Look Past the Background Check to the Person

Adam Martin has 5 felony charges on his record. His criminal background report takes up two pages. Would you hire him?

Probably not.

As his background report flashed up on the screen at a DisruptHR meeting last fall in Fargo, South Dakota, Martin observed that “All your heads are looking at that. None of you are looking at me.”

His point is that those who have been in trouble with the law are regularly defined by their background check. The person they are now is overlooked.

“Grace will provide amazing results,” Martin told his audience. The people — men mostly — that he works with in the county jail are so grateful to get a job that they often turn out to be some of the best workers.

Do your background checks, he said, “But I think, instead of looking at the screen you should look at them.” Martin got a chance, getting hired on as an account manager at a tech provider, before founding a non-profit working with people with criminal records.

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Even if you don’t hire them, Martin said, point them to resources you may know about. “Make it happen.”

Watch Martin’s inspiring 5 minutes and you may find yourself looking at the person at least as much as their background check.

Note: In partnership with DisruptHR, TLNT presents some of the best Disrupt presentations from events across North America and now the world. Disrupt talks are modeled on the TEDx concept: Short, to the point talks on all things HR — talent, culture and technology.

DISRUPT is an information exchange designed to energize, inform and empower people in the HR field.

Founded by Disrupt's CEO Jennifer McClure, events are organized by volunteer teams working with Disrupt staff who assist in the planning. Events have a maximum of 14 speakers, who get 5 minutes and no more than 20 slides for their presentation.

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