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Candidate Stories Guide: Enabling Fair Chance Hiring Through Meaningful Engagement

November 11, 2020
Checkr Editor

At Checkr, we speak with your candidates every day. One of the top reasons candidates reach out is to share context around their records and the efforts they’ve made to better themselves. We believe this information tells a more complete story, helping our customers make more informed decisions while empowering candidates with a voice in the hiring process. That’s why we developed Candidate Stories -- to make fair chance hiring easier through more meaningful engagement.

Candidate Stories provides individuals with records the opportunity to share additional context about themselves and the circumstances surrounding their past directly with customers through Checkr’s Candidate Portal.

*IMPORTANT* Candidate Stories is just one tool to help in your hiring process. It is not designed or intended to be used to satisfy or comply with your legal obligations or requirements relating to background checks under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Why use Candidate Stories?

Protect your business with compliant practices

If you’re in one of the 35 states or 150 counties%2C%20Kentucky%20(2017)%2C) that have adopted ban-the-box laws, you face specific requirements and restrictions on how you incorporate criminal records into your application process. Depending on location, these requirements often incorporate a mandated individualized assessment process. For instance, the ban-the-box policy of Los Angeles incorporates a “Fair Chance Process” prior to taking adverse action on a candidate, which generally involves three parts:

  1. Job Related Analysis: Limiting consideration of records to only those that have a direct relationship with the job.
  2. Opportunity to Explain: Providing candidates the opportunity to share evidence of rehabilitation or mitigating circumstances that demonstrate how the supposed risks are unfounded.
  3. Transparency: If information or documentation is provided, conducting a written reassessment that explains the employer’s analysis.

In addition to ban-the-box laws, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also provides guidance for employers evaluating criminal records. The guidance claims that blanket bans on hiring people with criminal charges disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minorities. These blanket policies likely don’t align with your company values and could lead in Title VII disparate impact liability.

We know that compliance with individualized assessment policies can be a laborious process, particularly when information from candidates comes through many different channels—email, phone, etc.— and isn’t attached to the background check. Candidate Stories makes this process easier by proactively giving candidates a way to share more context alongside their report, without any manual outreach. Now, adjudicators can focus their efforts on reviewing the background check results with the additional information to conduct a fair and compliant assessment of the candidate.

Support the fair chance movement

The ban-the-box and fair chance policies sweeping across the country are manifestations of a growing understanding that having a record should not be a life sentence of unemployment. Excluding people with records from jobs not only hurts the safety and wellbeing of the individual but also their families, communities, and society at large. A 2011 study found that employment was the single most important influence on decreasing recidivism — someone’s likelihood to reoffend. Even just 30 days of employment lowered the three-year recidivism rate by over 50%.

At Checkr, we believe in a fairer future where people are holistically viewed for their present qualifications and potential, and not for their past mistakes. Allowing candidates to tell their own story is a huge step towards this fairer future.

In just one week of launching Candidate Stories, thousands of stories were submitted, demonstrating a clear desire among candidates to share context about themselves and their circumstances. Here is an example of one story submitted by a candidate to demonstrate the rehabilitative efforts made since their case:

Increase your pool of qualified candidates

Roughly one-third of Americans, or 77 million people, have a criminal record. Stringent hiring policies that exclude people with records from employment often lead employers to overlook massive pools of qualified talent. These stringent policies may derive from stereotypes about people with conviction histories that are based on outliers and worst case scenarios. Depending on the industry and role, 50-90% of criminal records are not prohibitive to employment.

While filtering out these records from the background check report is the most effective solution, we recognize that you need a better way to evaluate candidates whose records are not filtered out. Hearing a candidate’s story can help alleviate perceptions of risk by demonstrating who the person is behind the record.

Many employers have enthusiastically shared the benefits of hiring people with records, describing these employees as valuable assets to their companies. According to Evolv, an organization that evaluates human resource data to help companies make strategic workforce decisions, employees with criminal backgrounds are 1 to 1.5 percent more productive on the job than people without criminal records. Additionally, the CEO of Red Restaurant Group, Brad Friedlander, stated, “In my experience, people with criminal records are often model employees. They are frequently the most dedicated and conscientious. A lot of doors are shut to them, so when someone gives them an opportunity, they make the most of it.”

How to improve your hiring processes with Candidate Stories

In order for Candidate Stories to effectively help you maintain compliance, develop fair hiring practices, and increase your candidate funnel, we recommend including the following steps in  your current hiring process:

Set up a position-specific matrix

Most records are irrelevant to the position and should not be taken into consideration during the hiring process. Having a position-specific matrix helps adjudicators review charges consistently, without bias, and focus only on records that are related to the job.

Checkr’s Assess product allows you to filter out irrelevant records and automatically apply your position-specific matrix to a candidates’ background check results to increase efficiency and reduce the chances of human error. Assess also enables you to set up your matrix in accordance with the EEOC’s nature-time-nature test:

  1. The nature and gravity of the offense
  2. The time that has passed since the offense
  3. The nature of the job sought and the offense’s relevance to the position

After doing the initial nature-time-nature test to filter out irrelevant charges, some records will need a closer evaluation. When this happens, we recommend requesting a Candidate to guide the individualized assessment process.

With the Assess integration, you can send an automatic request for candidates with a “Review” and / or an “Escalated” assessment value to submit their Candidate Story.

Equip your adjudication team with training and a documented process

The Society for Human Resources (SHRM) strongly encourages employers to create a written policy that sets the baseline for how individualized assessment should take place. This documented process helps train your adjudication team to conduct consistent reviews of records and any submitted information by the candidate.

Here is an easy-to-use individualized assessment template that could be modified to fit the goals and specifics of your company:

Consistently reevaluate and improve your matrix and processes

Hiring criteria and policies should be regularly reviewed to determine improvements that will increase your candidate funnel and make your practices more fair and inclusive. Revisiting your position matrix will help you avoid missing opportunities to engage qualified candidates. Your past adjudication decisions using Candidate Stories can help you identify opportunity areas for broader policy changes.

When seeking opportunities for improvements, it may be helpful to look at charges that were consistently deemed as low-risk following the individualized assessment and context submitted through Candidate Stories. For instance, if your matrix included the charge of “Possession of drug-paraphernalia” as not meeting your criteria, but was determined to be low-risk upon multiple individualized assessments, you may want to change your rule for that record to now meet your criteria.

When considering policy changes, you can use Assess to easily implement optional “fairness settings,” which are rule recommendations that align your criteria with common compliance practices, such as “Mark all dismissed records as eligible.” It will soon offer in-product insights that allow you to view the impact of a potential rule change on your overall available candidates.

Through Candidate Stories and Assess, we hope to improve your vetting process and help you stay compliant, while giving everyone a fair chance at employment.

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