Pardon: Good for the Soul—and Maybe a Company

Aug. 1, 2011
A blemished record doesn’t always indicate bad character; and it may be hiding a good worker.

A company’s greatest asset is its human capital—employees. Technology will never replace the fundamental roles played by thoughtful associates. In manufacturing and distribution, hiring and retaining top employees is central to a business’s efficiency.

It’s especially critical today, because all plant activities, including production, warehousing and shipping, are forecasted to increase steadily across North America in years to come—creating a rising demand for workers.

At the same time there’s also a rise in criminal record checks. While it’s standard business procedure, it can also pose a major barrier to hiring some well qualified and skilled workers. That can be a business detriment, considering the skills shortages in many fields.

When the market crashed in 2008, manufacturing employment fell precipitously, and mass layoffs amounted to approximately 2.1 million jobs lost, or 15.1 percent of the market sector alone. Though levels of employment have not yet regained pre-recession levels, business recovery and confidence is quickly gaining traction. Hiring is resuming, but criminal record checks should be done with care.

It goes without saying that as an employer, your main responsibility is to protect your business, your employees, as well as your assets—so conducting employee criminal record checks seems like the perfect way to prevent undesirable circumstances. But with uninformative records simply displaying a “yes” or “no” next to “criminal record,” the new screening process can leave much to the imagination, and keep a business owner from hiring a skilled, reliable worker.

While an impressive resume or interview can give an employer a positive first impression, someone’s criminal record can drastically reduce that person’s chances to be hired—whether or not the criminal record is severe or would affect the applicant’s ability to fit well into a company’s workforce.

But let’s put things in perspective. More than 10 percent of Canada’s population has a criminal record. That means unending limitations for more than four million Canadians.

So what should you do if an otherwise promising job candidate indicates he or she has a criminal record? Before taking a pass, at least try the following:

• Check the paper trail. Reference letters and length of employment at a company prove loyalty and employee trust.

• Get the particulars from the candidate. Often a crime involves a minor offense committed when the person was young and not clearly thinking about the consequences of their actions.

• Consider work experience. Many with a minor offense in their background also have years of experience in industry and require zero to little training. Such candidates could not only be less costly but could start making an immediate contribution to the company’s productivity upon hiring.

Many hard-working, skilled job seekers are unable to obtain employment because of stupid mistakes of youth. It’s important to recognize the barriers these people face in seeking employment. The seal of a pardon could give them an opportunity to re-integrate into society, continue their education or seek and find a job. Both employer and potential employees should seek opportunities with conviction—and despite one.

Ainsley Muller is an expert in criminal records and issues they create for employment in the manufacturing industry. He is business development director at Express Pardons, a Canada-based company that works with the National Parole Board on a client’s behalf to petition for a pardon.

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