How Fair Chance Hiring Can Benefit Your Business

August 26, 2020 Jeramy Gordon

Everyone should have a fair shot at a job opportunity, especially previously incarcerated people who have paid their debt to society and have been rehabilitated. Applicants should be judged mainly on their qualifications and ability to do the job at hand, and that’s why a Fair Chance Hiring policy can be right for your business.

Millions of highly qualified job seekers are passed over each year for less qualified candidates due to a prior criminal record. More than 70 million Americans have a criminal record. If your company doesn’t consider candidates with a criminal history, you might be missing a large portion of your candidate pool.

What is Fair Chance Hiring?

The Fair Chance Act was signed into law by President Donald Trump, along with the National Defense Authorization Act. The bill, which is intended to give job seekers with criminal backgrounds a hand up, prohibits government agencies and their contractors from asking about criminal history prior to a conditional offer.

Like state and local ban the box laws, the Fair Chance Act is the first federal law addressing the issue. At least 35 states and more than 150 cities have enacted ban the box legislation to help remove hiring barriers for people with criminal records.

The laws, which are part of a growing trend in hiring, delay when an employer can ask about criminal history until a conditional offer of employment has been made. In fact, some of the largest employers in the nation, including Coca-Cola, American Airlines, Google and Facebook have signed the Fair Chance Pledge.

Taking Fair Chance a step further, tech companies, including Slack, launched Next Chapter, a pilot program aimed at helping convicted criminals find successful work in tech.

Here are three reasons you might consider a Fair Chance policy:

1.     Fair Chance hiring gives you a competitive edge

Given how tight the pre-COVID-19 job market was, Fair Chance hiring had been growing in popularity. And companies that embraced the act saw positive results, according to Kenyatta Leal, a founding member of The Last Mile, a nonprofit that prepares incarcerated individuals for successful reentry into the workforce.

In a strong job market, employers can’t afford to ignore qualified applicants. Since almost one-third of the country’s working-age people have criminal histories, excluding this entire group can be a costly mistake.

Casting a wider net means attracting stronger candidates, which helps businesses remain competitive.

2.     A more diverse employee base

Diversity and inclusion are essential aspects of running a successful business. Unfortunately, the incarcerated population in this country is disproportionately comprised of minorities.

When businesses consider workers with criminal records, they open their doors to a highly diverse population of qualified workers from various backgrounds, education levels and socioeconomic statuses.

This not only brings in a new perspective but can also help improve creativity and innovation.

3.     A greater return on investment

Employee turnover can be a huge cost for many employers. Fair Chance policies can increase retention and offer a high return on investment on training and employee development programs. A study from Johns Hopkins University of nearly 500 people it hired with records showed a lower turnover during the first 40 months of these employees than non-offenders. A further study found that 73 out of 79 employees with serious records were still employed after three to six years.

How to create a Fair Chance policy

Now that you understand how Fair Chance Hiring can benefit your business, it’s time to draft a policy for your talent acquisition and HR teams.

Here are 5 tips from the National Employment Law Project:

  1. Avoid Stigmatizing language: Do not use terms such as “ex-felons;” instead use “people with records.”
  2. Include an equal opportunity statement on the application: A blurb that confirms applicants will not be automatically disqualified due to criminal history can increase applications.
  3. Only consider convictions related to job duties: When your background check returns prior criminal behavior, make it a policy to only factor convictions related to the job at hand.
  4. Adhere to Ban the Box laws: Move any conviction inquirers to after a conditional offer of employment is made.
  5. Remove self-reporting questions: These questions can leave too much room for error and misunderstanding. Consider removing self-reporting if you’re not required to do so by law.

Building Fair Chance principals into your hiring process is sure to return positive rewards. If you’re looking for a more diverse, loyal and engaged employee base, consider a Fair Chance policy today.

For more information on Fair Chance Hiring and Ban the Box laws, visit

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