Skip to main content

A criminal record may not be the obstacle to employment that it once was

A recent study finds that managers and HR professionals are increasingly open to hiring people with criminal records.

A criminal record may not be the obstacle to employment that it once was

A study sheds new light on hiring workers with criminal records.

People who have criminal records get a raw deal when it comes to employment. Despite the fact that approximately one-third of American adults (70 million) have a criminal record, it can present a difficult barrier to overcome in a job search.

However, a new study by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Charles Koch Institute finds that the attitude of hiring workers with records may be changing. A possible reason? The decline in unemployment numbers means employers are having a harder time filling open positions and thus are willing to broaden their search for qualified applicants.

According to the study, more than 80% of managers and two-thirds of HR professionals feel that workers with criminal records bring just as much (or greater) value to an organization as workers without records; furthermore, a majority of all workers said they would be willing to work with people who have criminal records (30% to 40% of respondents said they were neither willing nor unwilling). 

So what is the one thing that would determine whether or not a worker with a record is hirable? According to nearly half of managers and HR professionals, the answer is a demonstrated consistent work history; in fact, 66% of HR professionals said they have already hired workers with criminal records. The three leading reasons for hiring workers with criminal records are as follows: companies want to hire the best available candidate; companies want to give workers a second chance; companies want to improve their community.

The study results echo a 2016 White House initiative aimed to give ex-felons a fairer shake in the job market—a slew of major corporations got on board. Called the Fair Chance Business Pledge, the initiative counts Facebook, Starbucks, American Airlines, and many others among its signees.

“A lot of time, [a] record disqualifies you from being a full participant in our society—even if you’ve already paid your debt to society,” President Barak Obama said in a speech at Rutgers College in November 2015. “It means millions of Americans have difficulty even getting their foot in the door to try to get a job, much less actually hang on to that job. That's bad for not only those individuals, it's bad for our economy.”

Companies that signed the pledge committed to help level the playing field by “banning the box”—specifically referring to the check box on job applications that asks whether the applicant has been convicted of a felony—and agreed to hold any questions about an applicant’s criminal record until they were further along in the hiring process.

This may seem like a small change, but it can have a significant effect on how a candidate is perceived—and signees hope it will help employers see a criminal record in the full context of one’s personal background and experience as a worker. 

Here’s a list of major companies and higher education institutions that have signed the Fair Chance Business Pledge and are hiring on Monster:

Check out the full list of businesses that have signed the Fair Chance Business Pledge.

Reinvigorate your career

It can be intimidating to re-enter the workforce—especially when you have a less-than-perfect record. But if you can take it one step at a time, you'll have an easier time of getting to where you want to go. First on your list: Get your resume in shape. Could you use some help with that? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service. You'll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume's appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter's first impression. We know the job search isn't easy, but this is a quick and easy way you can build up your confidence. Monster can help you prove to employers that you've got the skills to get the job done.


Most Recent Jobs

Back to top