SHRM Background Check Findings: How Survey Results Can Get Twisted

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently released their 2012 survey results on employers’ use of criminal background checks and we wanted to take the time to break down some of their key findings.

The one I want to focus on today is the question they asked about whether employers allow job candidates to explain the results of their criminal checks.

According to the study 58 percent of respondents said that they allow candidates to explain the results of their criminal checks before the decision to hire or not to hire is made, and 27 percent allow them to do so after a decision is made.

How survey results can get twisted

As I evaluated this finding, I couldn’t help but think of a survey they released in 2010 about employers use of credit checks. Through not fault of SHRM whatsoever, the finding that got published over and over and over again was that 60 percent of all employers were evaluating credit reports to determine hiring eligibility. And I’m sure you all remember how the media twisted those results: “Job Applicants With Bad Credit Need Not Apply,” “Candidates Beware: Employers Are Looking At Your Credit”, etc.

The media jumped on this and created a hysteria among those looking for jobs as our country’s unemployment rate reached double digits. For all we know, that finding could very well have been the catalyst to inspire a myriad states to create limitations on employers use of credit reports.

Just one problem though: While technically that 60 percent stat was accurate, no one bothered to read the real findings.

Some 47 percent said that they ran credit reports on select candidates, while only 13 percent said they run credit reports on all candidates. In SHRM’s defense, they even underlined the part in he survey where they mentioned that only 13 percent used them all the time. And in truth, I am certain that a healthy percentage of that group ran them to comply with federal guidelines.

A little perspective

Now, back to the findings about whether employers allow candidates to explain the results of their employment background check. If not explained further, the findings seem low. I can see the headlines now: “Only 58% of Employers Allow Applicants to Explain Criminal Past,”

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Let’s give those findings some perspective now. According to our 2012 Trends in Background Screening study, employers deny employment to those with criminal records less the 10 percent of the time. Why is that important? It’s important because it underscores the fact that often times, these records don’t need to be explained. The candidate is hired and that’s that.

So while the media’s first thought will be to offer this statistic to suggest employers’ irresponsible use of employee background checks, let’s hope that they take a minute to consider the whole picture first. That headline might not sell papers, but it also won’t create a media frenzy fueled by inaccurate reporting.

It’s important to realize that employers are not looking for reasons not to hire someone. They spend of time, money and effort recruiting the perfect candidate.

By and large, they don’t conduct a background check until the final stages of the hiring process. The last thing they want is to throw the investment they made into that candidate out the window and start over again.

This was originally published on EmployeeScreen IQ.


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