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5 Tips For Hiring and Onboarding an Employee With a Criminal Record

Hiring and onboarding individuals with a criminal record can be a sensitive process, so we've gathered insights from HR professionals, legal experts, and business leaders to guide you. From conducting thorough background checks to ensuring fair individualized assessments, discover the top five tips these experts shared on successfully hiring and onboarding someone with a criminal record.

  • Conduct Thorough Background Checks

  • Implement Clear Hiring Policies

  • Understand Risks and Legalities

  • Assess Risk With Expert Help

  • Ensure Fair Individualized Assessment

Conduct Thorough Background Checks

It is crucial to conduct thorough background checks to assess any potential risk to your company and colleagues. This includes verifying the accuracy of information provided by the candidate and conducting criminal record checks. It is also important to evaluate the nature of the crime committed, the candidate's potential for rehabilitation, and any evidence of remorse or efforts toward redemption.

While it is not legal to discriminate against someone based solely on their criminal record, it is imperative to weigh the risks and benefits of hiring these individuals and to have a plan in place for support and rehabilitation. Ultimately, hiring individuals with criminal records can bring diverse experiences and perspectives to your team, but it requires careful consideration and evaluation of potential risks.

Jefferson McCall, Co-founder and HR Head, TechBullish

Implement Clear Hiring Policies

Always include the company's specific policy on hiring someone with a criminal record in job postings as a best practice. All companies should have a formal policy explaining the hiring process for someone with a criminal record within their larger company hiring policy to avoid potential discrimination.

The policy should include details regarding candidate evaluation, identification, and background checks, as well as a statement speaking of the company's commitment to discrimination. Including an optimized version in every job posting ensures consistency and fairness to every applicant.

Understand Risks and Legalities

Many criminals find it difficult to get post-incarceration employment because employers take on liability through the hire. It may be unfair, but from a business perspective, it may be a high risk to employ someone who has a criminal record versus someone who does not. Of course, that may be incorrect and the employee with the record could be the better choice.

If you decide to hire an employee with a record, you intentionally absorb that risk of hiring. You should form that intention only after pre-hire in-person conversations with the employee to gauge how they present themselves, whether they are timely, and if they are impaired.

Be aware, however, that there are federal and state laws and regulations affecting an employer's ability to ask an interviewee about their criminal record lawfully. It is important to check with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and its regulations for an update on this topic because it changes with the political winds.

Assess Risk With Expert Help

When considering candidates with criminal records, it is important to assess the risk they may pose to your organization. This can be achieved by conducting a thorough risk assessment that considers the nature of the offense, how long ago it occurred, and the candidate's behavior since then.

Consider involving a third-party risk management specialist or legal counsel to ensure compliance with laws regarding background checks and hiring practices. The risk assessment should inform the hiring decision and any necessary accommodations or support during the onboarding process.

Taking the time to evaluate the risk presented by candidates with criminal records can help mitigate potential legal and financial liabilities while providing opportunities for individuals to re-enter the workforce successfully.

Tarun Saha, Co-founder and CEO, StallionZo

Ensure Fair Individualized Assessment

Instead of making automatic decisions based on criminal records, evaluate each candidate on a case-by-case basis.

Craft a rock-solid framework that guides your evaluation process, aligning it with legal requirements and company policies. Focus on the specific job requirements and consider whether the offense is directly related to the role's responsibilities.

But don't stop there—bring the candidate into the equation. Provide an opportunity for the person to explain their past, share their personal growth or rehabilitation efforts, and discuss any steps taken to prevent future incidents.

When preparing the assessment, consider factors such as the offense, the time since the conviction, and the candidate's rehabilitation or efforts to make amends. Consider any mitigating factors or positive aspects of the candidate's background.

Remember that individualized assessment is a crucial element in ensuring fair and informed hiring decisions.

Nina Paczka, Community Manager, Resume Now