Find out how fair chance hiring benefits employers, job candidates, and society.
April is Second Chance Month, a concept launched in 2017 by the nonprofit organization Prison Fellowship, which works to help those impacted by incarceration. Since then, it has become a nationwide movement with The White House issuing a proclamation each year acknowledging such. This year, President Biden’s statement on the commemoration acknowledged a recommitment “to helping people forge the new beginnings they have earned and building a safer and more just society.”
April also marks the anniversary of the federal Second Chance Act. This Act was signed into law in 2008 and reauthorized in 2018 to support state, local, and tribal governments and nonprofit organizations by authorizing federal grants for vital programs and systems reform aimed at improving the reentry process.
Although many call it “Second Chance Month,” at Checkr we believe “Fair Chance Month” more accurately encompasses the importance of supporting justice-impacted individuals with reentry. Many are not given a first chance, facing legal barriers and significant stigma. We believe that all individuals deserve a fair chance to contribute positively to society and fair chances should not be limited to the number of mistakes that you have made in the past.
How Checkr empowers fairer decision-making
Among the many obstacles formerly incarcerated people face when seeking employment, one of the biggest is employers who aren’t able to understand or effectively assess information on background checks.
At Checkr, we’re committed to changing that. Our mission is to give every candidate a fair chance by building technology that helps employers evaluate candidates using objective data. We build diversity and inclusion best practices directly into our product so it’s easier for businesses to execute. Our current products let customers remove irrelevant records to focus on what’s actually important, and to more efficiently and fairly evaluate any concerns.
For example, our Candidate Stories feature gives candidates an opportunity to tell their story, providing context around criminal histories and helping employers comply with Ban the Box laws. Additionally, Checkr’s Fair Chance Dashboard provides data analytics and resources to help organizations measure their progress against Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) fair hiring guidance and successfully create more inclusive workplaces.
We believe in empowering decision-makers with the right data and tools to yield better hiring outcomes. Educating customers on industry best practices assists to remove personal biases and replaces them with objective data. Read on to see how Checkr customer, Demandbase, is equipped to make fairer hiring decisions as a result of our technology.
Customer spotlight: Demandbase
Even though she’s an HR professional, Jenny Strauss wasn’t always a big fan of background checks. Strauss, Senior Director of Employee Experience and DE&I at Demandbase, viewed pre-employment screening as an antiquated and opaque process.
But discovering Checkr changed her opinion. “Checkr has helped me see that background checks can be human-centered and used for good,” she says. “That I get to be associated with that, I couldn't be luckier.”
Strauss chose Checkr because she appreciated the ease with which it streamlines compliant and fair background checks. “Fair chance hiring is complex and varies from municipality to municipality, state to state,” she noted. “Checkr actually helped us contextualize what we could do a lot because [of] what was built into the product.”
Becoming a fair chance employer
Some 1 in 3 Americans have a criminal record, and every year, more than 600,000 people leave incarceration to return to society. Even though employment is the most effective way to decrease recidivism, over 27% of Americans with criminal histories remain unemployed. These biases have a particularly troubling impact on people of color, who are overrepresented in the criminal justice system.
It's time to break the cycle of discrimination and provide more opportunities for those who have paid their dues to society. Fair chance hiring benefits both candidates and employers. In a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 82% of HR professionals said the quality of hires with criminal records equaled or surpassed that of employees without. Former offenders are also more loyal to their employers, a Northwestern University study found, helping to reduce costly turnover.
Is your organization ready to commit to fair chance hiring? Follow these 4 steps to start your journey.
1. Conduct skills-based interviews
Interviews that focus on past work experience, education, or previous job titles can put fair chance candidates at a disadvantage. To help level the playing field for system-impacted individuals who may have gaps in education, employment, or training, a fair chance interview focuses on transferable skills instead.
Identify 5 key skills the position demands and use the interview to evaluate whether the candidate has skills from prior work or life experience that can transfer to this role. If a candidate possesses minimal skills, consider their attitude. Hiring managers can evaluate whether the candidate is eager to learn and whether training can get them up to speed.
By embracing this more inclusive interviewing strategy, employers can identify candidates who may have been overlooked in the past and create a more diverse and dynamic workforce.
2. Perform individualized assessments
If a candidate’s background check reveals a criminal history, EEOC guidance recommends performing an individualized assessment of the offense to learn more about the circumstances around it. The EEOC advises conducting the Nature-Time-Nature test by asking:
- What was the nature and seriousness of the offense?
- How much time has passed since the offense?
- What is the nature of the job being sought?
Considering these questions will help you determine whether to move forward with the candidate or initiate the adverse action process. For example, a candidate with a conviction for driving while intoxicated may be disqualified for a job as a delivery driver, but not necessarily for a job as a retail sales associate. Employers can use Checkr’s Candidate Stories feature to request more information about an offense, giving candidates an opportunity to explain any mitigating factors and rehabilitation efforts.
3. Encourage employee retention and growth
Unlocking the full potential of a fair chance candidate may require providing extra training and support. Recognize that these hires will likely need additional training and time to adjust to their new role after time being out of the workforce.
Regular check-ins with mentors, supervisors, or HR can provide a personalized support system to address any concerns or questions the new hire may have. Demonstrate your commitment to their success by designing HR policies that accommodate their obligations, such as time off for attending parole officer meetings or court-mandated classes.
4. Support success
It's crucial to respect the confidentiality of candidates with conviction histories. Once a new hire joins the team, let them decide if and when they want to share their background with colleagues.
While individual employees’ backgrounds should remain private, sharing the positive impact of fair chance hiring with your workforce can dispel any doubts or fears they may have and get companywide buy-in for your fair chance efforts.
Cheri Garcia, who struggled with addiction before starting Cornbread Hustle, knows first-hand the transformative power of work. Today, her staffing agency helps previously incarcerated or addicted people find jobs. Garcia says it’s essential to educate supervisors, managers, and co-workers to get them onboard with your fair chance hiring initiative. For example, encourage your team to use Checkr’s virtual Reentry Simulation to explore the hurdles people with justice system involvement face when seeking jobs.
Education can inspire your team to be part of something meaningful: helping formerly incarcerated individuals become valued members of society.
Changing lives, changing the future
Jobs can transform lives by giving people re-entering society a new sense of purpose.
It’s also proven that being employed reduces recidivism – in fact, recidivism rates were nearly cut in half for people with conviction histories who have full-time employment compared with those who are unemployed and even more so for those with living wage employment. Fair background checks play a key role in leveling the playing field for people with criminal records, while also expanding employers’ pool of qualified job candidates.
Checkr is dedicated to leveraging technology to break down the barriers that prevent formerly incarcerated individuals from finding employment. We work alongside organizations who empower people to tackle the challenges surrounding fair chance hiring, including Breakthrough, The Last Mile, Defy Ventures, and more to achieve this goal.
By developing innovative tools that empower both candidates and employers, we're proud to be helping create a fairer, more equitable employment landscape for all.
To learn more about how your organization can support fair chance hiring, visit Checkr’s Fair Chance Hub.
Explore resources, find ways to engage, and hear stories that celebrate fair chance hiring.
Nothing in Checkr’s Blog should be construed as legal advice, guidance, or counsel. Companies should consult their own legal counsel about their compliance responsibilities under the FCRA and applicable state and local laws. Checkr expressly disclaims any warranties or responsibility or damages associated with or arising out of information provided.