How to give job applicants with a criminal record a fair chance

Written by Calvin Bowers
Last updated March 10, 2021

What is fair chance hiring?

Fair chance hiring encourages employers to fairly recruit people with a criminal record, enabling them to get back to work. It is based on the principle that everybody has the right to be fairly assessed for a position they are qualified for.

Employers who give job applicants a fair chance with a criminal record tend to delay questions about convictions at the application stage. They aim to encourage applications from people who were previously charged with a crime. Additionally, fair chance hiring recognises the limited value of criminal records and questions their inclusion in recruitment decisions.

Therefore, fair chance hiring allows employers to assess a candidate’s criminal record only after the interview process and after deeming them suitable for a job. There are several reasons why employers and organisations should consider a fair change hiring policy:

  • A more diverse staff team – diversity and inclusion are crucial aspects of running a successful business. When businesses consider workers, who were previously charged with a crime, they open their doors to people with a wide range of diverse experiences, skills, education levels and socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • A better return on investment – staff turnover can be costly for many businesses and organisations. A fair chance policy is likely to increase retention and offer a higher return on investment in training and staff development programs.
  • A more competitive profile – fair chance hiring allows employers to attract a potentially stronger variety of candidates, which helps businesses remain competitive.

How employers can give ex-offender applicants a chance

One of the main principles of fair chance hiring is to assess the candidate, rather than the record. We have put together a list of essential steps to consider for employers who want to give ex-offender applicant a fair chance:

Creating a hiring plan

It is essential to create a plan that clearly outlines your intentions and goals. You could think of what you would like to achieve with your project and how it will promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Working in partnership with different parts of your team is crucial at this stage. HR and Recruiting teams can help shape the hiring process for fair chance talent, whereas legal teams can take care of compliance and risk.

Extending your network to find fair chance talent

Fair chance hiring is also an opportunity to make significant connections with businesses, organisations and other experts. Cooperating with entities that focus on fair chance talent can provide you with convenient access to highly skilled staff without much research.

Here is a list of organisations that support ex-offenders in their transition into employment:

  • Nacro has a dedicated Resettlement Plus Helpline that offers information and advice to ex-offenders, serving prisoners, their families and friends, and organisations working with them.
  • Apex Charitable Trust works across North West England and seeks to help people with criminal records obtain appropriate jobs or self-employment by providing them with the skills they need in the labour market and by working with employers to break down the barriers to their employment.
  • Unlock is an independent charity for people with convictions dealing with the effects of having a criminal record.
Conducting a skill-based interview

Interviews should be based on candidates’ transferable skills and willingness to learn, rather than their past experiences. Many ex-offenders who possess the right skills for your job opening might not have direct experience in the role or might have a considerable employment gap due to their incarceration. An employer conducts these interviews when they know exactly what they are looking for in an ideal candidate and has a list of pre-set skills that candidates must meet, regardless of their previous work experiences.

Assessing charges fairly and lawfully

If an employer determines that it is necessary to conduct a criminal record check on a candidate, it is crucial to establish the level of check that the role is eligible for. Employers should note that it is a criminal offence to carry out a standard or enhanced DBS check on a candidate if the job role is not eligible. Jobs like working with children or vulnerable adults require a DBS check.

On the other hand, employers need to set up an individualised assessment practice if their workplace does not require a DBS application. Here are some factors that employers need to consider when assessing candidates’ charges:

  • The nature of a person’s conviction history.
  • The period that has passed since the offence.
  • The nature of the job that candidates are applying for.

Every year the job market in the United Kingdom changes and grows rapidly. We have a wealth of useful tips and resources for career opportunities on our website.

Last Updated: Tuesday October 12 2021
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