Background Checks

What Happens When a Candidate Background Check Reveals a Criminal Record?

  • December 7, 2021
  • Antique Nguyen
  • Approx. Read Time: 3 Minutes

For Cisive’s most recent benchmark report, Cisive Insights: Talent Screening Trends 2021, Cisive surveyed more than 1,500 human resources, talent acquisition, compliance, and recruitment professionals worldwide to get a big picture view of the talent screening landscape during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the interesting trends noted was whether or not companies use a criminal adjudication or hiring matrix in order to make decisions regarding how to treat the results of applicant criminal background checks.

Specifically, the survey asked participants if their organization uses a criminal record adjudication matrix when deciding how to treat records from background checks. The majority of employers indicated that they do (71%), while slightly more than one-fifth (22%) do not. Whether your organization is using a criminal adjudication matrix or not, there are some critical elements for employers when making hiring decisions based on these matrices.


What is a Criminal Adjudication Matrix?

Many organizations use an adjudication or hiring matrix to determine if a candidate is eligible for hire based on the results of the candidate’s background check. The purpose of these matrices is to create a set of pre-hire guidelines that allow you to analyze the results of a background check (any type of screening) and make a decision based on these guidelines as to whether or not a candidate is eligible for hire.

In the case of criminal background checks, the adjudication matrices include things like how long ago the applicant was charged, what the outcome of the charges were, whether or not the crime was financial (such as charges of embezzlement), the seriousness of the crime (violent crime versus nonviolent crime), and so on. This produces a matrix that categorizes each applicant as either eligible for hire or “decisional.” Decisional outcomes are typically reviewed by a hiring team that makes the final decision on the candidate.


Creating ‘Rules’ for a Criminal Adjudication Matrix

While there is no set formula for creating a hiring matrix, when setting up a hiring matrix for criminal adjudication the most important factor is consistency. The guidelines that you and your team set up should be applied consistently and create a standard of which types of criminal convictions you consider relevant enough to determine that a candidate is not eligible for hire.

Whether you use a simple matrix or a more complex method of “scoring” a candidate’s criminal history, any qualifications based on criminal history should be position-specific and spelled out in company policy. This step is crucial if your company uses continuous monitoring for existing employees. A criminal adjudication matrix can be a useful tool to both avoid bias and to hold hiring managers to a consistent standard. For example, positions that involve driving as part of the job might take DUI convictions into account, but those that do not require driving may not.

In order to avoid claims of discrimination, a criminal adjudication matrix gives your company a comprehensive and consistent system by which it can measure job-specific requirements up to and including the kind of criminal information (such as how many years a background check goes back) and ensures that the same level of background screening is done for every candidate applying for a specific position.

Experts advise employers to stay current with the state and federal regulations that govern the use of criminal records in background screening. “Employers should set the criteria for adjudication matrix to be job-specific and be mindful of not violating any federal, state, or local equal employment laws,” said Chad Ascar, Director of Compliance and Product Training at IntelliCorp, a Cisive company.

Additionally, ensuring that you are working with the most accurate data when making hiring decisions based on a matrix that includes criminal history is imperative. Cisive’s attention to detail in criminal history checks has yielded a 99.9993% accuracy rate, which means that you can be confident that the data you are working with is up-to-date and accurate.

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