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6 Tips for Hiring Applicants with Criminal Histories

As employers look to improve their practices for interviewing, investigating, hiring — or not hiring — and employing ex-prisoners, these six tips will set them up for success.

#1: Know when to ask about criminal history.

Hiring managers need to know when and how to make an inquiry into someone’s criminal background. It’s clear that organizations can’t ask a candidate on a job application or during an interview. California prohibits employers from asking about criminal history until the selection process is complete and a contingent job offer made. The idea being that the employer considers each candidate fully and equally, and bias against ex-convicts can’t affect the hiring process unless it disqualifies a candidate entirely.

#2: Be prepared to respond to the candid candidate.

Sometimes, candidates inform hiring managers about their criminal records. When this happens, thank them for their honesty and ensure them that criminal history doesn’t necessarily disqualify them from employment.

#3: Collect only relevant information.

Employers need not screen for convictions that aren’t relevant to the position. You don’t have to screen a motor vehicle report for people who aren’t driving for the organization. Credit checks can only be conducted under very specific conditions.

#4: Keep screening consistent.

It’s important to screen classes of jobs consistently. You can have different protocols for different job classes, but within those job classes, you want to keep people screened the same way.

#5: Confirm the report.

Once a background check provider has done its job, an employer needs to follow up and confirm the information it sees. Don’t rely on a database search only. Make sure all your information is confirmed by a source

#6: Be reasonable.

When it comes time to decide to hire or pass on an applicant with a criminal record, the employer needs to consider reasonable versus perfection. You must be reasonable under the totality of the circumstances.”

Employers often worry about the risk of bringing on a candidate with a criminal background. Negligent hiring is a risk, but if you document your judgment calls and document why you did what you did, you’re not going to be negligent. If you are not confident about a decision reach out to us or someone else who has more experience, like an attorney.

When assessing a candidate with a criminal history, employers should look for them to take ownership and accountability for their actions. If they can do that, the next thing you want to know is who they are now and how they have bettered themselves

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