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What do you do if an applicant has a criminal conviction?

Mat Armstrong, managing director of giant screening

As part of your onboarding activities, you conduct background checks on prospective candidates -that sounds like sensible business practice. However, a recent check has been returned with a conviction on. What should you do?

After significant investment in time and resource, and weeks of sorting through CVs and conducting interviews, you find the perfect candidate who ticks all the boxes. You have made the offer contingent on successful completion of background checks, and when the results of the checks are returned, you find a conviction on your applicant's background check. What happens now?

It's not always black and white

When negative results are returned, it's not always as black and white as excluding the candidate based on the information. Clearly, there are instances where it would be, and we work with clients to develop metrics that make it clearer. For instance, no criminal history criterion could exclude good candidates that may have taken bad decisions in the past but have grown from that learning experience.

So, there are criminal convictions that would automatically remove a candidate from the recruitment process. For other types of convictions, it's important to consider several factors.

We consider the severity and type of offence committed. You should pose yourself some questions:

1. What offence was committed?

2. How serious was the offence and resulting conviction?

3. Is it a singular isolated offence or do multiple minor offences show a bigger pattern of behaviour?

4. What is its relevance to the job that the applicant is applying for?


Often, offences that haven't resulted in any custodial sentence are more minor in nature. If it's a singular offence then you could take the view that, if it's not relative to the role, it was a one-off mistake. However, if the offences are still minor but there are multiple offences, you could take the view that it demonstrates a pattern of behaviour that you would not want in your business.

You may wish to take a zero tolerance to drug offences approach. Even then, you may wish to consider the date of the offence and view someone convicted for possession of cannabis 6 months ago differently to someone convicted for the same offence 5 years ago. Looking at the timeline of criminal history, it's important to assess risk and relevance.


A major consideration on the severity of an offence is its relevance to the role that you are recruiting for. A single conviction for driving without insurance, even for a role involving driving, may not exclude the applicant. However, if you're a financial services company you may view this as a fraudulent act and disqualify them -  many do.

Taking this all into account, it makes sense to consider what you would do if an applicant has a criminal conviction in advance and have some set criteria around it. Look at the jobs you are recruiting for and start to identify the convictions that would have a negative impact on the duties you expect the successful applicant to be carrying out.


The final point to consider, and often the deciding factor, is the integrity of the applicant. Give them an opportunity during the recruitment process to disclose any convictions they may have. If they have disclosed and discussed criminal convictions to you during the recruitment process, you should take a different view compared to if they knowingly concealed it. As part of the screening process, we can ask the question and give the applicant a chance to say yes or no.

It may sound complex but it’s relatively simple. We work with all our clients to ensure they have the best policies in place to suit their business needs.

If you want to focus more time on your core business and have excellent support on your background checking requirements, contact us today. For a free consultation to review your current processes, email or call 020 7167 4554.

Picture courtesy of Pixabay

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