Michael Ford
Legal Suppliers

Background checks as part of pre-employment screening

Vetting potential employees before they are hired through background checks is a routine procedure for many companies, says Jim Downs, founding partner and managing director of MKD International Inc. 

“Some companies make it a condition of employment — the potential employee has to submit to an authorized criminal background search and, depending on the job, a credit bureau search,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“Individuals must sign an authorization form for it."

The rationale for those companies is that it’s one way to help ensure they aren’t going to hire someone who has a history that might not be conducive to their employment, Downs says.

A credit bureau search is often requested for those positions involving finance or assets for a company, he adds.

“It can help with their decision-making process to determine whether they want to bring that person onboard," he says.

It used to be that such actions were reserved for executive positions, but now they’re used across the board for all types of positions, Downs says.

And a growing number of companies hire MKD to perform the searches, he says.

Criminal background checks and driving records are the most common, Downs says, noting that the RCMP oversees the criminal record database at the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC).

When firms such as MKD submit authorization forms for individual checks at a police agency, they receive information about whether there is an entry on the person’s file, but it doesn’t provide any details about the conviction, if there is one, Downs says.

“If there is an entry, we tell the employer there is one or more convictions on his file but we don’t know what the facts are,” he says. “In order to get that police record, the individual himself must go to a police agency and make application to get their criminal record. They have to submit fingerprints because that’s how you truly tell it’s that person's record.”

The employer has to ask the potential employee to get that information, Downs says. If they don't want to provide it, "nine times out of 10 that person isn’t going to get the job,” he says. 

The criminal record search will only provide information on convictions and doesn’t indicate whether somebody has charges still before the courts, Downs says.

Companies may also request information that’s available in the public domain such as land title searches, news media appearances, online and social media.

If the individual is speaking on social media about an issue in a manner that causes the employer concern, they may not hire the person, Downs says.

“It may help the employer determine whether they are suitable for employment at their company,” he says.  

Downs says background searches are becoming more common in the business world as companies try to protect their “image and assets.

“They help to mitigate the risk of hiring someone new at the start because once they are an employee, it’s more difficult to do this,” he says. 

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