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Employers More Open to Applicants with Criminal Records

The dearth of workers has prompted more and more employers to search out talent pools they may have avoided in the past.

handcuffs 1078871 640smallOnline employment website giant Indeed has seen an uptick in employers seeking out applicants with arrest or conviction records as they struggle to fill jobs. So reports Indeed Hiring Lab. This past May, 2.5% of job postings for U.S. positions on Indeed promoted so-called fair chance hiring. This is up from 1.9% in May 2019. Fair chance hiring speaks to policies that help applicants with criminal records to have an opportunity to land a job. New York City’s Fair Chance Act, for example, makes it illegal for most employers to ask applicants about their criminal record before making a job offer.

There are about 70 million to 100 million people in the U.S. with criminal records. “Searches containing phrases like ‘fair chance,’ ‘no background check,’ or ‘felon friendly’ have risen substantially in the past year,” the publication notes. “As of May 2022, the share of such searches was up an impressive 117% from May 2019.”

The overwhelming majority of the nearly 2.2 million people who are now in state and federal prisons or jails will eventually be released as employers in technology, banking, transportation and other sectors are desperate to fill job vacancies, CNBC reports.

JPMorgan, Microsoft and Slack are among companies that are actively searching recruits with criminal records and this comes at a good time for recruiters and job candidates. Employers willing to consider such candidates can tap into a wider universe of potential hires, while social justice reforms over the last few years have led to formal programs and processes to help the formerly incarcerated find gainful employment.

Salesforce subsidiary, Slack, founded Next Chapter, whose mission is to assist people with criminal records get technical training and mentorship that leads to careers in tech.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and Eaton CEO Craig Arnold started Second Chance Business Coalition (SCBC) last year following George Floyd’s murder. That organization seeks to grow the number of firms that offer jobs to recruits with criminal records and to do so with the goal of showing how this economically benefits the employer. Best Buy, McDonald’s, Microsoft, PepsiCo, Target, and Walmart are among the companies that are part of the SCBC.

SCBC’s research notes that 85% of human resources executives and 81% of business leaders say that hires with criminal records do the same or better than those with no such history. Those with records also prove to have lower turnover and stronger employer loyalty, that research bears out.

But Kenyatta Leal, executive director of Slack’s Next Chapter, says fear is the biggest challenge he faces when talking with companies about hiring talent with criminal records. Leal himself was in prison for 19 years. “They wonder, have these people truly changed, and are they capable of coming into the workplace and actually being productive,” Leal says. “There’s no question that fear is driven by the stereotype that’s attached to incarceration.”

But fear may be giving way to the reality confronting U.S. employers today where there are more than 11 million job openings, and reentry programs are one way to address these massive challenges, Associated Press reports. “We think the pandemic, in a sense, was a big help,” says Eric Beamon, a recruiter for MagCor, a company that provides job training to people in Mississippi correctional facilities. “If no one wants to work anymore or if everyone wants to work from home, employers are begging for employees.”

A 2021 survey from the Society for Human Resource Management, the SHRM Foundation and the Charles Koch Institute, found that 53% of human resource professionals said they would be open to hiring recruits with criminal records. That compares with 37% in 2018.

AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab, tells Axios that “employers are at least warming a bit to considering this group.”

“Especially as they are really trying to figure out different ways to attract the workers that they need,” she adds.

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