Why you should hire someone who's spent time in prison.

70 million Americans have been convicted of a crime and spent time in jail. Of those 70 million, 50% of them are unemployed for the first few years after they are released. And, when a company does hire them, they typically earn far less than their peers.

On Monday, SmartRecruiters hosted an event called “Bridging Worlds: From Prison to Position” to address exactly this and connect these individuals with recruiters to get the skills and knowledge needed.

Here’s how you can help:

1) Translate experience to resumes

Unless you have spent time in prison or know someone that did, it can be difficult to fully understand the experience that individuals are trying to speak to. It’s not just speaking “eloquently,” it’s also the body language and the connotation of the words that are used.

And, unfortunately, the majority of words used by those who’ve spent time in prison can leave a negative connotation with recruiters and interviewers.

As a recruiter, it’s important to work against bias, whether conscious or unconscious, and focus on the meaning behind the words rather than the words used themselves.

2) Understanding experience

One individual at the event spoke to his experience repairing wheelchairs, and how he knew he was instrumental in providing mobility to mobility-impaired individuals through his work.

The majority of experience that individuals gain while in prison can be different from the “typical” experience you see on resumes, so it’s important to understand how different experiences can still create well-rounded and competent employees.

Companies like Google, EY, Apple, and more no longer require a college degree in order to get hired. Instead, they focus on experience gained and the knowledge applicants have. This levels the playing field for individuals who might not otherwise be able to apply, though they have the necessary experience.

3) Interviewing experience

In that same vein, most individuals who have been incarcerated might not have the level of interview experience typically seen by recruiters. Typically, those in prison are focused on bettering themselves, working, and waiting for their release date.

While an interview certainly does impact whether or not someone will receive an offer, there are many examples of interviews going badly where someone ended up excelling at the job!

While I’m not suggesting to hire everyone who did poorly just because, weighing an individual’s experience and drive to work at the company is oftentimes a better determinant of how they’ll perform than how they were in their interview.

4) Encourage face-to-face conversations

In today’s day and age where it seems like we’re actively avoiding human contact, a face-to-face conversation before reading someone’s resume can seem absurd. However, for individuals who’ve spent time in prison, that face-to-face conversation is an absolute necessity.

On average, most Americans have to apply to at least 2-3 jobs a day in order to land an offer. For those with a record, this number not only multiplies, the job pool is also much smaller.

While there are cities covered by the Fair Chance Ordinance— San Francisco is one of them– not all of them are. For many recruiters, it can be all too easy to toss aside a resume on the basis of a checked box and hire a different candidate.

This makes those relationships built from face-to-face conversations that much more important.

As recruiters and members of the talent leader community, it’s up to us to end stigma and help these talented individuals find fulfilling careers.

If you’re looking to hire talented individuals from this underrepresented group, visit one of the many organizations in San Francisco, such as 70 Million Jobs and Defy Ventures.

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