Advice for recruiters on candidates with minor criminal records

Police Checks

How long should we, as mining industry employers and recruiters, continue to ‘punish’ jobseekers for their minor sins of yesteryear?

Barely a week seems to go by without a celebrity or politician being criticised for something they did or said many years ago. While we are not condemning or condoning any of the past behaviours that lead to these public outrages, it’s often the case that the incident is not reflective of who that person is now.

Is it fair to criticise a 50-year-old for something they did as a 15-year-old? Can we expect a 20-year-old to have had the same level of maturity and social understanding as their 40-year-old self? 

Is it fair that a single isolated event—perhaps a youthful indiscretion with a lesson learned long ago—continues to impact someone’s ability to secure employment, travel or migrate?

Our skills, competencies, attributes, beliefs and behaviours develop, mature and change throughout our lifetimes. They change, just as society changes.

In mining recruitment, we routinely encounter people who are unable to secure a position on a mine site simply because of an isolated misdemeanour that occurred much earlier in their life. We see this effect right across the industry—residential and FIFO, all commodities, and all roles.

But is it fair?

Pre-Employment Checks

As recruiters, we ask applicants about background checks, medicals and referencing. All are used to assess an applicant’s suitability for a role on a mine site.

But we know that past behaviour and performance are not always good predictors of future behaviour and performance.

How many times do we hear ourselves or a colleague say, “I never thought they would do that”?

People change, mature, learn and grow. A police clearance only tells us what a person’s behaviours and actions have been in the past. A one-off incident as a 17-year-old does not always set up an individual for a lifetime of choices that society does not agree with.

Likewise, a clear police clearance may not represent a guilt-free life; it could just be they have never been caught. 

What is the solution?

We’re not questioning a company’s right to assess each applicant against their criteria and the findings of a National Police Clearance. Nor are we challenging the need for police checks.

What we are querying is whether a police clearance is a requirement for every position within your business. Could a risk analysis for each role reduce the reliance on police checks for all potential employees?

READ MORE: It’s time to be flexible on candidate suitability

Sure, if the candidate is going to be working in finance, purchasing, contract negotiation or high-value commodities like gold and diamonds, you’d require a police check. But is it worth it for a job in bulk commodity mines, like iron ore or coal, where the risk of employing someone with a low-level criminal history is likely to be significantly less?

If an operation or company requires that a criminal check be done no matter what sort of mine or job, then could each organisation apply a different matrix of risk assessments for each role? Potential employees who have minor offences and might otherwise be discounted could become employable under an adaptable approach to pre-employment checks.

Many mining companies already have varying levels of pre-employment medical checks, depending on the physical nature of particular roles. Is it not time we reviewed all pre-employment requirements, including those that unfairly limit the employability of someone with minor historical indiscretions?

MPI has 30 years’ specialist experience helping mining companies find the best candidates across every job category. Find out more here or get in touch today.


Mining People International has more than 25 years’ specialist experience helping mining companies find the best candidates across every job category. Find out more here or get in touch today.

Dan Hatch
Mining People International