Statistically speaking, one in three US citizens has a criminal record. This rather large percentage of the US population finds it challenging to find gainful employment, yet the US and many other countries continue experiencing massive labor shortages. And to add to that, the job market is incredibly competitive.

A Criminal Record Does Not Automatically Equal Dangerous

Let’s clear the air. It’s crucial not to assume the worst in someone simply because they hold a criminal record, but rather to keep well away from any discrimination and give them a second chance. A criminal record doesn’t automatically mean someone has a murder or theft conviction. They may have been charged with possession of marijuana, which is now legalized. They may have been part of a protest and ended up on the wrong side of the law.

There’s a strong wave of opinion promoting upping our efforts in second-chance hiring. We should be open to employing those with criminal records who find it tough to obtain gainful employment due to their criminal record status. However, the issue bothering many employers is the stigma associated with employing someone with a criminal record. Are we putting our current staff in danger? Are they trustworthy and reliable? Of course, much of this sentiment is a narrative playing out in the employer’s mind rather than the actual reality of the situation.

Why Pursue a Second-Chance Hiring Strategy?

Let’s divide this into two thought directions. One direction is more altruistically concerned, while the other deals with the positives of the second-chance workforce.

The Altruistic Mindset

Altruism is defined as a selfless concern for the well-being of others, even at risk or cost to ourselves. With the stigma around hiring those with a criminal record so prevalent, it does seem like there are risks to second-chance hiring. As humans, we do, however, like to give people a second chance and provide opportunities for those who find it challenging to find employment due to their circumstances.

It is important to point out that much research and gathered statistics point to the fact that most US citizens who are the not-so-proud owners of a rap sheet have yet to actually be convicted of a serious crime. They are perpetrators of misdemeanors, possibly even once-off moments many of us without criminal records have been through often but have managed to get away with.

Offering candidates a second chance because they deserve it is good enough. Of course, rigorous interview processes and screening, as you would for any potential employee, are essential.

A Potentially Motivated Workforce

Obtaining gainful employment is not easy for those with a criminal record. They have to work far harder to gain employment, and often, the job they get is below their skill level.

When you employ someone in this situation, they are more likely to be more motivated to keep their job, making sure they are an asset to the company. Previously incarcerated citizens or those with a bad track record tend to want to alienate themselves from their past. They are eager to build their careers and write a new, more positive chapter in their lives. As the employer, you will have an employee who is highly motivated and eager to learn and develop.

Just a quick online search, and you’ll find many success stories of second-chance employment candidates who have thrived and moved up through the ranks in a company. Let’s not be naive, though. There are, of course, many for who it has yet to work out, but isn’t this the case with any other potential employee?

Industries that Could Benefit from Second-Chance Hiring

It’s important that don’t see second-chance hiring as only trade and labor based. As recruiters, we should screen potential candidates based on their expertise, skills, and motivation. Many candidates with a criminal record have incredible intellectual knowledge and skills to add to the workplace.

However, there is still a deficit and many opportunities available in the labor sector. According to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, about 3.5 million workers are “missing” from the workforce, nearly three years after the pandemic took hold of the world. There are opportunities aplenty, and embarking on a second-chance employment strategy could help alleviate the huge labor force deficit.

You know, the typical movie scenario. We’ve all seen it; the notorious hacker turns good and helps the government unearth the devious plots of the enemy with a few swift clicks of the computer keyboard. While this is part of the cinematic world, it could be a reality for many, taking skills used for ill gain and turning them into positives, adding value to businesses and, yes, governments too. Data capturing, research and many remote work opportunities could be an excellent fit for those who might not fair so well in a person-to-person office environment.

Second-Chance Hiring, Looking Ahead

The positives far outweigh any perceived negatives around second-chance hiring. With rigorous screening systems and interview processes in place and stigmas about criminal record holders put aside, there is an untapped workforce of just over 77 million eager to fill positions and grow in their careers. Second-chance hiring should be given the chance it deserves.

Sean Kelland

Sean is an avid appreciator of life and human interactions. Coming from a background in educational management and teaching, photography, and the creative space, he can convey a diverse array of topics understandably and enjoyably. Sean is a father to two wild mini-humans and husband to a beautiful and talented content-creator wife.