HR News & Trends

Survey: 50% of All Companies Have Hired Workers With a Criminal Record


A CareerBuilder survey released today says 51 percent of human resources managers report their company has hired workers with a criminal record.

It’s an almost impossible-to-believe finding, given the constant drumbeat by criminal rights organizations over the challenges those with records face in landing jobs. However, in light of the National Employment Law Project estimate that 65 million Americans have some kind of criminal record, it’s not so surprising that many are on payrolls across the country.

The online survey was conducted for CareerBuilder by Harris Interactive, which polled 2,298 U.S. hiring managers and human resource professionals about the issue. The records here are those that would typically show up on a background check: convictions for both misdemeanors and felonies, but probably not arrests.

3 factors employers should analyze

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission frowns on the use of arrest records, and many state laws outright prohibit employers from considering or asking about arrests. Even misdemeanor convictions are often specifically excluded from employment applications.

Felony convictions can be an employment bar, but the EEOC “recommends that employers not ask about convictions on job applications and that, if and when they make such inquiries, the inquiries be limited to convictions for which exclusion would be job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity.”

Employers should analyze three factors, says the EEOC:

  • The nature and gravity of the offense or offenses;
  • The time that has passed since the conviction and/or completion of the sentence; and
  • The nature of the job held or sought.

This guidance is recent, issued just a few months ago, though the Commission has been wrestling with the issue of arrest and conviction records for years. It has been issuing guidance and opinions on the matter dating back to the 1980s.

Many employers won’t hire applicants with a record

Yet, in a 2001 study, 62 percent of surveyed employers in four major cities said they probably or definitely would not hire an applicant with a criminal record. More recently, the National Employment Law Project analyzed employment ads on Craigslist finding more than 300 of the ads posted in just five major cities — many from large national companies — included language barring candidates with criminal records from applying. In addition to direct employer ads, “The Craigslist survey uncovered a generous sampling of particularly egregious no-hire ads by staffing firms.”

Considering the state laws, the EEOC position on the use of criminal convictions, it may be that the biggest surprise in the CareerBuilder survey is that more companies haven’t hired workers with records.

To help ex-offenders in the job hunt, CareerBuilder asked the HR professionals to offer their best advice from a list of several suggestions. No. 1, selected by 68 percent of the respondents, was “Be up front and honest about the conviction and stress what you learned from it.”

John has been writing about recruiting and employment for nearly a decade,and has worked in the field for almost twice as long. He traces his connection to the employment industry back to the beginning of the commercial Internet when he managed some of the earliest news oriented websites. These offered job boards, which became highly popular with users. John worked with agencies and large employers on job postings, resume search, and campaigns, before consulting with media companies on audience development and online advertising sales.
  • Nfishman

    This data clearly refutes the National Employment Law Project’s contention that the 65 million Americans with criminal records are deemed unemployable.  The fact that the polling was conducted between May and June of 2012 also suggests that employers were engaged in responsible screening before the EEOC released their new guidelines on the proper use of criminal background checks at the end April.

    It’s easy to point to publicized cases of misuse and characterize background screening companies and the employers we represent as the problem for why those with criminal records cannot find jobs.  So as our federal and state governments consider new laws, guidelines and enforcement, let’s hope they are looking at real data rather than anecdotal evidence provided by those with an agenda.

  • Blabbaermouthwithagoal

    In Florida State law prevents those convicted of felonies from being employed in many industries and jobs.  And how wants people with financial crimes, drug abuse, violence doing certain jobs?