Recent research suggests that employers are more frequently willing to overlook criminal records for the right employee. Currently, one in three adults has a criminal record in the United States, which is causing employers to consider prospective employees with criminal histories – If that applicant is well suited for the position.


The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conducted a study and uncovered that certain types of criminal histories are more commonly overlooked by employers, including DUIs, drug-related crimes, and misdemeanors. Human Resource professionals tend to be more forgiving than managers on these minor charges. The outlook of consideration for substance-related crimes is 78% by Human Resource professionals and 65% by managers. Very similarly, the overlook of misdemeanor charges is 70% by Human Resource professionals and 67% by managers.


Other crimes such as property-related felonies, violent felonies, financial crimes, and sexual felonies are less frequently overlooked due to their more serious nature. In these cases, background checks are crucial in bringing the criminal history of an individual to light. Given the severity of these crimes, this often indicates that an individual would not be a good fit for a particular position. For example, an applicant charged with a financial-related crime is not the best candidate for a position dealing with money, accounting, or expenses. Human Resource professionals and managers typically give about the same level of consideration to these employees. Property-related felonies are given a 34% overlook, violent felonies a 20-28% overlook, financial crimes a 16-19% overlook, and sexual felonies a 9-11% overlook.


This data tells us that a criminal record shouldn’t be viewed as an automatic disqualification for employment. This is largely because so many American adults have criminal records, and the talent pool would be so limited without consideration of those with criminal records. Many individuals with criminal records are both willing and able to work, and if they have the skill or talent the employer needs, it is often unreasonable to disqualify them.


SRHM also discovered that while employers are willing to hire individuals with criminal histories, only 5% of managers and 3% of Human Resource professionals said that their company actively recruits people with previous criminal records. This largely has to do with employer liability if an incident occurs, customer reactions to the discovery of a criminal background, and government regulations. However, those who do hire employees with criminal histories rate both their work and the value they add to the organization as an overall benefit to the organization. SRHM encourages Human Resource professionals to lead a conversation regarding the employment of those with criminal histories to determine the best stance for each individual organization to take.