Why fair chance hiring should be part of your DE&I strategy

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What role does fairness play in your DE&I strategy? Talent and business leaders are increasingly using the phrase “fair chance” to describe the process of hiring individuals who were formerly in the criminal justice system. This is not a small number of people, by the way. One in three – 77 million working age Americans – face the stigma of having a record and experience restrictions in employment as a result.

Kristina Nieves, VP of Professional Services at Greenhouse recently sat down with Aaron Clark, CEO and Founder of Justice Reskill and Kristen Faris, Senior Vice President of Solution Engineering and GTM Strategy at Checkr to discuss how to prioritize fairness and DE&I in your hiring strategy. Find the highlights from their conversation below, or watch the on-demand recording to catch their full conversation.


Why prioritizing fairness matters

When looking at the criminal justice system in particular, it helps to understand its history. Because it started with a foundation of racism, it disproportionately affects the Black community. Aaron says, “You’ve got to slow down first and spend some time actually listening to what the pain point is, especially when it’s a demographic where you don’t know what it’s like to be impacted by the system or an underrepresented person.”

Kristen echoes this sentiment, saying, “For us the challenge is getting employers comfortable with that. It requires a lot of education that starts with helping people to understand that the criminal justice system is just broken.”

Aaron also highlights the importance of the language you use. Rather than calling it a “second chance” program, Aaron and others in this space prefer the term “fair chance.” Aaron explains, “People coming out of the criminal justice system may not have received a first chance, or they might be on their tenth or fifteenth chance due to their life circumstances or poor choices. Fair chance is about giving people the chance to move beyond the limitations of their experiences and the barriers they might face toward employment.”


The role of data in your DE&I strategy

Aaron and Kristen both agree that data needs to be a part of your DE&I strategy. If you don’t know what the composition of your company is today, how will you know if you’re changing for the better? These conversations can be difficult, but they have to happen. “If you don’t take the numbers down, if you don’t track it, you can’t improve,” says Aaron. He does recommend talking to your lawyers and HR folks to confirm you’re asking these questions in the correct way. But make sure you ask – this is the first step to understanding what you need to create a well-rounded perspective in your organization.

Kristen believes setting goals around hiring is key. Checkr uses the Rooney Rule, which means that they interview at least two candidates from underrepresented populations before making any hire. But it doesn’t end there.

We’re very focused on not just getting talent in the door, but supporting them once they get in.
–Kristen Faris, Senior Vice President of Solution Engineering and GTM Strategy at Checkr

Around 5% of Checkr’s employee population is re-entry/fair chance, and they’ve seen a 74% retention rate over the past two years for this segment of hires. Plus, 54% of these hires have either been promoted or transitioned to other departments. Kristen adds, “We’re creating a culture where everybody can be successful.”

If you’re not sure what to aim for, Aaron suggests starting with the community around you. For example, Justice Reskill is based in Colorado, where around 5% of the population is Black and 30% of people have a criminal record of some kind. “We make sure that our staff represents that particular demographic. And we try to help other companies do the same thing,” says Aaron.


A few tactics to strengthen your commitment to fairness

If you’re committing to fairness and DE&I, how can you connect with talent from these communities? Aaron and Kristen shared the following tips.


Invest in your talent pipeline

“Think of your talent like a long-term investment, not short-term quarter by quarter,” says Aaron. He recommends partnering with nonprofits and groups like Justice Reskill, Girls Who Code and The Hidden Genius Project that are helping diverse talent get into tech. “We always need support from corporate partners, so find these folks and make sure you’re supporting them with funding and subject matter expertise.”


Create the infrastructure to support these initiatives

Checkr has full-time fair chance hiring managers who check in with hires to make sure they have the necessary support throughout their career at Checkr. “It’s not just enough to bring diverse talent in, you really need to set the infrastructure to ensure that everybody is successful within your organization, regardless of their background,” says Kristen.


Focus on skills in lieu of formal education

“I don’t care if you went to Stanford, the local community college or no college at all,” says Kristen. She recommends removing non-essential requirements from your job descriptions and focusing on relevant skills instead.

Aaron and Kristen agree that prioritizing fairness and DE&I is an ongoing process. You need to be prepared to make a long-term commitment, to face challenges and setbacks and to succeed in fits and starts. But the most important thing is to just get started.


Hear more from Aaron and Kristen about how to get started with DE&I, getting hiring managers involved with inclusive hiring practices and other actionable advice when you watch the on-demand webinar.

Watch the webinar
Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno

is a freelance writer and former Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse. Melissa previously built out the content marketing programs at Parklet (an onboarding and employee experience solution) and AfterCollege (a job search resource for recent grads), so she's made it a bit of a habit to help people get excited about and invested in their work. Find Melissa on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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