Applying for jobs can be strenuous and nerve-wracking. The applications are tedious, and the waiting period in-between interviews and feedback can be trying. The question about criminal history is one that many applicants don’t think twice about. They can check no and move on. However, there’s a large pool of applicants who won’t even apply for the job knowing they have to answer that one question.
Between 70 to 100 million Americans have some type of criminal record, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. That’s almost one-third of individuals that companies could potentially be excluding for jobs.
More and more states have passed “Ban the Box” laws in the hopes of giving those who need a second chance the opportunity to get their foot in the door before being judged on their past.
Some argue that these Ban the Box laws are not enough to get applicants with a criminal past back into the workforce. SELECTiON.COM®, a nationwide pre-employment background screening company says that there are many steps that businesses can take to make a difference. They recommend that their clients consider all applicants, including those with criminal records.
“Besides the simple answer of removing any criminal history questions from applications and background check release forms, there’s also an important step of establishing clear hiring guidelines for different positions,” says James Boeddeker President/CEO of SELECTiON.COM®. “We recommend that employers work with their legal counsel to define what types of background checks should be done and what results will disqualify an applicant for each position/department.”
Blanket policies of hiring no one with a misdemeanor or felony conviction across the board is an antiquated method of hiring that ends up keeping qualified workers from filling valuable positions in the workplace.
Outlining what types of convictions will disqualify a person from a specific position enables a hiring manager to look at their applicant’s character and qualifications first. Having the authority to hire someone despite certain types of convictions is a huge step in getting those with a criminal past back to work.
Many times, hiring managers may not hire someone with minor convictions for fear of reprisal. They simply may not know if the company has a policy against hiring people with a criminal past or if a misdemeanor will disqualify them from a specific position.
SELECTiON.COM® recommends the following best practices for businesses:
- Avoid stigmatizing language on application forms, such as “ex-offenders” or “ex-felons.”
- Avoid blanket exclusions and include an equal opportunity statement on job applications.
- If a criminal record is uncovered, only consider convictions with a direct relationship to job duties and responsibilities and consider the length of time since the offense.
- Ensure that each applicant receives an individualized hiring assessment without reference to any past conviction history.
- Remove all criminal convictions questions from job application forms.
- If a job applicant is rejected because of a past criminal record, inform the applicant of that fact with a pre-adverse action letter.
- Provide the applicant enough time to submit evidence of mitigation or rehabilitation regarding any past convictions.
There are many excellent employees out there just looking for work and to help grow your business. These are just a few of the steps you can take to tap into this underutilized pool of applicants.
NOTE: The contents of this article are not legal advice for your particular situation. You should neither act nor rely upon anything stated in this article without first consulting your own legal counsel.
This post is part of a series for Second Chance Month, which highlights the need to improve re-entry for citizens returning to society and reduce recidivism. One of the primary ways to do this is by providing an opportunity for gainful employment. To sign the pledge and access the toolkit with information on how to create second chances at your company, visit GettingTalentBacktoWork.org.