Background checks have become an essential part of the recruitment process in today's society. Employers rely on these checks to verify the identity, employment history, and criminal records of job seekers before hiring them. In fact, they have become so crucial that some companies and organizations include them in their standard operating procedures. But why are background checks so important, and how do they help prevent fraud and protect public safety?
The Importance of Background Checks
Background checks are essential because they weed out job seekers with a fraudulent or criminal history. These checks are designed to provide information to employers about applicants, including their employment history, education history, criminal record, and credit history. All of these factors come into play when hiring for certain positions, such as those that involve cash handling, customer service, or working with vulnerable populations. Employers use background checks to ensure that they are making informed hiring decisions and avoiding the risk of hiring someone who could pose a threat to their business or their customers.
However, background checks are not only limited to employment. They are also used in other areas of society, such as when renting apartments, applying for loans or credit, or volunteering with children or elderly people. Background checks provide a degree of protection for both the applicant and the entity they are interacting with, as it allows the entity to assess any risks associated with the applicant.
Background checks can help prevent fraud by verifying the applicant's identity and ensuring that the information provided on the application is accurate. This is particularly important in industries that deal with sensitive data or financial transactions, such as banking, insurance, and healthcare. These industries often require specific certifications or licenses, and background checks help ensure that the applicant is qualified and trustworthy to hold such positions.
Background checks also reveal any criminal history or past fraudulent activity of applicants. This information helps employers make informed decisions about whether to hire an applicant or not. It also protects the employer's reputation by avoiding a situation where an employee's criminal history is made public after they are hired.
Protecting Public Safety
Background checks help protect public safety by identifying potential risks in various contexts. For example, a background check of a daycare center employee may highlight any prior history of child abuse or neglect. This information is crucial in ensuring the safety of children who are placed in the care of the center.
Similarly, a background check of a commercial driver's license applicant may reveal any history of drug or alcohol abuse, which could pose a risk to public safety. In such cases, the applicant may be denied a commercial driver's license, preventing them from operating heavy machinery and potentially endangering lives on the road.
Background checks have been instrumental in uncovering past criminal activity of applicants. In 2015, a Florida daycare center employee was arrested for child abuse after a background check revealed a prior conviction for the same offense. Despite passing a state-mandated background check, the employee was found to have lied on her application, leading to her arrest.
In another instance, a Virginia man was arrested in 2018 after a background check revealed a prior history of stalking and harassment. The man had applied for a commercial driver's license, which was denied due to his criminal record.
The Downside of Background Checks
Despite their usefulness in protecting public safety and preventing fraud, some argue that background checks can pose hurdles for those who have made mistakes in the past. Advocates for the "ban the box" movement argue that having to disclose a criminal history on job applications can prevent people from obtaining employment and perpetuate a cycle of poverty.
Additionally, background checks are not infallible. In some cases, they may not uncover all the criminal activity of an applicant. In others, they may flag individuals who have been wrongly accused or have had their charges dismissed.
In conclusion, background checks are incredibly important in today's society. They help prevent fraud, protect public safety, and provide both employers and the entities they work with with a degree of protection against risk. While they are not perfect and can pose hurdles for certain individuals, their benefits far outweigh any downsides. As such, they are likely to remain a crucial part of the hiring and vetting process for years to come.