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Should You Be Running A Background Check On Applicants? Probably.

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Although we live in a world where newborn puppies and lilacs exist, we also live in a world that can be dangerous and frightening at times. Every day there’s some horrific news story about someone who went off the deep end and hurt themselves or other people in broad daylight. With daily access to stories like this, it can seem awfully scary when you’re deciding to hire new employees for your small business — which is one reason why issuing background and criminal checks as part of your hiring procedure is a good idea.

Keeping ‘Em Honest

Anyone can say their name is John Smith and they live at 123 Main Street, but whether or not that’s true is another story entirely. It’s a reality that sometimes people lie on their resumes or job applications to avoid discussing a particular topic from the past. By running background checks for employees, you are given access to:

  • The applicant’s full name and social security number, thus confirming their identity.
  • Credit reports, including inquiries and past or current loans.
  • Public records like bankruptcies, divorces and you guessed it: Criminal records.

Of all the things that are probably the most important when you’re considering hiring an applicant, being sure that they are who they say claim to be probably ranks somewhere up near the top. Background checks are absolutely necessary if for no other reason than this.

Protecting Yourself And Others

Although not everyone who has been convicted of a crime is a dangerous person, it’s always better to have criminal information upfront. Why? Not to discriminate or make the applicant feel ashamed of their past, but for the simple purpose of being informed.
For better or worse, there is potential for an employee with a criminal background to have old “friends” crawl out of the woodwork. This could present an awkward and potentially dangerous situation for you and your other employees depending on the nature of the crime.

Avoiding Red Flags

Again, not all ex-convicts are dangerous human beings and employers are not assuming that by issuing a criminal background check. As part of protecting yourself and your company, another fantastic reason for getting a full background check done is to make sure you’re hiring the right applicant.
For example, if you run an accounting firm you would want to hire a certified accountant with lots of experience in the field, right? Now flip that scenario on its head and imagine hiring someone who served time in prison for laundering money from their previous workplace. Do you see the converse here? You wouldn’t necessarily want to give someone access to company money who has a rough history handling it. As a precautionary measure, you are being smart in avoiding a potential issue later on. This can also help you to avoid high turnover in your company by having and keeping great employees who are the perfect fit for the job.

Protect Your Reputation

It’s unfortunate, but there is a stigma attached to people who have served time. Let’s say that you hire one such individual and they make a mistake unrelated to their previous crime, causing them to get fired. You can already hear the wagging tongues judging that person, saying that it’s no wonder they were fired and creating unjust negativity against them.
Be prepared to make difficult decisions if you choose to hire someone with a checkered past. You could be taking a huge risk of a possible scandal by hiring them — or, on the other side of the coin, you could be helping them turn their life around and be a valued asset on your team.

Run The Best Company You Can

In the end, it’s all about what you think is best. If you find a perfectly lovely applicant who just happened to serve time in the past, use your best judgment and go with your gut when you get results you were not hoping for. You are the one who gets to make these decisions, and you know your company culture better than anyone else does. Listen to the advice of people whose opinion you value and trust, but at the end of the day you run your ship how YOU see fit.

There is nothing wrong with hiring somebody who was in prison, but knowing what you’re getting yourself (and your company) into ahead of time can help you to save face and be prepared to defend your decisions down the road. It’s smart and safe to run a background check for so many reasons. Think about adding it as part of your hiring procedure in the years to come.

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