New research shows that a majority of workers in all roles said they were willing to hire and work with those who have a criminal record.

Two surveys commissioned by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Charles Koch Institute revealed that a positive view of the employment of people with criminal backgrounds is emerging, with the research finding that a majority of HR professionals see little differences in quality of hire between those with and those without a criminal background.

Among the groups polled, 74% of managers and 84% of HR professionals nationwide said they were willing or open to hiring individuals with a criminal record.

Across all groups surveyed, over 80% said they were willing and open to working with people with criminal records.

Only a small minority were unwilling to make the hire or work alongside these individuals.

About two-thirds of HR professionals surveyed said their organization had experience hiring ex-offenders.

Work Quality

At companies that have hired workers with criminal records, employees rate the quality of their work as comparable to those without a record.

Eighty-two percent of managers and 67% of HR professionals believe that the quality of hire for workers with criminal records is about the same or higher than that of workers without records.

HR professionals also say the cost-per-hire is similar for those with and without criminal records.

Yet, there is some ambivalence about hiring from within this group, with 41% of managers neither willing nor unwilling to hire individuals with criminal records. For HR professionals, that figure was 47%.

A criminal record should never be viewed as an automatic disqualification for employment.
"It’s time to put an end to the stigma that holds back inclusive hiring and retire outdated employment practices," said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, SHRM’s president and CEO, in a statement.

"With unemployment falling below 4%, employers must think differently about both jobs and the people who can fill them.

"A criminal record should never be viewed as an automatic disqualification for employment," said Taylor, who also is an adviser to the Safe Streets & Second Chances program.

Factors in Hiring Ex-Offenders

When asked why job offers were extended to individuals with criminal records, one-half or more of managers and HR professionals said they wanted to hire the most qualified candidate irrespective of criminal record.

Other reasons included wanting to give people a second chance and making the community a better place.

Factors that increased the likelihood of employment for workers with criminal backgrounds included demonstrated consistent work history, references, job training, and a certification of rehabilitation.

Less likely to impact hiring were monetary incentives such as tax deductions.

Barriers to Hiring Ex-Offenders

The new research also identified barriers to the employment of people with criminal records. They include employer concerns about legal liability, customer reactions, and regulations that prohibit hiring or make it difficult to hire.

Forty-six percent of HR professionals said their company requires job applicants to indicate their criminal history on an initial employment application.

The research also found some lack of awareness on this topic.

"This is an issue we all should be talking about," Taylor said. "We encourage HR professionals to lead conversations about inclusive hiring so other executives of organizations can make informed hiring decisions."


Methodology: The findings come from two sources: a nationwide survey of 1,052 full-time employees (both managers and non-managers) and a survey of 1,228 HR professionals from the SHRM membership. The surveys were conducted in March and April 2018. The research has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.