Offering "Fair Chance" Opportunities in the Wake of COVID-19

Will the huge spike in unemployment and the massive demand for new jobs force employers to loosen their standards? Or is there a smarter way to hire during a pandemic without a significant increase in risk?

As states lift their lockdowns, many observers have speculated that an economic recovery will be swift as the recently unemployed return to the positions that they left. While this concept is true for workers on furlough, many others who lost their jobs have found that there is still a reduced level of opportunity compared to the beginning of 2020. In a job market that already recorded a high level of competition for open positions before COVID-19, the volume of applicants in some sectors is likely to be even higher than before. 

With strong demand for jobs, will employers be highly selective in hiring? The situation in some areas is challenging that concept. 

Instead of facing a surge of job-seekers, employers have found that they have difficulty attracting enough applicants to fill newly-open positions. As the pandemic unfolds and the rate of infection rises and plateaus, some workers feel that it is not yet safe to return to work. There is a multitude of pressures facing businesses with new labor shortages. 

Should businesses expand eligibility and consider more individuals, such as those previously incarcerated or convicted of a crime? Although many municipalities have enacted "ban the box" laws intended to allow such individuals a "fair chance" at consideration for a job role, many other areas have no such rules. In multiple states, employers are free to pass over candidates with a criminal past if they do not otherwise act in a discriminatory manner.

A record consisting of a violent felony or DUI charges may be a good reason to overlook a candidate, but that principle may not hold true for minor, nonviolent charges. Is someone with select red flags on their background check unsuitable for work as a line cook? There are many nuances for employers to explore if they avoid immediately disqualifying candidates for ticking a single box on an application. 

With purpose-built tools for vetting, such as the US OneSEARCH by, hiring managers gain deeper insights into their applicants. By using vetting tools designed for businesses, employers can take a step back and thoroughly consider the hiring decisions that they must make. Carefully weighing the risks is more worthwhile now than ever before. With a thorough vetting strategy, companies could find that they identify even more qualified candidates and add valuable members to their teams. 

When businesses use background checks as a baseline for understanding applicants rather than an insurmountable barrier to employment for those with a criminal history, the talent pool deepens. As COVID-19 continues disrupting the normal way of doing business, there is no better time for employers to reconsider what it means to provide a "fair chance" to all applicants.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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