the right to know who you are employing and entrusting with your business.  Yes, there are regulations such as Ban the Box (see our previously published post on this topic) that govern when an employer can and cannot run a background check. For an overwhelming majority of employers, you can perform a criminal background check throughout an employee's employment with your company.  

#2 Perform a criminal background check as part of your annual (or more frequent) operational reviews.  This will ensure that you stay up to date with the activities of your employees as they stay with your firm.  Do not assume that an employee hasn't committed a crime because they didn't miss any work to serve time in jail.  Sentences and penalties vary for each case based on a number of factors such as the severity of the offense, the defendant's criminal history, and more.  As an example, a small property related crime may only result in financial restitution and community service.  It is possible that an employee could be convicted of this type of crime unbeknown to her employer.

#3 Review your current employment screening procedures and make sure your criminal background check is comprehensive!  A comprehensive criminal background check consists of the following activities:

  1. Validating the subject's identity and documenting an address history

  2. Performing a nationwide criminal database search

  3. Performing a sex offender registry search

  4. Cross referencing the subject's name against the Homeland Security Terrorist Watch list

  5. Performing a county court search in each county of residence found on the address history search  

  6. Performing a federal criminal court search

        For more on this topic, read our related post, Why Running a Criminal Background Check is an All or Nothing Proposition

#4 Consider all available information.  Do not assume that all applicants with records are of equal risk.  The data shows that applicants with convictions in their past can reform.  While a five year study of 400,000+ released inmates indicates the repeat offense rate is high, it's not 100%.  While 76.6% of released inmates did commit a crime within five year, 23.4% did not.***

#5 Ensure you are aware of and complying with the applicable employment screening regulations, such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Regulatory compliance pertaining to the use of data reported in a criminal background check is such a critical issue for Human Resources departments, that we are dedicating our next installment of this series specifically to that topic.  


While the criminal statistics can be overwhelming, employers have tools available to them to ensure their employment screening policies and procedures align to their talent goals.  Performing comprehensive criminal background checks at the appropriate time and as part of a larger employment screening effort, enables employers to make decisions with all of the available information.  

Information is everything.   Global has the answers.


*Fields, G., & Emshwiller, J. (2014, August 18). As Arrest Records Rise, Americans Find Consequences Can Last a Lifetime. Retrieved September 30, 2015.

**Decrease in Violent Crimes and Property Crimes. (2014, November 10). Retrieved September 30, 2015, from

***Cooper, PH.D., A., Durose, M., & Snyder, Ph.D., H. (2014, April 22). Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). Retrieved September 30, 2015.