A ‘7 On Your Side’ report from KGO-TV ABC 7 in San Francisco, CA, shows that while many employers currently conduct criminal background checks on job applicants as part of an employment screening program, these job applicants can find out the hard way what happens if those background check results are a case of mistaken identity. Continue reading
Just how much information an employer should be able to learn about the criminal past of a job applicant has become an increasingly controversial subject in the current economic downturn, when finding work is tough enough even for a job seeker with a spotless criminal record.
For jobseekers with criminal pasts, a job search can be a frustrating case of “Catch-22” because most employment applications will ask in some fashion if they have a criminal record. If these applicants lie, then they are at risk of being terminated if their criminal record being discovered. If these people are honest and admit their past misconduct, there is a risk of not getting the job.
In addition, most job applicants will likely undergo a pre-employment criminal background check, since many employers believe job applicants with criminal pasts may have a propensity to re-offend in the future. According to recent surveys from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), nearly three out of four U.S. businesses – 73 percent – conduct criminal background checks on all job candidates as part of their pre-employment screening programs.
As a result, an increasing number of U.S. cities and states have joined the “ban the box” movement and removed or limited questions asking about criminal records on job applications. Most recently, due to Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) reform legislation that took effect November 4, 2010, employers in Massachusetts are now prohibited from asking questions on initial written job applications about criminal charges, arrests, and incarceration.
While employers have a legal duty to exercise “due diligence” in the hiring process, and that duty can be violated if employers hire workers that they either knew – or should have known in the exercise of reasonable care – were dangerous or unfit for a job, society has a vested interest in giving people with past criminal records a fair opportunity to rejoin the workforce and obtain and maintain employment to help these ex-offenders become law abiding, tax-paying citizens.
Since job applicants with criminal records face greater challenges in finding employment – and since there are certain jobs where employers will justifiably not hire ex-offenders – Employment Screening Resources (ESR) founder and President Lester Rosen, an expert on safe hiring and background checks, wrote the article ‘Criminal Records and Getting Back into the Workforce: Six Critical Steps for Ex-offenders Trying to Get Back into the Workforce’ to help applicants with criminal pasts get and keep work to develop a successful job history that outweighs past problems:
- Step One: People with past criminal records looking for employment must understand their rights. There are instances where job applicants can legally and ethically answer “No” on a question about a past criminal offense.
- Step Two: Ex-offenders should see an attorney to explore if they are eligible to get their conviction sealed, expunged, or legally minimized.
- Step Three: Ex-offenders should seek professional assistance. There are also organizations that assist past offenders with job search and training programs, some with relationships with employers willing to give ex-offenders a chance.
- Step Four: Honesty is the best policy for ex-offenders. In applying for a job, honestly is always the best policy. A criminal matter honestly explained during an interview may have much less negative impact than hiding it and having an employer discover it later.
- Step Five: Ex-offenders should rebuild their résumé one step at a time, even with “not-so-perfect” jobs since employers know that the best indicator of future job performance is past job performance.
- Step Six: Ex-offenders should take the long-term view. An ex-offender anxious to get back into the workforce to start making a living may also be anxious to have their old life back. Yet, ex-offenders need to take the long view and have the faith and patience that the criminal matter will eventually be put behind them.
As an employment screening firm, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) recognizes that most adults need a job – but not everyone is entitled to every job – and we help employers make good decisions while considering the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rules regarding job applicants with criminal histories.
To read the article ‘Criminal Records and Getting Back into the Workforce: Six Critical Steps for Ex-offenders Trying to Get Back into the Workforce’ from Employment Screening Resources, visit: http://www.esrcheck.com/articles/Criminal-Records-and-Getting-Back-into-the-Workforce.php. For a Spanish version of the article, visit: http://www.esrcheck.com/articles/Criminal-Records-and-Getting-Back-into-the-Workforce-SPANISH.php.
For more general information for job applicants, visit the Employment Screening Resources Applicant Resources page at http://www.esrcheck.com/Applicant-Resources.php.
Founded in 1996 in the San Francisco Bay area, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is the company that wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. Employment Screening Resources is recognized by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) as Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) Accredited for proving compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). For more information about Employment Screening Resources, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com or contact Jared Callahan, ESR Director of Client Relations and Business Development, at 415.898.0044 or jcallahan@ESRcheck.com.
By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog
The private sector continues to trend up modestly and lead economic recovery, according to the latest jobs report from the Department of Labor (DOL) that showed the private sector added 64,000 jobs in September 2010.
During a speech the same day as the release of the report, President Barack Obama hailed another month of modest job growth in the private sector by saying the private sector had added jobs for nine straight months, while also conceding that tough times carry on for millions of unemployed people.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) ‘THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION — SEPTEMBER 2010’ report, the number of unemployed persons was essentially unchanged at 14.8 million and the unemployment rate held at 9.6 percent in September.
