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Background Checks: Arrest Records v. Conviction Records

Everything is going perfectly in your hiring process with a promising candidate – until you discover they have a criminal record. Your first instinct may be to drop their application like a hot potato. But, you may want to give it some further thought before automatically rejecting this potential hire. Start by considering the difference between an arrest and a conviction.


  • Under U.S. law, a person doesn’t have to be guilty of a crime to be arrested. There only needs to be a reasonable belief that an individual may have broken the law. In many cases, people are falsely accused of crimes or are simply victims of circumstance.
  • An arrest record is not definitive proof that someone has broken the law. It merely indicates that there was a suspicion of that happening.
  • A conviction record is created when a person has gone through the legal system and has been found guilty of a crime in a court of law. Or, they have confessed or settled out of court. And even this is not definitive proof that a person did commit a crime, just that they were judged guilty. However, a conviction record does generally carry more weight, as it is a stronger indicator of a criminal liability than an arrest record.

How to Handle the Situation

It’s not against the law in most jurisdictions to exclude a candidate from your hiring process based on an adverse criminal history, as long as you consider certain factors and treat everyone equally. You cannot exclude one applicant of a particular group but allow another one to continue in the process. This includes anyone with either an arrest or a conviction record.

  • Candidates have a right to know you are running background checks on them, as well as which information you have uncovered and why they may not be considered for your hiring process.
  • Discuss records with candidates. In some ways, an arrest record may be worse for an applicant than a case where they went to trial and were acquitted. In the former scenario, there may be a lingering question about whether or not they were indeed guilty, whereas, in the latter, there is a conclusive verdict of innocence. In any case, if you do uncover something negative in a person’s history, it’s advisable to discuss the issue with them and get their side of the story.
  • And don’t forget! In some states and jurisdictions, there are specific requirements relating to this process.


Want More Information?

You don’t want to leave any grey areas as you make the best-informed hiring decision with every job vacancy. To eliminate any unanswered questions, partner with a firm that specializes in criminal history searches, as well as other necessary employment screenings and tests. To learn more, contact Chane Solutions today.





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