Answered by Dana, Hiring Expert at ManpowerGroup, on Thursday, October 30, 2014
I can’t speak for all employers, so this is a very difficult question to address. It’s been my experience that some employers will not hire someone with a conviction related to an intended profession, e.g. a candidate who was convicted of embezzling, and is now pursuing a high-level finance role. Another example might be someone with a recent drug conviction, who is now pursuing a pharmacy-tech position (where they will handle prescriptions and other controlled substances). A third example might be someone who has a violent conviction, and they are now pursuing a role in which they would interact closely with a vulnerable population (i.e. young children, or perhaps the elderly). These are all cases in which an employer may elect to avoid hiring individuals with those types of past experiences.
I think HR departments evaluate the level of risk carefully for various roles, and for their organization as a whole, and determine what their company will and will not permit in terms of past convictions in accordance with the law. But not all companies are the same, or draw the same conclusions about what constitutes a risky hire. And not all state laws are the same, either. Individuals with convictions may have better luck finding employment in some areas of the U.S., versus others.
My thought is that either you, or someone you know, is having some difficulty finding a job due to a past felony conviction, and I am sure this situation is tremendously frustrating.
I have certainly seen my share of candidates with convictions, and sometimes they can be hired successfully, and sometimes they can’t. My advice would be to determine where this candidate will have the best chances of employment (geographically), and also connect to organizations that help individuals with convictions find employment opportunities. I would also encourage this candidate to explore opportunities with non-profits, and related organizations, who may be more open to hiring candidates with these sort of experiences.
Sometimes getting in the door with someone, even if it’s not your ideal role, and proving how hard you can work and what a phenomenal employee you can be, makes all the difference. If this employer can be an excellent reference when you apply for future roles, and an advocate for your skills, it may convince hiring teams to take a closer and more serious look at your candidacy. You want to build up a pool of professionals who will support you, and endorse your abilities, so that you can clearly show how much potential you have for greatness, no matter what’s occurred in the past.