However, the U.S. economy lost 95,000 nonfarm jobs in September overall as Government employment fell by 159,000, mostly due to the departure of 77,000 temporary Census 2010 workers from federal government payrolls and a decline of 76,000 in local government employment.
- Health care employment rose by 24,000 jobs in September, and health care employment has risen by an average of 21,000 jobs per month this year.
- Professional and business services added 28,000 jobs in September, with temporary help services accounting for most of the gain.
- Leisure and hospitality employment increased by 34,000 jobs over the month in food services and drinking places and has risen by 104,000 jobs so far in 2010.
- Mining employment continued to trend up over the month by adding 6,000 jobs, and has added 77,000 jobs since a recent low in October 2009.
Employment in manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, information, and financial activities showed little change in September, according to the jobs report. Employment in construction edged down (-21,000 jobs) over the month.
Lastly, Government employment fell by 159,000 in September. Approximately 6,000 temporary census workers for the once-in-a-decade U.S. Census remain on the federal government payroll, down from a peak of 564,000 in May 2010.
By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog
In a positive sign that companies may increase hiring soon, the U.S. Labor Department reports that the number of jobs advertised rose in July after two months of declines.
The Labor Department’s ‘Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey’ (JOLTS) showed that the number of jobs advertised rose by 6.2 percent to 3.04 million in July, the highest total since April when hiring for temporary census jobs inflated that month’s figure.
Among industries, the JOLTS report revealed that education and health services and leisure and hospitality showed the biggest increases in job openings.
- Education and health services posted 533,000 jobs in July, up from 487,000 in June.
- Restaurants and hotels advertised 310,000 openings in July, up from 263,000 in June.
In addition, the JOLTS report illustrates the degree of “job churn” that the U.S. economy experiences each month. In July, while companies and government agencies hired 4.2 million people, 4.4 million people were laid off, quit, or retired during the same month.
The JOLTS report also indicates heavy competition for each job. An average of 4.8 unemployed people competed for each job opening, less than the 6.3 unemployed people in November 2009 but more than the 1.8 unemployed people when the recession began.
Despite the increase in job openings, total job openings remain far below the 4.4 million that existed when the recession began in December 2007, according to the JOLTS report.
With an increase in hiring, employers will need an increase in employment screening for the millions of job applicants competing for a limited amount of jobs. Using a Safe Hiring Program (SHP) will help employers save time and money selecting new employees while also lessening legal risks during the hiring process.
By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News
As if it isn’t tough enough finding a job with the unemployment rate around 10 percent, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has issued a warning to jobseekers about scammers taking advantage of the current weak economy by targeting unemployed people desperate to work, scams including false background checks and unnecessary credit report checks.
Since not thoroughly researching a job opportunity can result in jobseekers losing money instead of gaining employment because of job-related scams, the BBB has identified common job scam “red flags” to help jobseekers to protect themselves while they search for a job. The BBB recommends jobseekers look out for the following seven red flags:
- The employer asks for money upfront for a background check or training: The BBB has heard about jobseekers that paid phony employers upfront fees for supposedly required background checks or training for jobs that didn’t exist.
- The employer requires check of a credit report: The BBB warns that employers that ask job applicants to check their credit reports before they get work may be attempting to get the jobseekers to divulge sensitive financial information.
- The employer offers the opportunity to become rich without leaving home: The BBB advises jobseekers to be use extreme caution when considering a work-at-home offer and always research the company with BBB at http://www.bbb.org.
- The employer offers salary and benefits that seem too-good-to-be-true: The BBB uses an old adage – “If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” – to demonstrate how phony employers lure unsuspecting job hunters into their scam.
- The employer’s e-mails have many errors in grammar and spelling: The BBB warns that online fraud is often done by scammers outside the U.S. and English is not their first language, as evidenced by poor grammar and misspelling of common words.
- The employer asks for personal information too quickly: The BBB warns that job applicants should never give out their Social Security Numbers or bank account information over the phone or by email until they confirm the job is legitimate.
- The employer requires money wire transactions or dealing of goods: The BBB also warns jobseekers about cashing checks sent by companies and wiring a portion of the money to another entity or receiving and mailing suspicious goods.
Job scams targeting jobseekers, especially those involving background checks and credit reports, are on the rise in the down economy. Recently, ESR News posted a blog about an alleged job scam in Michigan that involved jobseekers paying money up front for what turned out to be phony background checks for jobs that did not even exist.
For more information about the Better Business Bureau, visit http://www.bbb.org/.
By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog Writer
Recently, a blog on SFGate.com by Personal Finance Authority Erica Sandberg – Can you get a job with bad credit? The answer may surprise you. – addressed a reader who was concerned how her damaged credit would affect her job search.
