Survey: Half of All Employers Have Hired Workers With a Record

A CareerBuilder survey released today says 51 percent of human resources managers report their company has hired workers with a criminal record.

It’s an almost impossible-to-believe finding, given the constant drumbeat by criminal rights organizations over the challenges those with records face in landing jobs. However, in light of the National Employment Law Project estimate that 65 million Americans have some kind of criminal record, it’s not so surprising that many are on payrolls across the country.

The online survey was conducted for CareerBuilder by Harris Interactive, which polled 2,298 U.S. hiring managers and human resource professionals about the issue. The records here are those that would typically show up on a background check: convictions for both misdemeanors and felonies, but probably not arrests.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission frowns on the use of arrest records, and many state laws outright prohibit employers from considering or asking about arrests. Even misdemeanor convictions are often specifically excluded from employment applications. Felony convictions can be an employment bar, but the EEOC “recommends that employers not ask about convictions on job applications and that, if and when they make such inquiries, the inquiries be limited to convictions for which exclusion would be job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity.”

Employers should analyze three factors, says the EEOC:

  • The nature and gravity of the offense or offenses;
  • The time that has passed since the conviction and/or completion of the sentence; and
  • The nature of the job held or sought.

This guidance is recent, issued just a few months ago though the Commission has been wrestling with the issue of arrest and conviction records for years. It has been issuing guidance and opinions on the matter dating back to the 1980s.

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Yet, in a 2001 study, 62 percent of surveyed employers in four major cities said they probably or definitely would not hire an applicant with a criminal record. More recently, the National Employment Law Project analyzed employment ads on Craigslist finding more than 300 of the ads posted in just five major cities — many from large national companies — included language barring candidates with criminal records from applying. In addition to direct employer ads, “The Craigslist survey uncovered a generous sampling of particularly egregious no-hire ads by staffing firms.”

Considering the state laws, the EEOC position on the use of criminal convictions, it may be that the biggest surprise in the CareerBuilder survey is that more companies haven’t hired workers with records.

To help ex-offenders in the job hunt, CareerBuilder asked the HR professionals to offer their best advice from a list of several suggestions. No. 1, selected by 68 percent of the respondents, was “Be up front and honest about the conviction and stress what you learned from it.”

John Zappe is the editor of and a contributing editor of John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.