For most positions, job applicants expect to go through a process that looks much the same from company to company and between industries. You fill out an application, submit your resume, and go to a job interview. At some point along the way, you’ll probably have to submit to a drug test, a criminal background check, or both. This routine due diligence is standard; as many advocates will point out, it can dissuade the formerly incarcerated and convicted from applying.
Some companies want to change that, and they’ve adopted a policy of “open hiring” to expand employment opportunities to more people. In a workplace that applies open hiring, there are no in-depth interviews and, more importantly, no background checks. Companies that start an open hiring period will say “you’re hired” on a first-come-first-served basis to anyone who can handle the job's basic physical requirements.
Some companies using these policies are in the warehouse and logistics industry. Others are food service businesses, from pizzerias to bakeries. All of them provide unconditional offers of employment to anyone who shows up—and surprisingly, most of these businesses report that the change led to far less turnover and better outcomes.
Employee background checks are often seen as a gold standard regarding tools used to protect the business and safeguard the public. There are many stories in the news about companies that did not conduct background checks and put others at risk—or worse, saw actual harm done by their employees. So why would a business choose to skip them altogether?
Companies often put forth such policies by expanding opportunities and improving fairness. Many were founded by ex-convicts, who understand firsthand how difficult life after incarceration can become. In some cases, companies may choose open hiring to acquire temporary staff for a seasonal rush quickly. It can also improve the diversity of your teams, an important goal for many businesses today.
Although there are success stories, they don’t mean that the risk of such policies is zero. Open companies may choose to implement stricter workplace discipline requirements and may be faster to terminate employees for potential wrongdoing to retain a safety barrier. Even so, these policies have clear pros and cons—and for the right kind of business, the balance can make sense.
In other industries, open hiring is not possible due to the nature of the work or the risks involved. For example, regulated industries such as transportation could not use such a policy without violating federal law. Ultimately, the choice to alter employment criteria demands case-by-case consideration from business to business. In almost every case, doing your due diligence is the best path forward—but for those interested in expanding access, open hiring could make sense with additional safeguards in place.
About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments