For millions of Americans, the past year’s upheaval has been immense, and the skyrocketing unemployment numbers at the pandemic’s peak highlighted just how many people were struggling to stay afloat. As things slowly return to normal and HR professionals look to fill open positions, there is an underrepresented population of qualified applicants they should consider: those with a felony conviction on their record.
For decades, the process of screening potential candidates has been dependent on a preemployment background check. This process, when used by itself, can eliminate millions of qualified applicants every year, leaving workplaces less diverse and keeping skilled candidates unemployed. It is time for employers to embrace fair chance hiring and experience the positive impact it can have on their companies, employees, and communities.
Impact on the Formerly Incarcerated and the Businesses That Hire Them
Roughly 94% of employers across the country perform some sort of background screening, but using this as the sole tool to mitigate negligent hiring and employee risk isn’t always enough. One in three Americans live with a criminal record, but many of these arrests never led to convictions or were for nonviolent offenses, such as drug possession.
A hiring process that filters these candidates out is a big reason one in four formerly incarcerated individuals is unemployed. These individuals are often highly motivated to return to work and, if given the opportunity, are a valuable addition to the workforce. However, applicants with a conviction are 50% less likely to be called back for an interview. This has long-term consequences for the candidates’ well-being, as research shows that offenders who remain unemployed are significantly more likely to reoffend.
Beyond the damage this discriminatory practice can do on a societal level, there are significant benefits for businesses that reduce the weight they place on preemployment background checks and institute a fair chance hiring policy. Companies that hire individuals with prior convictions often enjoy a higher employee retention rate and increased earnings while also contributing to higher tax revenues from employment and societal cost savings from reduced recidivism. In addition, fair chance hiring practices ensure that employers are aligned and compliant with “ban the box” laws on the books in 36 states, which prohibit employers from asking applicants about criminal history on an initial job application.
Fair Hiring Policy Best Practices and How to Implement Them Successfully
The goal of a background check is to give companies peace of mind about the people they hire, but it shouldn’t be the sole factor upon which a hiring decision is based. Of course, companies do need to protect themselves and their employees, so continuous monitoring solutions can identify any signs of trouble or misconduct.
The key to success is ensuring the policy is thorough and compliant with federal, state, and local employment laws and regulations. Employee consent can be required for continuous monitoring, and a consent form that outlines how this policy will work in practice during the prehire process will streamline its implementation.
Another way to ensure the success of continuous monitoring is to develop a clear and consistent self-reporting policy regarding any criminal behavior. While some employers make their self-reporting policy specific to certain charges, the best way to maintain transparency is by instituting a policy that encompasses any and all criminal activity or action, including arrests, charges, and any other legal action. HR professionals should articulate this policy during the onboarding process and revisit it at regular intervals.
Fair chance hiring creates the optimal work environment for everyone involved by widening the applicant pool to ensure diversity in the hiring process and giving companies a window into the activities of employees to mitigate any potential risk. By adjusting hiring policies to include applicants with criminal records, employers can protect their companies from unforeseen risk and give this qualified and deserving population a second chance to add value to the workforce.
Brian Matthews has served as the president of Appriss Insights since 2019. He is responsible for developing and executing growth strategy for the business, with an overall focus on saving lives, preventing fraud, and reducing insider risk.