What does the science of human psychology tell us about screening and background checks?

Many Australian businesses are introducing mandatory background checks on their new employees, even when they are not mandated by law. Better safe than sorry is a sound hiring policy principle designed to keep an organisation safe from potentially dangerous individuals. Is such a policy justified?

Testing a candidate’s honesty

When a company makes screening and background checks a part of their hiring protocol it’s best to let the candidates know from the very beginning, mentioning this in the job ad or at least at the first job interview. There are two possible outcomes. The vast majority of job applicants who do not have a criminal record will not be bothered by this check since they have nothing to fear.

On the other hand, people who have something on their record might react in different ways.

There are those who would lie during a job interview, saying they have a clean record and those who are brave enough to come clean about their past mistakes. This is a very tricky issue as, under Australian law, businesses cannot reject a candidate based on their criminal record if the offences committed are irrelevant to the position they are applying for.

However, HR managers are within their rights to reject a candidate if he or she lies about their past during the job interview.

Second chances

A job applicant with a criminal record who freely admits to past wrongdoings should be offered a chance to earn an honest living and become a useful member of society. People can change and for a youthful offender a stint behind bars can serve as a sobering experience. Obviously, when a candidate chooses to disclose unsavory facts from their past, it is the duty of a HR manager to order a national police check to see the whole picture.In most cases doing a background check on a candidate is beneficial for the person with a criminal past.

For one thing, they won’t live with the fear of being discovered and fired.

Perhaps the most important aspect is that an employee who knows the management is aware of his past will do his best to behave well and stay out of trouble. For instance, an employee with a history of theft will know he will be the first to come under suspicion if some money is missing from the cash register.

On the other hand, an employee with a similar past who has not undergone a background check might be tempted to relapse and steal money or products from his place of employment as the management has no idea of his previous convictions and he won’t be the prime suspect.

The value of a quick background check

Ordering a background check on new employees in Australia has become easier over the years. In the interests of community safety, the government has enabled organisations like the Australian National Character Check to streamline the national police check process. Identity documents and information of the prospective employee can be uploaded online and persons generally report back in a matter of three days. The ANCC website can be accessed here: launch live website. Everything is done online so tends to be a bit more efficient than walking into a local police station and doing everything manually via paper forms.

Once the HR managers get the full report they can make an informed decision when it comes to candidates with a criminal past.

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