Specialized Recruitment and Consulting in Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New Challenges in Obtaining Work in Canada

Over the past several months, we at CMS have been encountering increasing problems in the justice system in terms of obtaining criminal record checks. The majority of our clients hire background checking firms to assess any candidates they are interested in hiring. The background check includes a criminal record check.

CMS encourages the use of background checks and historically this has been a straight forward procedure. In recent months however, the systems have been failing and have been returning inaccurate results. So people who have no criminal record are mistakenly being identified as “unclear” (indicating the individual has or may have a criminal record).

Later it is being identified that the system made a mistake and confused a person with someone with the same name who is actually of different gender or birth date. The trouble is that the only way it was eventually determined that the report was wrong was after the candidate, in attempting to prove their innocence (having been accused of being guilty) had to have their finger prints taken and resubmitted into the system to prove who they are and that they don’t have a criminal record.

The further problem is that this process takes up to six months and in that time the opportunity for the job has been lost. One has to wonder what the criminal justice system does with those finger prints once they have them. Will the upshot of this be that one day our finger prints will accompany all of us to a job interview? It makes me think of my time in China training HR managers who had very little work to do in assessing someone’s work history because their personal file contained every bit of information about them and followed them from one job to the next.

The enclosed article by Derek Sankey, as printed in the 02.05.11 edition of the Calgary Herald, paints an interesting picture of the 'bottle-neck' in today's background checks. I would call it a 'must read' for job seekers and employers alike.

Cindy Saunders
Principal - CMS Management Consulting

Background checks hit bottleneck

New RCMP rules delay hiring process for months

By Derek Sankey, For The Calgary Herald

Read more: http://www.calgaryherald.com/Background+checks+bottleneck/4229038/story.html#ixzz1DbgcWp1N

Recruiters are struggling to deal with a surge in criminal record checks under new RCMP rules for "vulnerable sectors" and private screening firms say the backlog is creating some difficult human resource challenges.

Vulnerable sectors include construction, medical, law enforcement, volunteers, lawyers, retail jobs involving cash, the financial sector and many more.

"It is a massive issue," says Ainsley Muller, director of business development for Express Pardons. "It certainly has escalated since mass layoffs have occurred. There is an onslaught of (job) applications."

Hiring managers often use criminal record checks as a screening tool to immediately rule out anybody who comes back with a positive result for a record. The problem is that oftentimes, the 24-hour check flags people with absolutely no record -- just the same name and date or place of birth as a criminal.

That type of check has two possible results: "clear" or "may or may not have a record."

"They tend to throw out a lot of really good candidates based on the check coming back with a positive hit," says Muller.

Under new rules introduced last July by the RCMP, a person is also matched by birthdate and gender -- but not by name -- against a list of 14,000 pardoned sex offenders.

Thousands of people are being incorrectly flagged, while the number of longer and more in-depth fingerprint checks has skyrocketed.

It's an imperfect system, and one that police are working with pre-employment screeners to resolve, but the concept behind it both helps and hinders various organizations in their search for the best and brightest talent.

"Your gut feeling is only 50 per cent of the equation," says Julie McLean, with preemployment screening firm Canpro HR Services Inc. "Criminal records and education are the two things that we see most often that don't match up to what the individual says."

It does, however, create some pressing HR challenges for recruiters. Long wait times -- it can take three to five months for some fingerprint criminal record checks, says Muller -- makes many volunteers simply move on, while good employees are also being overlooked.

"Until they know what their (criminal) record is, they can't make an offer of employment," says McLean. "Who's going to risk hiring someone for maybe eight months to a year and not know what the 'unclear' result is for?"

She says she's working with RCMP and industry to find a solution that works for all parties and does not put the RCMP at risk of liability for providing potentially inaccurate results.

Human rights legislation varies by province in Canada, with some areas protecting individuals from discrimination for not being hired due to a criminal record with or without a pardon, depending on province.

In Alberta, for example, neither pardoned nor unpardoned records are protected. In B.C., both types of records are protected.

Muller says recruiters need to arm themselves with the tools to handle the delicate subject of criminal records appropriately and in a way that puts matters into perspective. His job is to help people clear their names by working with employers to get pardons for past minor offences -- a process that can take six months to a year or more by itself.

Muller refers to Mike Quinn of IBM Canada when approaching the subject of criminal records, who put it this way: "The operative phrase is to apply common sense and judgment to these situations. A person who did something silly 25 years ago when he was still in high school would be looked at differently than somebody charged with bank robbery three years ago."

Background checks include more than just criminal record checks. They include credit checks, personal reference checks, credential and academic verification and any other requirements unique to any given field.

The current problem is the delay in finding out what the criminal record is for, given the lengthy wait times to access a definitive result from the RCMP and the Canadian Police Information Centre.

There is also the possibility that a positive result with one police force will not yield the same result on municipal databases and people also change names, confusing things further.

In Calgary, the average time for police checks is about six weeks, exceeding its target of 10 days to two weeks, but measures are being taken to reduce the wait.


© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald


  1. how strange that even after passing rigorous canadian immigration procedure and coming from scotland with clean record, my first job background check came unclear. It was within 2 months of my landing. Lost a job and still waiting police clearance from CPS. Who actually does this background check.

  2. This only proves that doing a background check on applicants will not only reduce the hiring time but it also improve the process of selecting the better contender for the job. http://www.usaintel.com