Personalizing Criminal Records



Do you know someone with a criminal record?

I recently learned a startling statistic from the Brennan Center For Justice. The number of Americans with a college degree is nearly the same as the number of Americans with a criminal record. Let that sink in for a moment. While that sinks in, a couple more statistics to provide further context and perspective. More Americans have a criminal record than married couples. More Americans have a criminal record than households with a dog. Back to the question initially posed. Do you know someone with a criminal record? Yes, given a 1 to 3 ratio, both you and I personally know someone with a criminal record.

Have you thought about how easy or difficult it is for someone with a criminal record to find employment? Think about the individual(s) you know personally.

Individuals with a criminal record certainly know how difficult it is to obtain employment. Especially employment paying above minimum wage and/or requiring a higher skill level. Job seekers with criminal records face a multitude of challenges including the never-ending stigma, the time and money it takes to expunge or seal a record, lack of consistent and/or relevant employment history and at times an employer’s unwillingness employ them. A recent survey by the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) and the Charles Koch Institute (CKI) indicates many hiring managers, non-managers and HR Professionals are indeed willing to hire individuals with criminal records. However, there are also many that are ambivalent which outnumber those who are unwilling to hire individuals with a criminal record. I hope the willingness to access this untapped talent source continues to steadily increase.

What is our collective role and responsibility?

As an HR Professional there have been many times in my career where I have been asked advice on how to approach seeking employment with a criminal record. Up close and personal, I have witnessed the range of emotions resulting from a tainted record. I have observed the initial anxiety and frustration. The slight glimmer of hopefulness that quickly turns to disappointment. On the other end of the spectrum, I have seen the pensive look of hope turn to excitement and the immediate gratitude of a forever loyal employee. I have coached and advised hiring managers, some needing to be sold on the idea of hiring an individual with a criminal record and some needing no convincing at all.  

The world of work is a microcosm of society. We all have a role to play in society and in the employment environment be it job seeker, employee, hiring manager, HR Professional or employer. One of our most basic needs as human beings is the desire to support ourselves, our family and our community. Employment allows all of us the ability to fulfill this very basic human need.

On January 27, 2019, @SHRM and @Koch_Industries launched the Getting Talent Back to Work Pledge, an initiative that champions the hiring of qualified individuals with criminal records--who have traditionally been shut out of the labor market. Pledge now:  #WeAreWork 


The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

Add new comment

Please enter the text you see in the image below: