If you have a criminal record and are looking for work, don’t ever give up

Caroline Trude-Rede

Caroline Trude-Rede

Looking for work if you have a criminal record can be a Herculean task. One that requires more than a little out-of-the-box thinking. And perseverance that compels you to never give up no matter what it takes.

A woman in Florida named Caroline Trude-Rede is a perfect example of this. She left a comment on our Facebook page, and we knew from what she wrote that her story needed to be told.

Her message: Never take “no” for an answer. If you think you’re the right person for a job, make sure they know it. And don’t let them turn you down just because you have a record.

Here’s her story. The reason for her felony conviction and incarceration is a bit complicated, but it has to do with the fact that she received Veteran’s Administration benefits based on her father’s military service. The payments, which she thought were like a pension that would continue to be given to her, were actually supposed to stop at her mother’s death in 2003. The result was a felony charge of grand theft and a six-month sentence in federal prison – FMC Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas – that began in January 2018. Up until that time she had never been arrested for anything.

But like most others with felony convictions, surviving prison wasn’t her only challenge. After release, she needed to find a job, not only to pay the bills but because her probation required that she work 32 hours per week.

Two-hundred applications, 10 interviews and no job

So Trude-Rede applied for about 200 jobs during the 3-1/2 months between the time of her release and until she became employed. She applied for a variety of types of work, including taking orders at Panera Bread, answering phones in call centers and stocking items at places like Target and Sam’s Club.

“I was willing to take anything to get employed. I have two college degrees and I was applying for jobs at entry level just to try and get a foot in the door,” she says.

Although Trude-Rede had about 10 interviews, no one would hire her, not even Universal Studios, where she had previously worked for five years in a professional position in the creative department.

And then she interviewed for a graphic designer position at an architectural firm. The interview – which was conducted by her direct boss, the president of the firm and a potential coworker – went well, and she knew that she was the perfect candidate for the job. In fact, she thought she would get it.

Trude-Rede brought up her felony conviction in the interview, but the president of the company had already left, after saying, “I see all I need to see. She is perfectly capable of doing the job.”

The human resources department then emailed her a form to complete for a background check. But 10 days after the original interview, she received an email stating that they had gone a different way.

She refused to take “no” for an answer

When she saw that the position was reposted online a few days later, however, she decided to take action. She refused to take “no” for an answer.

Trude-Rede sent an email stating why she’s the person they should hire. In the email, she included a link to an article on her blog explaining her incarceration, said that she’d never had any interaction with law enforcement before that point and mentioned all the things she had accomplished in prison.

In addition she explained the Federal Bonding Program that protects businesses from financial or property loss that might incur from hiring workers in “at risk” groups and mentioned that his company could also qualify for tax breaks and/or credits if they hire her.

And it worked. She sent the email on Friday, and on Monday she had a response and invitation to interview with the firm’s CEO/owner.

“He started off (the interview) by thanking me for my email and said that he was impressed by my tenacity. The fact that I wanted the job so much and was so determined was extremely impressive to him,” Trude-Rede said. “He also appreciated my honesty and candor. He said he wasn’t quite sure that everything went down exactly how I explained the story, but my frankness about everything was refreshing.”

The next day she received an offer letter and is now very happily employed. “I absolutely love the company. Not just because they took a chance on me, but I truly fit in there. I am not treated any differently by anyone who knows my story and was given a Christmas bonus after only being there three weeks,” she says.

The moral of this story

“Job seekers with a felony on their record should never give up on themselves or their dreams,” Trude-Rede says. “If they want to go back to school because they would like to do something they need a degree for and are worried about employment afterwards with the felony, I say go for it.”

“You define who you are, not what you did in the past. Be humble. Be brave. Know that it is going to be hard, but we all start somewhere. Take chances. A few minutes of courage could change your life. A five-minute email changed mine.”

From the editor: In preparation for interviewing, we suggest that you check out our interview tips, including how to create a turnaround talk and turnaround packet. Preparation and having a plan can make a big difference between getting a job offer or not. Good luck!

 

Getting Talent Back to Work initiative encourages companies to hire those with criminal records

Getting Talent Back to WorkIn a long-overdue effort, the Society for Human Research Management (SHRM) has launched Getting Talent Back to Work. This national initiative encourages companies to change their hiring practices to include recruiting those with criminal records.

Associations and companies that represent more than 60 percent of the U.S. workforce – the National Restaurant Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Staffing Association and the National Retail Association, among others – have committed to the effort.

And you can too by signing the Getting Back to Work pledge.

