Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

New research from a collaboration between the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Charles Koch Institute (CKI)  has identified a potentially significant pool of untapped workers – job applicants with criminal records – and found most employers are willing to hire and work with them.

A nationwide survey commissioned by SHRM and CKI of HR professionals, managers, and non-managers revealed that 74 percent of managers and 84 percent of HR professionals said they were willing or open to hiring job applicants with criminal records. Other key takeaways from the survey include:

  • About two-thirds of HR professionals say their company has experience hiring workers with criminal records.
  • More than 80 percent of managers and two-thirds of HR professionals feel that the value workers with criminal records bring to the organization is as high as or higher than that of workers without records.
  • Three-quarters of managers and HR professionals believe the cost of hiring workers with criminal records is the same as or lower than that of hiring workers with criminal records as for those without.
  • A majority of workers in all roles say they are willing to work with individuals with criminal records and an additional 30-40 percent report that they are neither willing or unwilling.
  • Among managers and HR professionals alike, a demonstrated consistent work history was the leading factor establishing their willingness to hire a worker with a criminal record.
  • Top reasons for hiring workers with criminal records include a desire to hire the best candidate for the job regardless of criminal history, making the community a better place, and giving individuals a second change.

With unemployment nearing a record low – and nearly one-third of the adult working-age population in the U.S. having a criminal record – many employers find they need to consider new sources of workers and individuals with criminal records can be a good source of untapped talent for many organizations.

“Workplaces are transforming quickly, and talent strategies must evolve along with them,” SHRM president and chief executive officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. stated in a news release. “Organizations can no longer grow without tapping into the reservoirs of potential talent hidden in our communities.”

However, there was a discrepancy regarding the actual experience of hiring workers with a criminal record as 66 percent of HR professionals said their company or organization had hired individuals with criminal records while only 39 percent of managers and 17 percent of non-managers said the same.

“The key to reducing recidivism and improving public safety is finding employment for people,” said CKI senior research fellow Vikrant Reddy. “If individuals with a criminal record can be considered for employment based on their talent and skills, the benefits for the business and society are far-reaching.”

The findings come from a nationwide survey of 1,052 full-time employees (managers and nonmanagers) and a survey of 1,228 HR professionals from the SHRM membership conducted in March and April 2018. The survey on hiring workers with a criminal record is available from SHRM here and from CKI here.

On March 30, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump proclaimed April 2018 as Second Chance Month “to prevent crime on our streets, to respect the rule of law by prosecuting individuals who break the law, and to provide opportunities for people with criminal records to earn an honest second chance.”

The proclamation stated: For millions of American citizens with criminal records, the keys to successful re-entry are becoming employable and securing employment.  Beyond the income earned from a steady paycheck, gainful employment teaches responsibility and commitment and affirms human dignity.

In January 2018, ESR News reported that with unemployment falling and demand for workers rising, companies were forced “to consider workers they once would have turned away” and provide “opportunities to people who have long faced barriers to employment, such as criminal records.”

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) founder and CEO Attorney Lester Rosen will speak at the 2018 SHRM Annual Conference & Exhibition held from June 17 to 20, 2018, in Chicago, Illinois, to show the need to ensure ex-offenders have an opportunity for work while also time exercising due diligence.

Rosen will present the session “A Strategic Approach to a Legally Compliant and Effective Background Screening Program” on Tuesday, June 19, 2018,  from 4:00 PM to 5:15 PM.  The session, which is worth 1.25 SHRM Professional Development Credits (PDCs), will study the use of criminal records during hiring.

Rosen will provide attendees with practical guidance on how to utilize criminal records in view of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance of 2012, Ban the Box laws, and fair chance hiring laws. To register for the session, click here.

Ex-Offender Resources Page Helps Job Applicants with Criminal Records

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a leading global background check firm – has an Ex-Offender Resources Page to help job applicants with criminal records find work and re-enter the workforce. To learn more, please visit

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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