Recruitment & Retention | Article

How to Tap into Untapped Talent with Fair Chance Hiring

There is a large pool of talented, dependable, and high-performing workers that most companies overlook: Individuals with a criminal record.

Job tenure is becoming shorter and shorter. That means finding and retaining talent can become a never-ending cycle. One way to break the cycle is to widen the talent pool by implementing a fair chance hiring strategy.

Understand what it is

Fair chance hiring promotes the idea that all quality job candidates deserve to be considered – regardless of criminal histories. In other words, individuals with criminal records should be given a fair chance to apply and be considered for positions. Someone’s past does not necessarily reflect their current potential and skills.

Yet, many employers are hesitant to give these individuals a shot. The unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated people is over 27%. Approximately 1 in 3 Americans is affected, and some communities are disproportionately affected. Namely, the LGBTQ+ community and communities of color. This creates barriers to economic security for these often-underserved populations.

Break down misconceptions

It’s important we break down some of the misconceptions surrounding fair chance hiring. Firstly, there is a misconception that employees with criminal records don’t measure up to their peers. SHRM research shows quite the opposite. Of HR professionals surveyed, 81% said workers with criminal records were comparable or better than those without. Plus, 85% believe workers with criminal records perform “as good or better than” those without.

So the skills and quality work are there. What about the comfort level of other employees? A recent study by Indeed has very positive findings. About 92% of employees said they would be comfortable working alongside a co-worker with a nonviolent criminal record.

Think about the benefits

Having a larger pool of qualified talent is only one of the benefits of fair chance hiring. You may even improve your retention! An academic study of call center employees revealed that those with criminal records had much longer tenure and were less likely to voluntarily leave their jobs.

On the recruiting side of things, workers also actively want employers to pursue fair chance hiring practices (73%). Only 33% of employers currently offer employment to job seekers with a criminal record. Being in that small percentage sets you apart in the eyes of your candidates and current employees.

Take action

You have to take action if you want to attract, hire, and retain individuals with a criminal record. Start with these tips:

  1. Highlight your company’s commitment. Use language in job descriptions that communicates a commitment to hiring people with criminal records. Include the words “fair chance.” Job seekers will then be able to search “fair chance” and easily find your positions.
  2. Adjust job applications. Remove any questions about criminal records on your job applications. Many cities, counties, and states have already adopted policies that prohibit using criminal record questions. Make sure your company aligns with these laws.
  3. Set workers up for success. Support employees with criminal records any way you can. Offer time off to check in with probation or parole officers. Cover the cost to attend support groups or pursue leadership development opportunities.

The positive impact of fair chance hiring reaches beyond benefitting companies. Quality employment opportunities for people with criminal records significantly reduces recidivism. Both individuals and our communities benefit from fair chance hiring!

Learn more about the impact of fair chance hiring from Steve Huizinga, a leader who truly embodies what it means to give second chances. Listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.