Hiring Outside the Box: Second Chance Employment

Jul 28, 2021


Recently we have seen the hiring market explode as employers are looking to fill a record-setting number of new positions all across the United States. While it’s no secret it’s been a tough year in the hiring/recruitment department, there’s an untapped candidate pool that has been overlooked for a long while: candidates with a criminal record.

Continue reading to learn more about second chance employment and how we can mitigate discrimination throughout the employment process for those with a criminal record.

“Ban-the-Box” Laws

Many of us have filled out a job application and then got to a question that could potentially be pretty disheartening: “Have you ever been convicted of a crime? Check ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’” For a lot of applicants who do fit into the ‘Yes’ category, they could be thinking it’s the end of the road for them. Many employers were actually using this question as an easy “weed-out” question to automatically disqualify candidates who admitted to having a criminal conviction on their record, failing to consider the specifics of the crime and how long ago this actually happened.

Over the past 5-6 years, local legislators have recognized how this question can disproportionately affect many marginalized communities where incarceration is more prevalent and leads to racial discrimination in the job hunt. This is where “Ban-the-Box” laws have come into play: over 30 states now have passed some type of “Ban-the-box” or “fair chance” legislation, which makes it unlawful for employers to ask candidates about their criminal history during the application process. It’s not until after the employer has conducted an interview or made a conditional employment offer, that they may be allowed to inquire about that candidate’s criminal history.

Some quick caveats to mention: “Ban-the-Box” and “fair chance” legislation is complex and varies by state, so make sure to look at your specific state’s legislation. There are also some exemptions to this legislation for security-related positions and positions that are involved with vulnerable populations (the elderly, children, etc.). 

Comparing Perceptions versus Reality

A staggering “700,000 people are released from prison each year, but too often they are denied the opportunity to put their skills to work due to deeply rooted biases and harmful misperceptions,” said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, SHRM. Meanwhile, recent U.S research from SHRM and the SHRM Foundation, found that a large majority of people would be accepting and proud to work for – and patronize – a business that employed someone with a criminal record.

So in knowing all of this, what can we do as managers and HR professionals to create more opportunities for second chance employment?

Recruiting and Hiring Tips

  • Approach candidates seeking second-chance employment with empathy and fairness.
  • Connect with re-entry, parole, and probation departments to see if someone is looking for a job placement that matches the required skills for a position in your organization.
  • Create a statement that makes it clear that your organization will not discriminate based on any legal reason, including criminal history.
  • Expand your job search to job fairs catering to those seeking second-chance employment.

Background Check Considerations

If you decide to conduct a background check when it’s lawful to do so, be thoughtful about what provider you’re using in terms of their knowledge of “Ban-the-Box” legislation and how far back they check someone’s criminal history.

To avoid discrimination based on their past criminal history, be sure to consider the following when/if a candidate’s background check comes back with any hits:

Just because a candidate has a criminal history, should not automatically disqualify them for the job they were being considered for. It’s important to take those three considerations into account to make a fair and educated decision about who is best suited for the role.

To avoid any missteps when considering a background check, HR Annie Consulting powers the background check company, BackgroundBrief, where we take a “people first” stance. Our background check and identity solutions help you navigate uncertainty and create safer environments for your employees, customers, and partners. To learn more, contact Ana Brady.


As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to any of our HR Annie or True Calling Recruitment team members for guidance on second-chance employment and how your organization can create more opportunities in the future for these candidates.


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