Fair Chance Hiring Strategies by Damonique Fermin, Intern

Updated: Apr 25



At MindOpen Learning Strategies, we are always looking to highlight important initiatives related to criminal justice reform, such as the recent proclamation of Second Chance Month during April by President Joe Biden. To document the importance of this moment, we asked our Spring intern, Damonique Fermin, to summarize helpful tips and strategies to inform your organizational practices. Please let us know what you think in the comments below!


Fair chance hiring isn’t one size fits all

  • There is no “one size fits all” for implementing fair chance hiring

  • As you’re getting started with fair chance hiring, you may need stakeholder buy-in to begin to recruit top talent with conviction histories.


Reduce bias in the hiring process

  • Currently, 17% of white people with a record get called back after a job interview.

  • Compare that to the 5% of African Americans with a record who get called back, and the bias is impossible to ignore

  • 43% of Black women and 39% of Hispanic women experience unemployment after incarceration compared to 23% of white women after release.

  • 35% of Black men who were previously incarcerated experience unemployment after release compared to the 18% unemployment rate of previously incarcerated white men


Improve ROI by lowering the barrier, not the bar

  • Research shows that your retention rates are likely to be higher when you hire people with criminal records, and turnover to be much lower.


Decrease recidivism rates

  • It costs roughly $100 per day to keep someone incarcerated.

  • the U.S. accounts for 25% of the world’s incarcerated people, and it’s easy to see why the country spends over $80 billion a year on jails and prisons

  • Eighty-three percent of state prisoners are rearrested within nine years of their release. The number one influence on preventing recidivism is employment.


Building a fair chance hiring plan

  1. Build your foundational knowledge and best practices

  2. Create an intentional hiring plan

  • Publishing a statement on your careers page, so talent with conviction histories know you are a fair chance employer.

  • Registering your business on Glassdoor and Linkedin as a fair chance employer

  1. Connect with local source partners to find top fair chance talent

  • Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) that focus on workforce development for reentry and fair chance talent are likely right in your backyard

  • Partnering with local source partners can give you strategic access to top talent with conviction histories without doing a manual search yourself. CBOs are excellent resources to tap into to learn best practices on hiring and supporting your new talent.

  • National 70 Million Jobs Use these keywords to research local source partners in your region:

  • “reentry workforce development”

  • “reentry job development”

  • “felony friendly job development


Conducting a skills-based interview

  1. Identify the core competencies of the role

  • Rather than focusing on past direct experience in the role you’re hiring for, a specified amount of previous years work experience, or being fully ramped up on the existing tools, instead ask yourself:

  • What does success look like after 6 months? 12+ months?

  • What are the 5 top key skills necessary to be successful in the role?

  • What are the 5 additional skills that would be helpful but not immediately necessary?

  1. Throw away the golden resume

  • Rather than seeking out educational requirements or previous years' experience in a similar role, assess all of your candidates through a fair chance-friendly lens.

  • Using a skills-based assessment process results in fairer interview and hiring practices for your teams to eliminate bias. It will help you find top talent that you may have otherwise overlooked in a traditional hiring model.

  1. Be willing to give time to ramp up

  • Giving someone a fair chance may mean giving them a chance at work even before they’ve learned the core tools needed to do the job.

  • If talent can highlight transferable skills, show an eagerness and motivation to learn, and demonstrate our core values of humility, transparency, grit, ownership, and connection, organizations can bring them on, knowing there may be a learning curve.


Individualized Assessment Best Practices

  • If a charge comes through that your team needs to take a closer look at, we recommend engaging a panel of diverse, educated, and trained professionals to conduct an individualized assessment.

  • Assembling a panel of individuals from varying backgrounds and expertise areas ensures that you are fairly assessing candidates while ensuring that you’re not taking on undue risk.

  • Factors that the panel should consider:

  1. The nature of the charge, the time that’s passed, and the nature of the role

  2. Acknowledge and openly discuss any biases or “moral judgments” that may be creeping up during the assessment process so that you can move through them and recenter back into a pure nature-time-nature test

  3. Consider any evidence of rehabilitation in the form of completed courses or counseling, personal references, etc.

  4. Finalize your decision after a transparent conversation with the candidate to learn more about the charge and what work they’ve done since

  • Conducting individualized assessments can give you and your team security that after the assessment process if you choose to engage with a candidate, you have deemed the candidate to be 100% ready to join your organization and have done the work to prove this.


Setting Your Talent Up for Success

  • Similar to the way your business already makes accommodations for varying commuting needs, specific office setups for ergonomic or disability reasons, and even maternity and paternity policies, making accommodations for conditions of parole or probation during a period of supervision can be neatly folded into your existing HR functions.

Potential conviction history responsive accommodations for your talent could include:

  1. Needing to have a shift schedule, or agreed-upon hours, that allow for talent to make it to mandatory classes

  2. Willingness from manager to have a conversation with the talent’s parole or probation officer to confirm employment status or have occasional check-ins

  3. Having an intentional conversation with the talent to ensure them that they are supported and that you understand the seriousness of helping them maintain their conditions of parole or probation


Source: Checkr, The Diversity Group You're Overlooking: How to Be a Fair Chance Employer