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Recruiting? Here's how to conduct a criminal record check

by , 19 February 2013
The Oscar Pistorius saga has rocked South African society. If found guilty, Pistorius will not only go to jail, but his reputation will be tainted for life and he'll have a criminal record. This could stop him from finding a job if he stops racing. If you're recruiting new staff, one of the things you need to check is if candidates have a criminal record. Here's how to do it.

'At least seven out of every hundred candidates checked last year had a previous conviction, reports EMPS, South Africa's oldest reference checking company, when asked about criminal records.
 
That's a worrying figure for companies that are currently recruiting staff.
 
After all, you don't want to hire someone convicted of drunken driving as your company driver or someone convicted of fraud as your company's accountant.
 
But how do you find out if job candidates have a criminal record?
 
The Practical Guide to Human Resources Management has the answer.
 
Two ways to conduct a criminal record check
 
One of the checks you need to do before you commit to employing the applicant is a criminal record check, says HR expert Janine Nieuwoudt in The Practical Guide to Human Resources Management. 'You can either do them after a first interview or second interview if you follow a two-step interview process. Always ask the candidate to consent to you doing these checks. Put a clause in your application forms allowing you to do background checks [including a criminal record check]' she explains.
 
To do a criminal record check, either:
 
1. Contact the Criminal Record Centre (Tel: (012) 393 3601) and request the information; or
2. Ask the applicant to apply for a police clearance certificate from their local police station.
 
What to do if your job applicant's criminal record check comes back positive
 
Don't exclude a candidate because of his criminal record if it's irrelevant to the job he's applied for. If you do, you could be accused of unfair discrimination, warns Nieuwoudt.
 
Look at:
• The nature of the prior conviction: Is it relevant to the job he is applying for?;
• The number of prior convictions; and
• When the offences took place (long ago or fairly recently)?
 
The only time you're entitled not to appoint the applicant on the basis of the prior conviction is if it has a clear relevance to the job.
 
And remember, 'only convictions are relevant. If [his criminal record shows] that a candidate was arrested or detained in connection with a crime, but was never convicted, you can't use this as a reason not to employ him. You also can't ask the candidate any questions about the arrest or detention. If there was no conviction, you must treat it as if it never happened,' Nieuwoudt explains.
 
Bottom line: Employers have a legal duty to make reasonable inquiries about who they hire and to provide a safe workplace, says bizcommunity.com. Doing a criminal record check on potential employees you're thinking about recruiting is just one way of doing that

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