As the tight labor market continues to leave many hiring managers and recruiters struggling to staff job openings, research has found that companies appear more willing to hire those with a criminal record. As a result, these companies are beginning to tap into the often overlooked labor pool of more than 70 million Americans with criminal records.
According to research from the employment website Indeed, job descriptions incorporating phrases such as ‘felon friendly’ and fair hiring have climbed by 31% since May of 2021. These job postings indicate that many employers are incorporating fair chance employment policies for workers with criminal histories into their hiring practices.
This practice change makes sense given the tight labor conditions, which have prompted employers to expand their search criteria. However, previous employers have often overlooked job seekers with criminal records, particularly the 20 million Americans with felony convictions. This exclusion has led many states and localities to introduce legislation, such as “ban-the-box” policies and incentives such as tax credits, to provide applicants with a criminal record an equal opportunity to find employment. Despite this, many applicants with arrest or conviction records have faced significant barriers in finding work.
However, a 2021 survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Charles Koch Institute found that the percentage of Human Resources managers willing to hire those with a criminal record had risen to 53% from just over one-third in 2018. Further, only 12% of employers and HR professionals said they would be unwilling to hire those with a criminal record.
These statistics represent a significant change in sentiment toward this group, which jobseekers’ activity has also reflected. According to the study, the share of searches performed on the platform that included phrases such as “felon friendly “and “fair chance” climbed 117% between May 2019 and May 2022. This increase reflects a growing awareness among job seekers that employers are willing to consider hiring individuals with criminal records despite the myths about hiring felons.
Given how research from the Manhattan Institute has shown that providing ex-offenders with access to employment can dramatically reduce recidivism rates by up to 20% for non-violent offenders, the positive effects of this change may prove dramatic. Moreover, for employers struggling to find new hires, opening up to employing those with a criminal record is not only a chance to find the labor they need but to do some good as well.
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