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Background screenings are an important tool for employers

Apr 02, 2011 Matt Roesly

With millions of people out of work throughout the United States, many have become desperate for any opportunity that presents itself. Those looking for jobs spend countless hours looking through newspapers' classified sections or online postings for jobs that they are qualified to do. After applying to these jobs, potential hires must play the waiting game until they get the long-awaited call from an employer. And while employers can read through resumes and conduct interviews, there is one step that can often present issues for those hoping to get hired - a criminal background screening. Often an otherwise-perfect candidate will be told that a prior conviction no longer makes him or her eligible to be considered for the job. And while many in HR departments are right to be wary of those with convictions, according to some recent statistics, an increasingly large number of adults in the United States have been found guilty of crimes that shows up during these checks. According to a recent report from the National Employment Law Project, approximately 65 million Americans have an arrest or conviction that will show up on a background check. According to employment experts, employers must make hiring decisions depending on whether or not they will have an effect on the person's ability to do a job. A misdemeanor arrest for marijuana during someone's college years will often be overlooked by employers as a youthful indiscretion. "You can understand how someone with an embezzlement conviction should not work in a bank or why someone with a child pornography charge should not work with kids," Todd Berger, the managing attorney with the Rutgers School of Law-Camden's Federal Prisoner Reentry Project, said in an interview with the Huffington Post. "But you cannot understand how a drug conviction should disqualify someone from driving a truck or working as a janitor for the rest of their lives." Thanks to the number of people out of work, employers these days have more qualified candidates to choose from. Often the decision will come down to who has the most spotless background after a thorough check is run. If something does show up during a check, it can be a good idea to ask the person to explain how the arrest occurred.