4 Things to Consider Before Hiring a Candidate With a Criminal Record

4 Things to Consider Before Hiring a Candidate With a Criminal Record
Last Updated: March 11, 2024

There are no rules prohibiting potential employers from enquiring about past crimes and convictions or doing background checks. However, employers are prohibited from using this information in a discriminatory manner. They should also be aware that questions about criminal history may disproportionately affect protected class members and consequently may be in violation. A certain amount of risk is always assumed by a company when making a new hire. Yes, there is a greater than usual chance that something will go wrong or that the convicted indictable offender would cause harm to your firm if you hire them.


The Offense

A candidate's criminal record will give you the most precise picture of the potential risk they pose to your company and its employees. After all, criminal acts vary widely. A speeding ticket is in a different league than murder or violence. You should check if the candidate has a history of violence. The criminal record check will reveal the candidate’s history of violent behavior, if any. Evaluate if the person is prone to committing similar crimes in the future. If you feel threatened by their criminal record or uneasy around this person, reconsider hiring. The definition of "severe" criminal behavior might shift over time as societal norms shift. Regarding marijuana use, for instance, public opinion has changed a lot in the past three decades. There are also different degrees of crime to take into account, which can help you to make an assessment without being a legal expert yourself. For instance, crimes of the fourth degree often include things like shoplifting and aggravated assault. Regional variations in criminal classifications have to be considered as well, so research how offenses are categorized in your state.

How the Indictable Offense Relates to the Position

Consider whether the candidate's criminal history has any bearing on the position and duties they would play at your organization, assuming no one was physically harmed in the commission of the crime. Ask yourself how likely they will put your business and employees in danger. It's possible that a candidate's six-year-old driving under the influence conviction won't go under the radar.

A prior DUI conviction probably won't affect an applicant's performance as an administrative assistant. However, if they are looking for a position that requires them to drive a corporate car, more screening is necessary. Similarly, if you need an accountant and one of the applicants has a criminal record of embezzlement, you might want to look elsewhere.


The Time Passed Since Conviction

People with criminal records may have trouble finding gainful employment for a long time, even after serving their term. In most cases, a candidate's criminal record won't fully reflect who they are now, especially if they haven't had any further run-ins with the law after their conviction. If someone was sentenced to time in prison for a crime that occurred 15 years ago, but they haven't committed any new crimes in that time, they might not still be a danger.


The Applicant's Age At the Time of the Offense

A person committing a crime at the age of 40 or 60 is very different from a person committing the same act at the age of 16. Young people, especially teenagers and young adults, are prone to irresponsible behavior and often don't consider the full scope of their acts. People shouldn’t be forced to live with the consequences of a choice they made when they were younger and less responsible. It is because that does not characterize who they will be as adult years or decades to come.


Allow the candidate to reply or refute the claims if a background check reveals a criminal history despite the candidate having the skills and qualities you're searching for. Following criminal law guidelines, they must be given a reasonable amount of time, such as a week, to present their case. Be sure to let them know that you will be considering their responses and any supporting materials and additional information they may submit to make a hiring decision. You are free to ask any particular follow-up questions that you might have.


Cindy Baker
Editorial Team
The editorial team behind is a group of dedicated HR professionals, writers, and industry experts committed to providing valuable insights and knowledge to empower HR practitioners and professionals. With a deep understanding of the ever-evolving HR landscape, our team strives to deliver engaging and informative articles that tackle the latest trends, challenges, and best practices in the field.

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