Updated: Mar 29, 2022
How and Why to Attract Former Felons in Your Job Postings
With unemployment in the U.S. at the lowest rate (3.9%) in 19 years, companies like Apple, Boeing, McDonalds and Delta Airlines are hiring former felons. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo describes this massive talent pool:
“70 million Americans have a criminal record—that’s 1 in 3 adults. There are currently 2.3 million people behind bars in this country, 95 percent of whom will reenter our communities. 640,000 people are released from prison each year, creating a huge untapped workforce available to fill jobs.” – Andrew Cuomo article
It’s one of the key reasons that top companies, the New York Times recently reported, are waiving criminal background checks. Employers hiring ex-convicts include AT&T, Caterpillar, GE, Home Depot, IBM, Tesla and Trader Joes, according to A List of Felon-Friendly Employers by The Diocese of Juliet.
And in case you question the quality of the performance of a former felon, check out some of these nuggets from the SHRM/Charles Koch Institute surveys of 2018:
82% of managers believe the quality of hire for workers with criminal records is about the same or higher than that of workers without records
Two-thirds of HR pros said their organization had experience hiring individuals with criminal records
At companies that hired workers with criminal records, employees rate the quality of work as comparable to those without a record
In fact, you can even get free insurance against theft or loss related to hiring a former felon (see below).
How to Phrase a Criminal Background Info on Your Job Descriptions
But how do you phrase things in your job postings so that applicants with a criminal history know that you’re open to their application?
Here are a few tips:
WELCOME CANDIDATES WITH CRIMINAL HISTORIES (IN EEO)
Microsoft, FedEx, Marriott and many others say in their job posting EEO statement section that they welcome former felons.
Microsoft uses this language in their EEO statement for a Business Administrator job in Redmond:
“We also consider qualified applicants regardless of criminal histories, consistent with legal requirements.”
FedEx Office uses this language:
“FedEx Office will consider for employment all qualified applicants, including those with criminal histories, in a manner consistent with the requirements of applicable state and local laws, including the San Francisco Fair Chance Ordinance and the City of Los Angeles’ Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring Ordinance.”
Here’s Geico’s background check wording for an Orange County, CA Auto Damage Trainee job posting:
“Pursuant to the San Francisco Fair Chance Ordinance, we will consider for employment qualified applicants with arrest and conviction records. GEICO will consider for employment qualified applicants with criminal histories in a manner consistent with the requirements of the Los Angeles Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring, Ordinance No. 184652”
IT’S OK TO MENTION IN YOUR JOB AD THAT YOU DO BACKGROUND CHECKS
There is nothing wrong with mentioning in your job posting that you do background checks. Just make sure to also include that you welcome applications from candidates with criminal histories.
AVOID “CONVICTED FELONS NEED NOT APPLY” LANGUAGE
Many employers are using language in their job postings that’s exclusionary to former felons.
Other Tips for Hiring Former Felons
Beyond job posting language tips, here are a few other tips to better hire people with criminal histories:
Federal, State and City Tax Breaks — You the employer can also get tax breaks. According to Tax Breaks for Employers Who Hire Felons, the Federal Government gives you a 25% tax credit on first year’s wages if the employee works at least 120 hours for you. States (including Illinois and Ioway) and cities offer additional tax breaks. Philadelphia’s Fair Chance Hiring Initiative (FCHI) gives you a cash reimbursement if you hire an ex-offender released from prison within the past five years. Los Angeles County Supervisors recently said they’d offer incentives and support to businesses that hire people with a criminal record.
$5,000 Insurance (for free) — You can reduce your risk of theft or loss (up to $5,000 during the first 6 months) by leveraging the Federal Bonding Program which is free to the employer.
Start with an Apprenticeship — Greyson, a 100-person Yonkers, New York bakery that makes brownies for Unilever’s Ben & Jerry’s, Amazon’s Whole Foods and Delta Airlines, uses an apprentice program to evaluate former felons (about half make it). Source: Greyston CEO Mike Brady via CNBC)
Background checks are expressly required for certain types of jobs. The National Child Protection Act of 1993 requires criminal background checks for jobs involving child.
You Can Not Hire Former Felons for Some Jobs – -Other jobs such as in elder care and for parts of the government, have regulations preventing the hiring of candidates with certain types of criminal history.
State and Municipality Laws — Most states require the applicant to give consent to a background check before an employer can run one. San Francisco and LA have specific laws around when/how to use background checks after an employee has applied.