Screening Survey: Qualifications More Important Than Any Criminal Past

Background screening of job candidates is a sign of the times in today’s workplace, but what are hiring managers and HR really getting out of them?

This new 2013 survey — Employment Screening Practices and Trends: The Era of Heightened Care and Diligencefrom EmployeeScreenIQ offers some answers and insights on “how companies use background checks to make hiring decisions in a climate of rapidly evolving federal and state employment laws and the ongoing specters of workplace theft, violence and negligent hiring litigation.”

Some of the top findings of the survey:

  • Employers are continuing to ask about job candidates’ criminal pasts. Some 79 percent of employers say they are asking for self-disclosure on applications despite the EEOC guidance recommending they should not ask about past criminal convictions.52 percent said they would actually be more inclined to hire a candidate who self disclosed a criminal conviction prior to a background check.
  • Qualifications, references and interviewing skills are ultimately more important than an applicant’s criminal past. In fact, 71 percent of respondents said that candidates with criminal records are not hired due to their indiscretions in a mere 5 percent of instances or less.
  • Resume lies aren’t deal breakers. A vast majority of respondents estimate that up to 60 percent of candidates distort or exaggerate information to some degree on their resumes. However, 51 percent indicated that just 15 percent or less of the job candidates with resume inconsistencies are not hired due to these distortions.
  • There is no love lost for social networking sites. Some 64 percent of employers say they never review the sites as part of the background screening process, despite the overall enthusiastic embrace of sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter by the business community. This is a significant jump from last year’s response of 52 percent.

Other factors at work

“The overarching takeaway from this survey is that employers seem to be screening and hiring candidates in a responsible, acceptable and legally compliant fashion,” says Nick Fishman, chief marketing officer of EmployeeScreenIQ, in a press release about the research.

He added: “While this heightened level of care and diligence is partially due to the amplified risk of lawsuits, there are other factors at work including the negative impact on morale and performance, the loss of reputation and the damage done to the employment brand when ineffective screening practices let poor candidates through the door.”

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Like it or not, employee screening and background checks are here to stay, even for many mundane or low-level jobs. As much as that may bother some, the good news from this survey is that a criminal past or other negative hits that may pop up about a candidate aren’t necessarily an automatic disqualifier for a job.

Of course, there’s a lot more details in the data that you should get into if you’re interested in this kind of stuff (and you can get a free download of the survey here).

Employment Screening Practices and Trends: The Era of Heightened Care and Diligence is drawn from responses from a total of 992 individuals representing a wide range of U.S. organizations that use employment screening firms and who completed the survey in late 2012/early 2013.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.


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