Which Criminal History Results are Red Flags? Which Ones Can You Ignore?

Businesses and landlords have come to rely increasingly in the past few years on criminal record searches. They can be a helpful way of narrowing down applicants and finding the applicants who might be detrimental to the company. But these documents are far from perfect. They include relevant details as well as red herrings that can disqualify even the most talented applicants. Here are some charges the should be flagged on a criminal record check, and some that should be ignored in many cases. 

Violent Crimes: The Clearest Record Red Flag

Violent crimes are definitely the crimes that any person doing a job application review should look out for. They indicate that a person has caused harm to another person in their past and has often serve jail time for the offense. People who are convicted of crimes such as assault or arson have a high rate of recidivism and could be a danger to the employees at the company

 Not every type of violent crime is easy to detect. For example, Page Law states that many instances of hit-and-run are never identified by police, so those might not appear on a background check. Ask candidates point-blank whether they’ve been involved in any past crimes. You’ll be surprised at how forthcoming some might be. And if there is a major discrepancy between their story and what appears on their background check, you’ll know they have an honesty problem.


Fraud and Violent Crime

Most companies reject people with violent crimes and their criminal records immediately and for understandable reasons. Another type of crimes that should be considered is fraud. Check fraud, mail fraud, and defrauding investors are all behaviors that people often do more than once and that can devastate a company's business and reputation.


Some companies reason that “talent” makes up for menial infractions. “Not so,” says Business Coach Dave Ramsey. In order to trust any candidate with an employment opportunity, you have to be absolutely certain about two things: competence and integrity. Any shoplifting or larceny infraction recent enough to show up on a criminal background check (7 years, according to JDP) should instantly discredit any candidate based on their integrity. If they can be tempted by $5, they can certainly be tempted by the business assets they’ll have access to.


Crime and the Growing-Up Process

Other crimes such as underage consumption of alcohol, vandalism, and trespassing can all occur early on in a person's life before they fully realize the consequences of their actions. These, like a shoplifting charge, should not completely be ignored. They still demonstrate poor judgement. But they should not be a deciding factor in giving or taking away a job in most instances. In fact, according to Adam Grant in his book “Originals” claims that the most innovative people often engage in low-risk, low-impact deviancy in their youth. A candidate with a checkered past and a polished present might be exactly the kind of out-of-the-box thinker you’re looking for.


Criminal record background checks are a tricky task for any manager or landlord. There is no definite guide, and many managers and landlords often go with their gut instincts about how a person will be. Hopefully, knowing more about the kinds of actions that should be closely scrutinized and those that should be ignored can help people make these decisions and a fairway that protects both the applicant and the business.

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