Study Finds Managers Are Willing to Hire Candidates with Criminal Records

By Michael Klazema on 6/6/2018

A recent study commissioned in a partnership with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Charles Koch Institute (CKI) found many managers are willing to hire candidates with criminal histories.

Per a report on the survey findings from the SHRM, there are multiple reasons behind the increasing acceptance of ex-criminal offenders in the workplace. One reason is how common criminal records are. Today, roughly one-third of the United States population of an “adult working-age” has a criminal record of some sort. This factor, combined with historically low unemployment rates in most parts of the country, has left employers with little choice but to be more lenient in hiring people with records. Part of the stated reason SHRM and CKI commissioned the study was to see how employers were approaching the “untapped talent source” that is the ex-offender population.

The findings of the study indicate the stigma against hiring people with criminal records may be starting to disappear. Some two-thirds of HR professionals surveyed said their companies had hired people with criminal records. Over 80 percent of managers expressed the belief that workers with criminal records brought as much or more value to their organizations as workers without criminal records.

While some employers said they were hiring ex-offenders out of a sense of duty—whether to give a person a second chance or to help the community by fighting recidivism—more employers said they did so out of a desire to hire the best candidate for the job. The ban the box movement is largely designed with the stated goal of encouraging employers to look beyond criminal history and focus on experience and other qualifications. That effort seems to be working, as nearly half of all managers and HR professionals surveyed said they thought “a demonstrated consistent work history” was the single most important factor to look at when considering a new hire.

Another interesting finding from the SHRM/CKI survey was three-quarters of managers and HR professionals said the cost of hiring people with criminal histories is no higher than hiring people with clean records. One common fear employers have when interviewing ex-offenders is the level of risk and liability that hiring someone with a criminal record can bring to the business. However, this risk can be limited drastically by conducting detailed background checks. Criminal history searchesreference checksemployment and education verificationsdriving history checkscredit checks, and other due diligence screening strategies can do a lot to minimize risks and avoid accusations of negligent hiring.

Another common worry is hiring ex-offenders will affect company culture in a negative way. Certainly, hiring a person with violent tendencies can sacrifice workplace rapport and lead to safety concerns. However, the SHRM/CKI survey indicated most people aren’t any more worried about working with ex-offenders than they are of hiring them. Across all roles, most workers indicated they were willing to work with people who had criminal records.

As legislators continue to pass laws on criminal justice reform—many of them underlining the employment rights of people with criminal records—employers will need to establish strategies for hiring ex-offenders. Based on the SHRM/CKI survey, though, both managers and workers are becoming more comfortable with that inevitable future.


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