Many businesses are hesitant to hire people with criminal records, especially in states where equal employment protections don’t extend to job applicants with criminal pasts. However, eliminating this population from your applicant pool can lead to plenty of lost opportunities. Many people with criminal records are exceptional and capable candidates who are often overlooked, despite having served their time (or otherwise learned from their mistakes).
Following more inclusive hiring practices can help you expand your talent pool to include a large number of talented individuals. In a time filled with labor shortages in every industry, hiring people with criminal records can be a brilliant strategy for your business. However, even when jobs are high in demand, hiring former convicts may be beneficial in numerous ways.
Here are four reasons you should consider hiring someone with a criminal record and what steps to take when doing so.
Diverse teams are widely recognized as beneficial for businesses. When you have team members from many different backgrounds, you can gain diverse perspectives that can bring more creativity and efficiency to your company. People with criminal records have unique life experiences that inform their thoughts, actions, and ways of working, which means they can positively influence your company culture and output as much as their peers.
Instead of prioritizing applicants with clean records in your hiring process, prioritize finding good culture fits who share your company values and demonstrate a desire to build their skills. Employees who can integrate well into your culture can better develop bonds with their team members and be well-engaged employees, regardless of their past.
A lesser-known benefit of hiring people with criminal records is the financial benefit it can provide. In eligible cases, you can take advantage of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), which allows your company to earn $1,200 to $9,600 in tax credit. This can be a significant profit booster for small-business owners.
To qualify for the WOTC, you must hire someone who was convicted of a federal or state felony. Plus, they must be hired no more than a year after they’re released from prison (or a halfway house, if that’s part of their sentencing).
While it may seem risky to hire people who are fresh out of prison, the WOTC helps you alleviate the potential risks of working with ex-offenders. However, employers must remember to file Form 5884 upon hiring ex-felons to avoid missing out on this large tax incentive.
The financial benefits of hiring someone with a criminal record can extend well beyond the tax credit you receive. Former convicts may also be highly loyal employees who work hard in their roles and help you reduce your company’s turnover rate. Since people with criminal records often struggle to find careers — far more so than people with clean backgrounds — they’re often willing to contribute more to maintain their job security.
If you want to further improve your employee loyalty and gain more applications from ex-convicts, consider offering skills-building programs as an employee benefit. This will help you connect with potential new hires who not only have basic skills, but are also eager to learn and grow within your company. Since people with criminal records may have gaps in their resumes, they may be looking for workplaces that offer opportunities to make up for their missing experience.
As inclusion becomes a value shared by many consumers and employees around the world, creating a program for hiring people with criminal records can make your brand more appealing than ever. Advocates are increasingly calling for businesses to “ban the box” — or make it illegal to ask applicants about their criminal history — and companies that take early initiative to do so can stand out in the eyes of many potential customers and team members.
Marketing your new inclusion initiative for ex-convicts can help you get more applicants, whether they have criminal records or simply share your values. Don’t be afraid to send out press releases or post on social media about the fact that your business supports banning the box. The more word spread about your hiring practices, the more loyalty you can gain from customers and employees.
Hiring someone with a criminal record can improve your company’s success in many ways. First, it can expand your applicant pool to include plenty of skilled professionals who aren’t sought after as much as workers with clean backgrounds. Upon hiring an ex-convict, your business can benefit from their unique perspectives, as well as their strong loyalty and work ethic. Plus, you can attract plenty of consumers who are increasingly calling for inclusive hiring practices. If you’re hiring an ex-felon who was recently released from jail, you may even be able to take advantage of a federal tax credit that will reduce your tax obligation by thousands of dollars.
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