Hiring & Recruiting, HR Policies & Procedures

Changing Times: Hiring Managers Are Hiring Ex-Cons

New research shows that hiring managers are becoming more accepting of candidates with criminal records in the wake of the recruiting crisis.

An unprecedented survey, that examines how managers, human resources (HR) professionals, and employees feel about hiring individuals with criminal records was released today. Among the groupings, 74 percent of managers and 84 percent of HR professionals nationwide said they were willing or open to hiring individuals with a criminal record. Across all groups surveyed, over 80 percent said they were willing and open to working with individuals with criminal records. Only a small minority were unwilling to make the hire or work alongside these individuals.

“Workplaces are transforming quickly, and talent strategies must evolve along with them,” said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, president and chief executive officer of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). “Organizations can no longer grow without tapping into the reservoirs of potential talent hidden in our communities. In many industries, accessing human capital is now harder than accessing financial capital, so it is a mistake to exclude vetted, qualified candidates because of their source.”

The survey was conducted by SHRM and the Charles Koch Institute (CKI) to better understand how people in the business community viewed hiring those with criminal records.

Securing employment is a vital rung in the ladder of opportunity and essential to ensuring the success of individuals with a criminal record. Stable employment prevents these individuals from reoffending, making it a critical factor in reducing the recidivism rate. Business executives, HR professionals, and other employees can help break these individuals out of this cycle by considering this source of untapped talent for open roles and encouraging others to do the same.

“The key to reducing recidivism and improving public safety is finding employment for people. If individuals with a criminal record can be considered for employment based on their talent and skills, the benefits for the business—and society—are far-reaching,” says Vikrant Reddy, senior research fellow at CKI. “HR professionals are well positioned to provide counsel and generate a tailored set of best practice principles that will benefit both the business and the individuals seeking a second chance.”

Working with Individuals with a Criminal Record

  • When participants were asked how willing their coworkers would be to work with individuals with a criminal record 84 percent of managers were either neutral, willing, or very willing, while 88 percent of HR professionals said the same.
  • When asked how willing or unwilling they were to hire individuals with a criminal record, about two-thirds of managers and HR professionals said they were either neutral or willing to make the hire.
  • However, when asked about how willing or unwilling their coworkers were to hire those with criminal records, 36 percent of managers said willing or very willing, and 26 percent of HR professionals said the same.

Communicating Criminal Record Policies, Approaches, and Perspectives

  • When asked if their company or organization’s HR department communicated its policy, approach, or perspective on hiring individuals with criminal records:
    • Forty-three percent of HR professionals said yes, 43 percent said no, and 14 percent said they were not sure.
    • Thirty-six percent of managers said their policy was communicated to employees.
  • When asked if their company or organization’s senior leadership communicated to employees its policy, approach, or perspective on hiring individuals with criminal records, only 33 percent of HR professionals said leadership had communicated a policy.
  • When asked if their company or organization had a formal or informal policy regarding hiring individuals with a criminal record:
    • Thirty-two percent of HR professionals said they had a formal policy. An equal number of HR managers said that they did not have a formal or informal policy.
    • Forty-two percent of managers thought their company did have a formal policy while 51 percent of non-managers were “not sure” whether their company had a policy, either formal or informal.

Not Everyone Is On-Board

  • When asked if the company or organization where they work had hired individuals with criminal records, 66 percent of HR professionals said their organization or company had done so, while 39 percent of managers, and 17 percent of non-managers said the same.
  • When asked what the specific concerns that companies or organizations could have about hiring those with criminal records, managers felt the biggest barrier to hiring those with criminal records are how customers would react, with legal liability being a close second. Yet HR professionals and non-manager employees appear to be much more worried about legal liability than managers.
  • There is disagreement between managers and non-managers about the reasons companies choose to hire those with criminal records:
    • While 50 percent of managers say that hiring the best candidate for the job regardless of criminal history is “very much” a factor only 20 percent of non-managers agree.
    • While about 44 percent of managers believe that making the community a better place and giving individuals a second chance are important factors, 21 percent of non-managers agree that making the community a better place is very important and 30 percent of non-managers agree that it’s very important to consider giving people a second chance as a factor in their company’s process of hiring people with a criminal record.
    • While 43 percent of non-managers believe decisionmakers are incentivized by tax rebates or other government incentives, only 27 percent of

Screening for Criminal History

  • Seventy-three percent of organizations do check for criminal history during the hiring process; however, only 46 percent of organizations said they require job applicants to indicate their criminal history on the initial employment application.