How to Run a Fair Chance Interview

December 01, 2021
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Checkr Editor

Resumes and cover letters are the entryway into a job for candidates—but they only tell half the story. The interview is where candidates have the chance to provide context around the experiences they have—or the reasons for their lack of experience.

When it comes to fair chance hiring, it’s even more crucial for candidates to have the opportunity to share their whole story. And hiring managers need to be properly prepared to interview these candidates.

Many fair chance candidates may have gaps in their experience due to incarceration. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t possess the right hard and soft skills to do the job well. In fact, a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 82 percent of managers and 67 percent of HR professionals believe that the quality of hire for workers with criminal records is about the same or higher than that for workers without records.

The process you usually use to interview candidates may need to evolve slightly to be more skills-based, as opposed to one focused mostly on previous employment experiences. Here’s a look at how that can be accomplished.

Step 1: Identify the role’s core competencies

The past few years have proven challenging when it comes to finding talent with the right experience to fill open roles. So the idea of assessing a candidate’s transferable skills shouldn’t be a new one. That’s the core of skills-based interviewing—instead of focusing on past experience or a specific number of years worked, identify the main competencies of the role and use those as a guidepost for your fair chance interview.

Some questions to ask yourself to help identify these competencies include:

  • At a high level, what is the purpose of this role?
  • At a high level, what will this hire be owning/building?
  • What does success look like after six months? 12-plus months?
  • What will a typical day look like?
  • What are the top five key skills necessary to be successful in the role?
  • What are the five additional skills that would be helpful but not immediately necessary?

Step 2: Look beyond what’s on paper

Once you’ve determined the specific skills needed for the role, ensure that the interviewing team is on the same page and stays the course throughout the entire process. It can be tempting to fall back on choosing the candidate who looks best on paper, but it’s important to remember that those with nontraditional backgrounds—whether fair chance or not—should be given fair consideration.

Rather than seeking out the “right” educational requirements or previous years’ experience in a similar role, assess all of your candidates through a fair chance friendly lens by asking these questions:

  • Does the talent demonstrate the ability to execute on the five core skills required of the role?
  • Does the candidate have transferable skills from previous work experience that will make them successful in the role?
  • Has the candidate demonstrated an ability to hold down a job?
  • If the candidate is of less skilled, do they have a high willingness to learn quickly?
  • Is the candidate motivated to push your team forward?

Step 3: Give talent time to ramp up

Recent research found that organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new retention by 82 percent and productivity by over 70 percent. It’s clear that proper onboarding is crucial for any new employee, and this is especially true for formerly incarcerated individuals.

Remember that coming into the role, these candidates may have a bigger learning curve, and you need to give them the time and the tools to help them be successful. As long as these new employees show an eagerness and motivation to learn and demonstrate your organization’s core values, they’ll acquire the rest through onboarding and on-the-job training.

It’s also important to think beyond traditional training and also consider how to meet their emotional needs. Create a psychologically safe space for them, which includes encouraging them to ask questions, providing them with resources to help them adjust to corporate life, and giving them time off as needed. If they see firsthand that your company is dedicated to their well-being and success, they’ll be all the more motivated to become a valuable and productive employee.

Opening yourself up to more diverse talent

In today’s tight labor market, it pays to open your candidate pools when it comes to bringing in talent. Looking beyond experience and seeing the potential in a candidate can help you create a more diverse and engaged workforce, while giving candidates like the formerly incarcerated a fair chance at a brighter future.

Learn more about How to Be a Fair Chance Employer in our eBook.

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