Getting Back to Work follows the First Step Act, bipartisan criminal justice reform, passed by the U.S. Congress late last year. And it joins other longer running campaigns like Ban the Box and President Obama’s “Take the Fair Chance Pledge” in bringing national attention to giving those with a criminal record a second chance.

It’s time to eliminate the stigma of incarceration

“This is a group we, as business leaders, cannot afford to overlook as one in three adults in the United States currently has a criminal background,” says Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM’s CEO. “Not only is it the right thing to do – to give a deserving person a second chance – but it is becoming imperative as businesses continue to experience recruiting difficulty at an alarming rate.”

Richard Wahlquist, president and CEO of the American Staffing Association agrees. “Now is the time to quash the stigma of incarceration,” he says. “Employers need to embrace greater inclusivity when recruiting and hiring, and give qualified individuals a second chance at success in life – particularly when the U.S. labor market is the tightest in history.”

Not only is the labor market tight, but many companies say that people from this population make good, dependable employees. In a study by Northwestern University researchers found that employees with records have a lower turnover rate than those without. An ACLU report, “Back to Business: How Hiring Formerly Incarcerated Job Seekers Benefits Your Company,” came to the same conclusion.

And most managers and employees alike are willing to hire and work with people who have criminal records. A recent study commissioned by the SHRM and the Charles Koch Institute found that only:

  • 26% of managers and 14% of human resource professionals are unwilling to hire individuals with criminal records. (An additional 2% of H.R. professionals refuse to hire them.)
  • 13% of non-managers, 15% of managers and 26% of human resource professionals are unwilling to work with them. (Another 2% of H.R. professionals refuse to work with them.)
Why consider those with criminal records

A brief YouTube video produced by SHRM outlines why human resource managers should consider applicants with criminal records. The reasons for considering them are:

  • To address labor shortages due to low unemployment rates, an aging population and unavailability of skilled workers.
  • To avoid discrimination claims under state and federal law.
  • To reinforce fairness in our culture.
  • To reduce the social costs of recidivism.
  • To improve the GDP, which is reduced by $78 to $87 billion annually as a result of excluding formerly incarcerated job seekers from the workplace. States that lower recidivism by just 10% could save an average of $635 million annually.
Toolkit guides companies that want to hire those with criminal records

And so, beyond signing the Getting Back to Pledge, what can companies do to increase their hiring of formerly incarcerated job seekers and those with criminal records?

Based upon an extensive body of research and evidence-based practices from thousands of enterprises, SHRM developed a resource toolkit designed to guide businesses as they commit to hiring more employees with criminal records.

The “Getting Talent Back to Work Toolkit: The Resources You Need to Advance the Hiring of Workers with a Criminal Background” takes people through the process and includes:

  • A quiz to determine how much one knows about background checks in hiring decisions.
  • Tips for using criminal records in hiring decisions.
  • Information on how to handle an applicant’s criminal record if it comes up in an interview.
  • Information on how to determine the nature and seriousness of an offense.
  • Tips for conducting a risk analysis of hiring someone with a record.

The toolkit also incorporates links to a wide variety of resources, including:

  • EEOC guidance and tips.
  • Ban the Box laws by state and municipality.
  • A Fair Credit Reporting Act Compliance Checklist.
  • A checklist for selecting a reliable Background Checking Company.
  • General resources on how to carry out an interview
  • Incentives and support, including the Work Opportunity Tax Credit and the Federal Bonding Program

Now you know that by hiring those with criminal records you can be part of a national effort to reinforce fair hiring practices, reduce the social costs of recidivism and improve the nation’s GDP. With that in mind, please help us spread the word among your colleagues and business partners, and encourage them to use the Society for Human Research Management ‘s Getting Talent Back to Work resources.

Northwestern University study finds ex-offender job retention rates longer than those without records

ex-offender job retentionA recent study by Northwestern University researchers should encourage employers who have considered hiring those with criminal records to do so.

A typical employee who has a criminal record is likely to have a psychological profile that is different from other employees, “with fewer characteristics associated with good job performance outcomes.”

Even so those employees are fired at about the same rate as other employees, and they tend to keep their jobs much longer.

The data covers the period from 2008 to 2014 and came from the client companies of a hiring consulting firm. These companies conducted pre-employment hiring exams that included psychological questions. The job seekers were applying to such entry-level white-collar positions as call center sales and customer service reps. About 27 percent of those with records had a higher than high school education.

The study stresses the fact that those with criminal records have such a difficult time finding employment is of serious policy concern. Some 650,000 people are released from prison every year (2013 statistics). And more than half of them are back in within three years. One of the primary reasons is that they can’t find legitimate jobs.

