Employers have turned to an often-overlooked pool of talent in the current tight labor market: applicants with criminal records.
According to a recent Indeed Hiring Lab analysis, job postings indicating fair-chance hiring increased 31 percent from May 2019, accounting for 2.5 percent of all job listings.
“The share of job postings that advertise fair chance hiring remains a small percentage of all job postings,” Indeed Hiring Lab economist Ann Elizabeth Konkel explained. “However, the fact that it has risen since 2019, tells me that employers are increasingly looking to broaden their recruiting pool, and this group of people is one of them.”
According to Indeed, fair-chance hiring is “the idea that all qualified candidates should be considered for a job, regardless of their background.”
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers posted 11.4 million jobs in April. However, even though they represent a large pool of potential workers, criminal records prevent some workers from finding work.
According to a study published in February by the nonprofit research group RAND Corporation, more than half of unemployed men in their 30s have been involved with the criminal justice system.
According to the Indeed analysis, some employers have highlighted their fair-chance hiring policies in job descriptions, writing phrases such as “applicants with a criminal record will not be excluded.”
According to the report, “barista, shift leader, and store manager were among the top fair chance job titles by posting volume.”
Meanwhile, job seekers appear to recognize that employers are in a tight labor market and are more willing to hire people impacted by the criminal justice system, according to Konkel’s analysis.
Searches for phrases like “felon friendly” and “no background check” have increased by 117% since May 2019.
According to a 2021 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one-third of the more than 50,000 people released from federal prisons in 2010 found no employment in the four years following their release.
Some convictions may disqualify applicants from certain jobs; for example, a person convicted of child abuse cannot work in childcare.
However, some employers may exclude potential employees with criminal records due to concerns about “brand awareness or negligent hiring lawsuits” and workplace performance issues, according to Shawn Bushway, the lead author of the RAND study and a senior policy researcher at the organization.
“There’s this general sense that everyone coming out of prison will fail,” Bushway said. “That is, in fact, incorrect. Many people who become involved in the criminal justice system…including those who go to prison, which is a small subset of those who become involved in the criminal justice system…do not fail again.”
Hiring a person with a criminal record, according to Veronica Jackson, executive director of PIVOT, a Maryland-based women’s-only reentry and workforce development program, is a win-win situation for both businesses and individuals involved with the criminal justice system.
“With returning citizens or people with a criminal record, you have someone looking for a second chance, who is really looking for employment, and then there’s a business looking to fill a labor shortage,” Jackson explained.
According to a 2021 survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, people with criminal records outperform those without. Businesses that hire people with criminal records can also help reduce recidivism because employed people are less likely to reoffend.
“If I have work, it helps me feel like a productive member of society,” Jackson explained. “I’m able to maintain wages that will help me to provide for myself, my family, and my children, and it is something that will definitely help to occupy my time in a structured manner.”
When considering applicants with a criminal record, Jackson advised employers to keep an open mind.
“One thing I believe many of these employees fail to recognize is that we have all traveled this journey known as life. And some of us require another chance.”