Many job seekers spend days and weeks polishing their resumes to highlight their academic results or professional achievements and to present themselves in the best possible light at the job interview. However, many ignore the fact that many businesses now routinely ask for a background check and are surprised to hear they will have to submit to a criminal history verification.
Don’t take it personal
Performing background screenings on prospective employees is rapidly becoming the norm in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, so if you’re asked to consent to a police check don’t take offence. It’s not personal. Human Resources managers see a police check as the best tool to protect the company against theft, fraud or sexual harassment scandals.
What to expect
During the job interview you will probably be asked to consent to such a verification. If you do have a criminal record that would be the time to broach the subject and explain what you were convicted for.
If you consent to a police check – and it advisable that you do that – you must know that in most cases the employer will take care of the matter and you won’t have to do anything, except provide some ID and a photo.
Many businesses use trusted online agencies that are accredited by the Federal government to run a background check on someone. Such agencies tend to have access to police databases in all states and territories of the country. For example if an applicant based in New South Wales (NSW) in Australia is carrying out a national police check nsw, the check will actually take into account all states and territories in Australia. It works the same way for the United States and New Zealand.
For you, this means that the police check will discover and list any offence committed anywhere in the country.
In case you have a common name, like John Smith, the verification might take longer than the usual 1-3 business days and you might be asked to supply additional information so you can be distinguished from the many John Smiths out there.
If you’ve never had any problems with the police, the check will state there are No Disclosable Court Outcomes about you, so you’re in the clear.
Does a criminal record automatically mean you will be rejected?
In many cases, a candidate is told that he or she got the job, on condition their police clearance comes back clean. If you do have a conviction and did not mention it during the job interview, it is possible that you won’t get the job. However, you need to know that, under the law, a company does not have the right to turn down a candidate if the conviction is not relevant to the job for which he or she is applying.
If you have a conviction for fraud, the company has every right to reject your application to work as a cashier. Yet, if you were convicted for drunk driving, the offence may be considered being no way relevant for a position as a cashier.
Another very important thing – offences committed many years ago, – 10 in Australia and 7 in New Zealand – are considered “spent” in Australia or “clean slate” in New Zealand and will not appear in a national police clearance. Also, you are not obliged to disclose information about a spent or clean slate conviction even if, during the interview, the recruiting agent specifically asks whether you’ve been in trouble with the law.