Nearly 1/3 of Americans have a previous arrest or conviction record. The need for these 70 million people to gain employment is essential on an individual and also on an economic level. So, that’s where second chance hiring plays an important role.

“Second chance hiring encourages businesses to consider candidates with criminal backgrounds and make them employable. It focuses on helping employers evaluate their overall value to the company instead of directly rejecting them because of their criminal record.”

source: 6 Tools for Hiring People with Criminal Backgrounds — Ongig
Second chance hiring

So what are the benefits of second chance hiring? In this blog, we dive into 3 that make considering former felons a good bet.

But first, what keeps many companies from hiring them?

What is second chance hiring?

Second chance hiring is like offering a fresh start to individuals who may have faced difficulties in the past, such as having a criminal record or periods without a job. So, instead of focusing only on a person’s past mistakes, employers give them a chance to prove themselves and showcase their skills.

It’s also a way to help people get back into the workforce and contribute positively to a job, even if they’ve had challenges before. Therefore, it’s about giving everyone a fair shot at employment and the chance to build a better future.

Bias & Legal Backlash Prevent Second Chance Hiring

Many employers are unwilling to hire people with a conviction record (also known as Second Chance Hiring). And many require applicants to show they have a “clean” record during the hiring process.

In 2015, the Ban the Box Law legally required employers to remove this question from the initial application process. But it still allows them to ask for criminal record status once an interview or employment is offered. Ban the Box affects hiring in 37 states, the District of Columbia, and over 150 cities and counties in the U.S.

Even though this is a step in the right direction, there are critics of Ban the Box. But why?

It’s mostly because of information showing that it creates unfair judgments against specific groups. So, these groups, such as individuals with lower education levels and People of Color, are often assumed to have a record. And this can create unfair judgments in hiring decisions. One study found that:

“young black men without a college degree (not all of whom had criminal backgrounds) were turned down at higher rates when employers didn’t ask applicants about their criminal history.”

Researchers: Some employer fears about hiring ex-cons are unfounded by Maya Dukmasova

Outside of bias, many employers say legal backlash is their reason for weeding out applications from “former felons.” But why?

Bosses sometimes face law suits for hiring people for a job who have a history of breaking the law. Also, it’s usually tough for employers to get insurance to protect them from these situations.


What Are the Benefits of Second Chance Hiring?

Even though some companies feel unsure about giving people a second chance at work, there’s still a big need for jobs for about 70 million individuals. These are folks who might have faced challenges in the past. So, even if some companies are hesitant, there’s a real importance in helping these many people find jobs and opportunities.

So what are the benefits of second chance hiring?

Let’s dive in:

1. “Former Felons” are more likely to be loyal employees

Research shows:

“having a criminal background makes an employee less likely to leave voluntarily and likely to have a longer tenure.” 

source: Criminal background and job performance by Dylan Minor, Nicola Persico & Deborah M. Weiss

Loyalty is one of the biggest benefits of second chance hiring. This means that when employers give someone a second chance at a job, that person often feels really grateful and are often very dedicated. So, they want to show that they appreciate the opportunity. Thus, they work hard and stay committed to their job.

So, loyalty is a big benefit that comes when employers give people another chance to work. Loyal employees are a great asset since the average onboarding cost of new employees is around $4,000.

2. Employers receive tax breaks for employing “Former Felons”

Tax breaks are another one of the benefits of second chance hiring.

Federal, state, and municipal governments offer these programs for employers willing to hire “former felons” under the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC).

The tax credit is worth up to 40% of $6,000 paid in wages, making the maximum credit $2,400.

“The credit applies to a former felon who has been convicted of a felony under any federal or state law, and is hired not more than 1 year after the conviction or release from prison for that felony.”

WOTC Questions: Is there a California state Tax Credit for hiring ex-offenders? by WOTC Blog

3. “Former Felons” are more likely to be promoted

Data from the U.S. military shows that second chance hires are no more likely to be released from service for misconduct than their peers without prior offenses. But they are more likely to receive promotions and to higher ranks.

Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, just like other companies, tries to hire people who had problems with the law before. And they discovered something quite interesting. So, these individuals tend to quit their jobs less often compared to those without a record. Michelle Natividad Rodriguez, a senior staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project, said:

“What we heard time and again from people who hired people with records is they found some very mature workers who have gone through life experiences and had some negative experiences, and arrived at a point where they are dedicated to making things work,” she said. “That means working hard, and developing loyalty and commitment to the employer.”

source: Americans with criminal records may outperform on the job by Aimee Picchi

Note: If your company is thinking about a second chance hiring strategy, here are 5 Tips for Hiring Former Felons you might find helpful.

Companies Sign Up for Second Chance Hiring 

More and more companies are getting on board with second-chance hiring. The Wall Street Journal says: 

“The Second Chance Business Coalition—a group of companies that work to share best practices on hiring people with a criminal background—was formed in 2021 with 29 companies and now has more than 40.” 

Here’s a list of co.s joining in:  

  • Accenture
  • Allstate
  • American Airlines
  • Aon
  • AT&T
  • Bank of America
  • Best Buy
  • BorgWarner
  • Cisco
  • CVS Health
  • Deloitte
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods
  • Eaton
  • Gap Inc.
  • GM
  • The Home Depot
  • Indeed
  • JPMorgan Chase
  • Kelly
  • Koch Industries
  • Kroger
  • LKQ
  • Lowe’s
  • Mastercard
  • McDonald’s
  • Micron
  • Microsoft
  • P&G
  • PayPal
  • Pepsico
  • Prudential
  • Ralph Lauren
  • Randstad
  • Schnitzer
  • Target
  • Texas Instruments
  • Union Pacific 
  • United Airlines
  • Verizon
  • Virgin
  • Visa
  • Vistra
  • Walgreens Boots Alliance
  • Walmart

Why I wrote this:

Ongig is on a mission to help HR pros create effective and inclusive job descriptions to attract top talent. Former felons are an untapped talent pool you might want to focus on recruiting. Especially if you want loyal, long-time employees.


Thanks to my sources:

  4. Tax Breaks for Employers Who Hire Felons by Lainie Petersen
  5. Work Opportunity Tax Credit by IRS
  6. WOTC Questions: Is there a California state Tax Credit for hiring ex-offenders? by WOTC Blog
  7. Ban-the-box laws may worsen racial bias against black job candidates, study says by Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz
  8. Researchers: Some employer fears about hiring ex-cons are unfounded by Maya Dukmasova
  9. Illinois and Chicago “Ban the Box” Laws Take Effect by The National Law Review
  10. The Cost of Onboarding New Employees in 2022 (+Calculator) by Levi Olmstead
  11. Criminal background and job performance by Dylan Minor, Nicola Persico & Deborah M. Weiss
  12. More Businesses Want to Hire People With Criminal Records Amid Tight Job Market by Allison Prang

by in Diversity and Inclusion