I find myself at odds with my own Industry.
I put great weight in the validity of pre-employment background checks. Knowing the past of a person before you hire them makes sense.
But I also choose to believe in second chances and the idea of fair play. For me, the mistakes you made in the past should not define you for the rest of your life.
This is not always a popular opinion.
There are very real barriers that keep ex-offenders from finding work.
Many employers are hesitant to hire people with criminal records, and some, rightfully so, are prohibited by law from hiring them (security, health care, child care). Employers are concerned about the trustworthiness of those with prior criminal records. And if a position requires a worker to be unsupervised or come in contact with customers, those employers are even more cautious.
There is also the very real fear of the legal ramifications of hiring an ex-offender. Businesses are often held liable for the actions of their employees. Negligent hiring lawsuits are not uncommon.
However, I believe a blanket decision to never hire anyone with a criminal past is unnecessary.
Once a Criminal does NOT mean Always a Criminal. "Tweet This"
Instead, I prefer to remember that “to err is human”. Free will often results in us making the wrong choices.
Many in the background check industry are not always on board with this line of thinking. By its very nature, our jobs result in us often seeing the worst in people. Whether that be a past criminal record or a resume lie.
But people cannot only be defined by their pasts. Our greatest ability as human beings is being able to learn from our mistakes.
We need to recognize this.
We as employers and Background Check companies need to move past the notion that “Once a Criminal, Always a Criminal”.
People can change. And giving them another chance can help make that change more permanent.
I propose a happy medium.
There are ways to balance cautiousness with fairness.
When doing a criminal background check, an employer’s goal should be to look for a pattern of behavior, not one mistake. A single or long ago offense should not be the sole reason to raise a red flag.
However, repetitive or recent criminal behavior should.
It is our job as employers and background check professionals to read our findings and determine whether the subjects would really pose a danger to the company or our other employees and customers.
We can best address these concerns by making sure that the information we are checking truly has a bearing on the job. You can find out more about this in “One Size Does Not Fit All ~ Why You Need to Fit the Background Check to the Job”!
The “ban the box” movement also originally stems from this premise of second chances. Giving ex-offenders the opportunity to get past a “knee jerk” rejection is key. And when “ban the box” is utilized for this purpose, it works.
You can see more of my views on “Ban the Box” in these 2 articles; “Background Checks & Ban the Box - The Pendulum Swings” and “What New Ban the Box Legislation Means to You”.
Being very clear on what crime was committed by an applicant and even the reasons why is not a bad thing. Universally screening all your applicants still needs to be a part of your hiring practices.
A pre-employment background check is the single best way for you to have the clearest picture possible of your potential employee. Even if you know your applicant has a criminal record, verifying the details and making sure there is nothing additional you should know is smart business.
According to Lauren Conners of EmployeeScreenIQ;
“It’s one matter to be careless and not conduct employment background checks and/or ignore appropriate state and federal screening laws; and it’s quite another to be a company that responsibly conducts background checks and then carefully considers hiring ex-felons. This might include understanding the mitigating circumstances such as, severity of the crime, if the person is a repeat offender, amount of time since the crime was committed, etc.”
You should know what your potential hires bring to the table, warts and all.
Employers also still have a legal duty to exercise "due diligence" when hiring. This means that you are responsible for finding out if potential employees might be dangerous or unfit for a job.
However, those that have made mistakes, learned from them, and moved on can bring value to your business. It starts with believing that they should not be solely defined by the mistakes they made.
We need to recognize that they often bring with them a sense of redemption to their jobs. They understand the need to prove themselves ~ with their actions, not just their words.
Saying they have moved on from their past is not enough. They know that they may be judged differently and watched more closely than their co-workers.
In fact, you may find that they turn out to be some of the best hires you have ever made. You may even find them more loyal. They have gone through an often discouraging job search and appreciate the “second chance” you have given them.
Hiring ex-offenders can also be a great way to “pay it forward”. Helping people better their lives can be very rewarding.
There are even some more tangible benefits to taking a chance on hiring ex-offenders:
Work Opportunity Tax Credit
“The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a federal tax credit available to all private sector businesses as an incentive to employers to hire workers in certain groups who consistently experience high rates of unemployment.”
The credit ranges from $1,200 t0 $9,600 credit on any new hires, including part-time, temporary and seasonal workers.
Federal Bonding Program
“The Federal Bonding Program to provide Fidelity Bonds that guarantee honesty for “at-risk”, hard-to-place job seekers.” The program covers the first 6 months of employment and is free to both the job applicant and you as the employer.
Low-Cost Training Programs
Many local and county programs exist that are designed to help ex-offenders reenter the workforce. Their goal is to give them the life skills, job training, and workplace readiness to successfully land and keep a job.
They focus on personal counseling (the importance of taking responsibility for your actions) and interviewing techniques.
These programs also include career counseling, skill development, on the job training, and other things necessary to help the ex-offender ready themselves for employment.
Your hiring practices will still require diligence and common sense when it comes to hiring people with criminal records. But it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker.
Making a decision with fairness and humanity in mind can still result in you making the best hire for your company.
Just remember ~ Knowledge is Power.
Going into the hiring process with all the facts is Good for You and Your Company!
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