Initiatives such as Ban the Box legislation, EEOC regulations and Obama’s “Take the Fair Chance Pledge” have all helped provide a better chance for previously incarcerated job seekers, as have the Work Opportunity Tax Credit and Federal Bonding Program. Still many employers are reluctant to hire people from this population.

Employees with records have lower turnover rate

In the study, however, employees with records had a 13 percent lower turnover rate, saving the company $1,000 per year for each of them hired.

The researches concluded that “having a criminal background makes an employee less likely to leave voluntarily, likely to have a longer tenure and no more likely to be terminated. Since involuntary turnover is by definition associated with weaker performance ….. and turnover costly, this evidence taken together suggests that employees with a criminal background are, in fact, a better pool for employers.”

There was some increased incidents of employment related misconduct leading to termination, but these tended to be in sales positions. Whether the behavior is related to higher stress caused by the demands of sales positions or inherent personality traits among some of those with criminal records that might make them incompatible with this type of job is unknown.

In spite of some positive statistics that might encourage more employers to hire job seekers with criminal records, the researchers admit that more study needs to be done. The employers were aware, for example, that the people they hired had criminal records, which may have affected the way they chose them.

Also, a decrease in discrimination against those with criminal records might give a broader population of ex-offenders a chance, thus changing the applicant pool which could affect the length of tenure.

Although more needs to be learned, two things are for sure. The more formerly incarcerated people get steady jobs, the less likely they are to return to prison. And they can be a good bet and worth hiring.

 

Root & Rebound publishes toolkit to enlighten employers on the value of hiring ex-offenders

Root & ReboundOakland, Calif.-based nonprofit Root & Rebound has published the California Employers’ Fair Chance Hiring Toolkit. This 28-page toolkit is not just an exceptional resource for companies and organizations that are committed to – or considering – hiring those with criminal records. It can also be used by jobseekers from that population as a persuasive tool to enlighten potential employers on the considerations and benefits they would gain from hiring them.

Although it may be hard to believe, nearly one out of three Americans has a criminal record. As the economy continues to grow and demand for additional workers steadily rises, it will become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to ignore that segment of the population.

In fact, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in 2014 between 1.7 and 1.9 million U.S. workers weren’t hired because they had criminal records. This resulted in an estimated loss of $78 to $87 billion in annual gross domestic product.

Hiring fair chance employees makes economic sense

Hiring those with criminal records makes economic sense both in the big picture and for companies themselves, but most employers still need to be convinced.

More than 40 large corporations and nearly 250 small- and medium-sized businesses, however, have already taken the Fair Chance Business Pledge created by the Obama White House in late 2015. These businesses have promised to give people with criminal records, including those who have been incarcerated, a fair chance at employment. We suggest you review these businesses that have taken the pledge to see if there are any you might want to consider adding to your list of 100 employers to pursue.

While this is a beginning and brings attention to the issue, it’s crucial that more companies become committed to hiring second-chance employees. And that’s where Root & Rebound’s toolkit comes in.

Toolkit provides extensive info for all employers

Although it’s geared toward California employers, much of the advice and most of the action steps it recommends can be useful to employers no matter which state they operate within.

The California Employers’ Fair Chance Hiring Toolkit covers:

  • The rewards of hiring fair chance workers.
  • The best practices for onboarding and training fair chance workers.
  • How to choose a reliable background check company.
  • Legal compliance and minimizing risks involved.
Giving copy of Toolkit to the hiring manager shows initiative and having their best interests in mind.

As you interview for jobs, along with your turnaround packet you may want to print out and provide the hiring manager with a copy of the toolkit to offer them information on the additional benefits that they might receive by hiring you and what steps they need to take to do so. If you live in California, this toolkit covers all the basics that an employer needs to know. If you live in another state, check with your local American Job Center to ask for help in adding relevant state-related information.

Benefits of hiring fair chance workers

The toolkit includes evidence that fair chance employees can benefit a company or organization by highlighting:

  • Case studies of companies that have hired second-chance employees with great success. For example, Johns Hopkins Health System & Hospital, Dave’s Killer Bread and Butterball Farms all have hired a substantial number of employees with criminal records and found that their turnover rate is lower than that of those without records.
  • Testimonials from executives of companies that have been actively hiring fair chance employees for many years.

Root & Rebound’s California Employers’ Fair Chance Hiring Toolkit is very well put together and an excellent resource for both employers and job seekers alike.