Background Checks Are a Regular Part of Retail

If you have ever been without a job, one well-meaning friend or relative might have told you, “Why don’t you just work in retail until you find a real job?” Retail, unfortunately, doesn’t appear to be the fall-back industry for everyone, and a recent survey about background check use in the field shows that not everyone can obtain a position.

Conducted by the National Retail Federation (NRF), the survey was designed to show how retail employers use background checks to sift through thousands of candidates. The survey showed that 97 percent of all retailers, for positions ranging from store associates to corporate employees, conduct background checks in some form. Although, as we have explained, background checks vary in scope, the NRF survey indicated that those that do examine information from the past five to seven years and touch on employment, education, driving, and criminal history. NRF’s senior asset protection advisor Joe LaRocca stated about their survey:

“Background screenings help retailers ensure the safety of both shoppers and employees from the very beginning of the application process. Pre-employment screenings are one of the tools retailers use as a first line of defense, especially during the holiday season when companies many have hundreds – if not thousands – of applications to sift through.”

The survey has a second side – displaying the impact of criminal history in hiring decisions. Part of this is the “ban the box” initiative – guidelines from the EEOC to ban the criminal history box. Because of the larger pool of applicants, especially around the holiday season, employers have been known to use criminal history as a blanket measure for dismissing applicants. If an individual checks off the box on an application, an employer may see it and automatically take the candidate out of consideration without even conducting a background check.