Do Your Candidates Need a Background Check?

Magnifying glass looking at fingerprint

Part of setting up a successful relationship with a staffing company involves a detailed information exchange about your company’s requirements for new associates who begin working at your facility.

This typically includes information about certifications, experience, training, and availability; however, many companies also request certain background checks on new employees. How do you know if any kind of background check is necessary?


In certain work environments, such as a credit card company or a call centre facility handling inbound or outbound sales activity, a personal credit check or criminal background check may be required for all employees. This is a valid hiring requirement since these employees have access to customer credit card and personal identity information.

When hiring staff who will be in contact with youth, seniors, or other special groups, a Vulnerable Sector Screening is necessary. This may involve the candidate going to a police station and being fingerprinted and interviewed if their name and date of birth has any similarity to results that flag in the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database during a standard criminal record search.


Pre-employment drug testing is extremely difficult to justify under Canadian employment law. According to Alison J. Bird, a partner at Cox & Palmer, “an employer must meet the high threshold of proving an actual significant drug or alcohol problem at its particular worksite before it can implement pre-employment testing. Even if an employer can meet this strict requirement, it will likely also still need to show that the testing is reasonably balanced against the candidate’s right to privacy. This may be difficult given the arbitrator’s comments in this case that a positive test is not a valid predictor of future impairment at work.

For the large majority of companies, however, the scenarios above simply do not apply.


2017 was one of the tightest recruiting markets in recent history. In cities such as London, Hamilton, and Toronto, markets reached near full-employment, meaning that anyone able and willing to work is employed.

Staffing professionals reported that many of the candidates they received applications from were already working, but wanted to explore other opportunities. Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) reports that Ontario had 20,000 more job vacancies to fill in the second quarter of 2017, a 12% increase over the previous year. This was the fourth consecutive quarter with year-over-year increases in the number of job vacancies for the province, particularly in the greater Toronto and Hamilton areas.

This really illustrates how important it is to capture every available candidate on the market. As staffing partners, we need to work together to remove as many barriers as possible for candidates looking at your job posting.

If a candidate needs to complete a police background check before even stepping into your workplace, you’re creating barriers to getting the candidates you need because:

  1. Applicants don’t want to pay for multiple clearance checks for positions they may not even accept or continue with.
  2. Applicants don’t want to wait for a clearance check to be completed before they can begin working (and earning!).

The scenarios above result in candidates who forgo applying to your seasonal or temporary job posting in favour of other positions that don’t require these clearance checks upfront.


crim check2

Hiring managers across Canada need to consider whether a clearance check really is a bona fide work requirement, and whether it is necessary that a clearance check come back 100% clear. Perhaps this policy should be in place when considering full-time employees, but take a backseat when onboarding large-volume seasonal or temporary peak season workforces.

There are plenty of scenarios in which a candidate may have a criminal history but still be a great fit for the position. For example, should an applicant with a DUI conviction from 10 years ago be overlooked for a position as a shipper/receiver in a distribution centre? Should a perfectly qualified and experienced person who wrote a bad cheque 5 years ago be excluded from eligibility for a forklift operator position? Since Canada is legalizing recreational marijuana use later this summer, should a one-time possession conviction from 15 years ago exclude a seasoned quality control inspector from a job?


As a hiring manager, you may want to consider whether you require a clear background check at all. You could also make decisions on a job-by-job basis, or evaluate each individual case once you have narrowed your final selection down to a handful of candidates.

We encourage you to review your policy and practices around the subject of background checks, both for seasonal, temporary, and full-time positions. You may find your eligible candidate pool is greatly increased when a more practical and flexible approach is applied, particularly in peak times.

Looking For Staff?

Looking For Work?