Hiring Wisdom: It Pays to Hire Ex-Cons

Yet another sign of the robust demand for workers is that more US employers are hiring applicants with criminal records.

At 4.3%, the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in 16 years, triggering major labor shortages in some industries, such as construction. In response, employers are taking a serious look at the 23 million Americans who’ve served prison time or carry a felony conviction. There’s no hard data to know for sure—the government doesn’t track the employment of those with criminal records—but anecdotal evidence is piling up.

One straw in the wind: The Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives has begun to help its members hire ex-offenders.

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Depending on your state, you could be eligible for up to $9,000 in tax credits for hiring a formerly convicted employee who meets the criteria of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit program.

The U.S. government offers other incentives specifically for employers who hire ex-convicts, such as the Job Training Partnership Act, which may reimburse training wages; and the Prisoner Reentry Initiative, which provides grants to organizations that help ex-offenders transition into jobs. Numerous states offer additional incentives for employers willing to give ex-convicts a second chance.

Mel Kleiman, CSP, is an internationally-known authority on recruiting, selecting, and hiring hourly employees. He has been the president of Humetrics since 1976 and has over 30 years of practical experience, research, consulting and professional speaking work to his credit. Contact him at mkleiman@humetrics.com.