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Oct 15, 2020

The Myths and Benefits of Fair Chance Hiring

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Checkr Editorial

We recently released a playbook on the topic of Fair Chance Hiring entitled, “The Diversity Group You're Overlooking: How to be a Fair Chance Employer,” which provides an overview of fair chance hiring practices, along with ways companies like yours can get started. 

While there is no “one size fits all” for implementing fair chance hiring— companies have to consider unique risks, needs, and opportunities when developing policies—there’s also no need to reinvent the wheel. You can make small adjustments to current practices to better accommodate fair chance talent. 

As you’re getting started with fair chance hiring, you may need stakeholder buy-in to begin to recruit top talent with conviction histories. Remember, if your organization is already in the practice of intentionally seeking out diverse talent pools, then you already have the mindset and processes in place needed for fair chance hiring. People with conviction histories are often overlooked and are simply another diverse talent group for your organization to engage. 

This bias or stigma associated with candidates with records was found clearly in the UCLA study and the report found the following key issue areas for talent with records during the job search:

  1. In hiring decisions, employers view criminal records more negatively than other evidence of the same illegal conduct.
  2. Employers expect candidates with criminal records to engage in many undesirable behaviors on the job, even ones unrelated to the conduct indicated by the record.
  3. Employers penalize candidates with criminal records most in hiring decisions for higher status job positions.
  4. Employer aversion to hiring candidates with criminal records is not greater for customer service positions, where negligent hiring should be the biggest concern.

Dispelling the reoffense myth and striking out stigma towards talent with records is a core element of preparing to become a fair chance employer. And once you implement these practices, there are a lot of benefits you can expect: 

The benefits of fair chance hiring 

Reduce bias in the hiring process

Currently, 17% of white people with a record get called back after a job interview. Compare that to the 5% of African Americans with a record who get called back, and the bias is impossible to ignore. Women of color have it the hardest—over 43% of Black women and 39% of Hispanic women experience unemployment after incarceration compared to 23% of white women after release. Similarly, over 35% of Black men who were previously incarcerated experience unemployment after release compared to the 18% unemployment rate of previously incarcerated white men. By acknowledging the unfair playing field and giving all applicants an equal chance—especially through diversity and belonging initiatives—employers have a chance to right a systemic wrong.

Improve ROI by lowering the barrier, not the bar

Fair chance hiring offers a significant return on investment, from both a performance and retention standpoint. Research shows that when you hire candidates with criminal records, your retention rates are likely to be higher and turnover to be much lower. Meanwhile, a study from Northwestern University reports that people with criminal records are no more likely to be fired for misconduct than people without records. They’re also less likely to quit, which saves employers a considerable amount by way of turnover costs. 

Fair chance hiring means increasing fairness, not lowering your hiring standards. 82% of managers and 67% of HR professionals feel that the “quality of fair chance talent” is about the same or higher than that of candidates without records, according to one report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Decrease recidivism rates

It costs roughly $100 per day to keep someone incarcerated. Consider that the U.S. accounts for 25% of the world’s incarcerated people, and it’s easy to see why the country spends over $80 billion a year on jails and prisons. Recidivism contributes massively to that number. Eighty-three percent of state prisoners are rearrested within nine years of their release. The number one influence on preventing recidivism is employment. Imagine how much money could be siphoned away from prisons and jails and into education and other basic needs by simply increasing the number of jobs given to candidates with criminal records. It would have an astonishing impact on our economy and communities.

Getting started with fair chance hiring in your business isn’t just a strategic move to widen your funnel of top talent, it’s also an opportunity to change lives, end cycles of recidivism, and create positive social change.



Fair chance hiring is built on the premise that everyone, regardless of their background, has the right to be fairly assessed for a role they are qualified for.

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