Over and over again and again I hear many adults I work with complaining that their criminal past is preventing them from even getting considered for employment. Now to be fair, they aren’t always complaining that the employer is wrong for wanting to hire people who have a clean record, no they’re complaining more about how difficult it is to erase the record via a pardon when the crime was 2D – 25 years ago.
This message to stay clear however is likely to have minimal if any real impact on someone who is either bent on committing a crime, or who makes a spontaneous but poor decision to do so. Let’s face it, it’s highly unlikely at the precise moment someone is weighing the choice to do something illegal or not, that they will stop and ponder 20 years into the future and contemplate the lasting impact on their future earnings. That’s rare, but rarer still would someone be who would stop just because they read a blog on the consequence of committing a crime written by me; someone they don’t know whatsoever. Still, I’m going to try.
Now while I’ve never had a criminal record, those I work with often do, and they usually fall into one of two categories; those whose crime was years ago, and those who habitually re-offend. I’m going to focus on the person who has a single crime from years ago rather than the repeat offender.
Employers are demanding more and more from their applicants. They want higher education, experience and yes, clean criminal records. The clean criminal record translates into having to pay less insurance on you as an employee than you if you have a record. It also gives the employer less to worry about if you have a clean past, and they can put you in a place of trust more often and with increasing confidence. Many business owners also report that their customers feel better when they are dealing with someone who has a clean criminal history.
The importance of employing people with a clean criminal record is heightened if staff go into client’s homes such as movers or those repairing appliances. “Are your people all bondable?” is often asked. You can imagine that if someone had their home robbed and it turned out to be committed by the employee of a company who was contracted to perform some kind of in-home service, the company wouldn’t be too willing to publicly state they don’t check the criminal records of their employees. The victims would be on television talking to a reporter saying something like, “Had I known such-and-such company didn’t screen their employees, I’d never had given them my business.” And that publicity would kill the business.
This doesn’t mean those without criminal records will never commit a crime, but it does provide some measure of reassurance and increase the probability that new employee will continue to have a clean record.
Two comments I hear repeatedly are these: “I was totally qualified and had a great interview but my record kept from getting the job” and “I did something stupid years ago and have done nothing illegal since; all I need is some company to give me a break so I can prove I’d be a good employee.” And maybe these people are right, and they’ve never re-offended, or if you tend to be skeptical, maybe they have and they just haven’t been caught. But either way, they have no recent criminal history.
However, as long as the number of people looking for work remains high, and that in turn gives employers a large pool of people from which to select their next employee, it isn’t hard to see that employers will raise their standards in terms of who they would hire. This basic principle is something even children understand. Watch them pick teams for a game and here’s what often happens: two kids get elected to be captains and pick their teams. They always start with the most athletic or best suited for the game, then eventually work down to whose left. In the adult world that translates into whose the best qualified for the job, but unlike a kids game, they don’t have to find a spot on one of the teams for everyone. So those with a criminal past are often left out altogether even when they do have the skills and qualifications to be selected.
This article is not about applying for pardons and what to do if you have a record. No this is as the name suggests, encouraging people with clean records to keep them clean. The allure of something immediate, acquired through crime is perhaps exhilarating, but it’s short-lived and if caught, you’ll find the excitement quickly gets replaced by the consequences of doing the crime.
Some employers do give breaks to those with a record. While that’s good on them to do so, they are very rare. If you know someone who runs a business, ask them about this topic and get their take on it. I’d welcome as always readers to add their point of view, especially from those who most directly impacted either as employers or job seekers with criminal records. Your voices matter and carry more weight here than mine.