Giving Formerly Incarcerated Individuals a Fair Chance Could Be Good for Your Business

Employers looking to expand their businesses and hire more workers could be overlooking a huge talent pool: the estimated 70 million working-age Americans who have criminal records.

Having a criminal record makes it hard to find work – applicants with records often fail to even get an interview. One study found that a year after release, 75 percent of those formerly incarcerated are still out of work.

A new hiring process could change that, connecting employers looking for talent with Americans looking for a second chance after prison. 

It’s called “fair chance hiring,” and it’s one of the latest innovative ideas being put forth by criminal justice reformers. 

Writing in Fast Company, Robert Gill explains,  

The idea behind fair chance hiring is exactly as it sounds: that as an employer you’re willing to give a fair chance to ex-offenders. Get it right, and you’ll tap into an enormous pool of qualified, diverse talent with a wide range of experiences – applicants with personal and professional backgrounds you’ll rarely encounter by fixating on elite credentials. 

Gill, who has hired several workers with conviction histories, offers some advice on how to implement fair chance hiring: 

  1. Determine whether a person’s conviction is reason enough to not hire them – and if so, communicate why. Some states have strict standards for discriminating against people with criminal records.  
  2. Utilize one of the many organizations that identify fair chance candidates and connect them to employers.  
  3. Recognize fair chance candidates may need extra training on your office’s technology, expectations and work culture.  
  4. Create internship programs as a trial-period for fair chance candidates. 
  5. Use discretion when disclosing an employee’s criminal history. Their manager may need to know; otherwise, let the employee share that information when they’re ready.

Over time, fair chance candidates can be a good bet, lowering overall recruiting and training costs for companies because they stick around longer. And in states like Iowa where there are currently more job openings than people, fair chance hiring could be a way to plug the shortage.

Here’s where you can read more about fair chance hiring and see if it’s a good fit for your company – chances are, it will be.