In her blog, which contained an excerpt from a column she wrote on CreditCards.com, Sandberg indicated there are “many myths surrounding credit reports and employment” and that to “get to the bottom” of how credit reports are really being used she spoke with Lester Rosen, CEO of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a consumer reporting agency (CRA) and human resources consulting firm based in the San Francisco area.
In the blog, Rosen had the following to say about credit reports of job applicants being used for employment purposes:
- Employers don’t randomly access credit reports from all job applicants. They only do so for those who are solid candidates.
- If they are pulling a credit report, congratulations! They are doing a background check, and that is good news, as they are seriously considering the applicant for the position. They won’t run it before the applicant is a finalist.
- Credit reports aren’t checked for all occupations or industries. Most employers are looking at credit reports for people applying for positions that are clearly related to finance or have access to cash or credit. They usually don’t access credit reports for people applying for minimum wage jobs.
- The only way an employer can pull an applicant’s credit report is with the applicant’s permission. Therefore, if the employer asks, the applicant should head over to the human resources department and explain his or her particular situation.
- A potential boss does not have access to the same type of reports that lenders do. The credit reports employers can see never include credit scores or list dates of birth. All they can view is an applicant’s credit history.
- If applicants are concerned about how these credit report pulls may harm their credit report further, they can relax. Unlike when a prospective creditor checks it, no “inquiry” will be listed.
As for the real impact of a job applicant’s credit damage, Rosen recommends in the blog that they should not worry about even that too much.
“Our experience is that employers are very sensitive to the fact that credit reports are not perfect. And everyone in the world knows there is a recession, and employers take that into consideration. It’s a misconception that people are being blacklisted because of their credit reports. However, if the employer does makes an adverse decision based on your report, you have a right to know about it and get a copy of the report they used.”
The gist of the story, according to Sandberg, is that credit reports may not be as powerful and important as job applicants may think, and that chances are some employers will be willing to give applicants with debt problems a break if they really want to hire them.
For more information on the use of credit reports in background checks of job applicants, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.
By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog Writer
The jobs report for the month of July shows gains in private sector employment opportunities, but offers mixed results overall.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that while private-sector payroll employment edged up by 71,000 in July, the total nonfarm payroll employment declined by 131,000 during the same month, and Federal government employment fell due to 143,000 temporary workers hired for the 2010 census completing their work.
In addition, according to “THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION — JULY 2010” report, both the number of unemployed persons (14.6 million) and the unemployment rate (9.5 percent) were unchanged in July.
The good news is that total private sector employment continued to grow, gaining 71,000 jobs, and that private sector employment has increased by 630,000 so far in 2010. With regards to employment in particular industries, the BLS reports that:
- Manufacturing employment increased by 36,000 in July, and the industry had added 32,000 jobs in the first 6 months of 2010 and has expanded by 183,000 jobs since December 2009.
- Health care added 27,000 jobs in July, and health care employment has risen by 231,000 jobs over the past 12 months.
- Transportation and warehousing employment rose by 12,000, and has added 56,000 jobs since February.
- Mining employment rose by 7,000 in July, and has added 63,000 jobs since October 2009.
The not-so-good news is that employment in professional and business services, temporary help services, wholesale trade, retail trade, information, construction, and leisure and hospitality showed little change over the month. Employment in financial activities continued to trend down in July with a decline of 17,000 jobs that added to monthly job losses in the industry averaging 12,000 job losses per month.
Lastly, government employment fell by more than 200,000 jobs in July, reflecting the loss of 143,000 temporary workers hired for the once-in-a-decade 2010 U.S. Census.
By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog Writer
According to a recent article on MSNBC — Job Candidates Undergoing Credit Scrutiny — applicants applying for jobs these days can expect prospective employers to verify resume information, contact references, possibly do a criminal background check, and even be asked by companies to allow credit checks to scrutinize their credit histories.
The article cites a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in which 60 percent of the responding companies claimed they perform credit checks of some or all job candidates. Breaking down the survey results further, only 13 percent of organizations performed credit checks on all job candidates while 47 percent performed them on selected job candidates, usually for positions with fiduciary and financial responsibility such as handling cash, banking, and accounting.
MSNBC also reported that credit checks are required about half the time for senior executive positions and that the SHRM survey also showed that potential candidates with outstanding judgments, accounts in collection, or a bankruptcy in their file may be passed over for a job.
Lester Rosen, President of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), was quoted in the MSNBC article as saying employers are “looking at the debt level compared to the potential income from the job” and added that “if someone is under water financially as shown by the credit report, the thought is perhaps there could be a motive to embezzle or steal.”
However, while Rosen says credit checks are one method employers may use to hire honest and trustworthy employees that also provide some legal cover if that employee turns out to be dishonest, ESR does not encourage routine credit checks on all candidates since credit checks often contain errors and can feel like an invasion of privacy to applicants.
Rosen’s advice in the article for employers is to limit credit checks to relevant positions such as those that involve money. In fact, with many states recently passing laws limiting the use of credit checks for employment purposes, employers need to be careful when, to whom, and how they perform credit checks on prospective job applicants.
For jobseekers, ESR also provides information — at no charge — to job applicants on background checks and credit check reports can help job applicants navigate the background check process and maximize their chance at employment. The information is available on ESR’s ‘Applicant Resources’ page at: http://www.esrcheck.com/Applicant-Resources.php.
Whether the use of credit checks for employment purposes is discriminatory to certain job applicants — which ESR named Trend Number One in its Third Annual Top Ten Trends in the Pre-Employment Background Screening Industry for 2010 — is a question that will be asked as long as employers run credit checks on applicants with money troubles.
For more information on background checks and credit checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.
For some reason, there are individuals and groups bent on scaring job applicants about credit reports by spreading miss-information that is just plain wrong. Whether these people are just not well informed, or have their own agenda to push, the fact remains that job applicants are under enough stress without having to worry about things that are simply not true.
In previous blogs, ESR debunked two commonly held myths. See: http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/815/basics-of-credit-reports-and-background-checks.
First, employers do NOT obtain your credit score if they order an employment credit report. Credit score has no relationship to job performance and is simply not provided to employers. The reports do include a credit history, but not a credit score.
Secondly, employers are not running credit scores as some sort of insidious conspiracy deny jobs to applicants. Employers only run credit reports AFTER an employer has gone through the time, cost and effort to find the right candidate, usually from a large field of applicants. An employer does not invest money in a background report just to find ways not to hire. When an employer initiates a background check, it is because they are interested in hiring the applicant and are conducting due diligence to make sure there is no reason not to hire.
Another myth is that employers are running credit reports in large numbers on all applicants. In fact, even though studies show a significant usage by employer of credit reports, they are not widely used on all applicants. Most employers and Human Resources professionals understand that credit reports should be limited to those jobs where there is a business justification, such as positions with access to cash, assets or personal information or other sensitive positions.
What should a job applicant do regarding credit reports and job hunting?
First, understand that if you get to the point where an employer is running a background check, that is great news. It means you made it though the hiring process and that you are most likely a finalist for a job.
It also means that the employer has spent considerable time recruiting, interviewing and making decisions, and that you rose to the top after the employer has reviewed lots of other resumes and applications.
Secondly, if you are concerned that a background check may include a credit report, do not be the last to know what your credit report may say. As a consumer, you are entitled to a free credit report YEARLY from each of the credit bureaus. A consumer just needs to go to https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp to run a free report. If you see some sort of error, it would be a good idea to get that corrected as soon as possible. There is a well established procedure for contacting the credit bureaus to bring an error to their attention and request it be remedied.
Third, if you are concerned that your credit history may reflect negatively, than have a discussion ahead of time with the hiring manger or Human Resources about your credit reports. As most experienced Human Resources professionals can tell you, information honestly disclosed by an applicant has much less impact than information the employer discovers for themselves.
Also keep in mind that HR professionals understands that people have to deal with the realities of life. For example if a consumer was undergoing economic stress due to the recession, and relied on credit cards, or there was a medical issue that caused bills, let HR or the hiring manager know. Also keep in mind that the only reason you are having this discussion is that the firm is seriously considering hiring you, and has gone through allot of time and effort to make that decision, including reviewing numerous other resumes.
Fourth, applicants need to keep in mind that they have rights. Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a credit report is only obtained after the applicant has given consent and after a legally required disclosure on a standalone document has been given. If the employer utilizes the credit report in any way not to hire, an applicant is entitled to a copy of their credit report, a pre- adverse action notice as well as a statement of their rights. Before any decision becomes final, the applicant also has the right to challenge the credit report before any denial of employment is made final.
The bottom-line: If an employer feels a credit report is job related, and a consumer is concerned about that, keep in mind that the employer has made you a finalist, and therefore has an interest in hiring you. You were evaluated without the employer having any idea of what was in the credit report. If there are negative entries, be prepared to share it before the credit report is run. (ESR advises employers by the way not to utilize credit reports unless there is a clear business justification and the use is non-discriminatory and to take into account that credit reports can contain errors or material not relevant to employment.)
One other interesting point: there is no evidence that employers routinely engage in pulling back job offers after the review of the credit report. There are certainly anecdotal stories, but on the whole, once an employer decides they want a particular person, and they have spent time and effort to make that decision, it usually takes something significant that was unexpected for an employer to change their minds.