Criminal background checks are increasingly becoming a part of the job application process. Labour sectors such as Government, Old Age Care, and Youth Work already insist on them, even before an interview.

Criminal Background Checks: Are they worth it?

Two questions about criminal history checks everyone is forgetting.

1. What are they actually hoping to achieve with these checks?
2. How effective are they at achieving it?

I went to the National Crime Check website for answers. This is a fascinating site. If you’re prepared to chase down a few links you can get quite a comprehensive view of the argument.

The point of a criminal history check is not to identify past criminals. It’s to identify future ones.

People who pass criminal history checks are either honest, haven’t been caught, or haven’t committed a crime yet. And to be fair, there’s not a lot to be done about them. Studies have shown that supposed Criminal Profilers are no better than average at identifying future criminals.

The only possible substantiation for criminal background checks lies in rates of re-offending. That is: Does a history of criminal activity point to a future of criminal activity?

Here are some interesting stat’s from KPMG

• Australian courts reported more than a billion (that’s billion with a ‘B’) dollars’ worth of fraud related cases between 2008 and 2011.
• Employees and managers are 80% more likely far to steal their business than are credit card scammers or armed robbers:.
• Rate of reported fraud offences have been falling by about 3% a year since 2004. So criminals are either becoming smarter or more brazen.

Predicting Criminal Activity: Do Checks Do It?

Is there a correlation between past and future criminals?
Here are some stats on recidivism (reoffending) from the Australian Institute of Criminology

• Rates of re-offending soon after release are increasing: 36% recidivism after two years in 1995, 45% after two years in 2005.
• Rates of re-incarceration are dropping: 74% in 1996, 63% in 2003.

To me this means the longer a person goes without re-offending the more chance there is they won’t.

Criminal history checks benefit everyone.

• Employers get to identify those most likely to commit a future crime.
• Ex-cons get to show their increasing trustworthiness over time.

What about non-offenders? What’s in it for them?

If you have no criminal history it will certainly be to your advantage to draw attention to the fact. Pay for and append a background check to your resume. National Crime Check (the website I wrote about above)offers this service for as little as $44. With the required identification and verification you can do it online and have the report in your hands in a few days.

Bring your own criminal history check to an interview. Prospective employers will be grateful

Employers are people too. They’re just as likely to see a background check as intrusive as you are. Plus, asking for your permission to conduct a check sets a tone of mistrust over any future workplace relations. Take the pressure off them by providing your own report yourself. It’ll certainly count in your favor.