Nearly one-third of the adult working age population has a criminal record, according to a survey report just issued by SHRM and the Charles Koch Institute. With unemployment across the U.S. at record lows, employers are looking for new sources of workers. The study polled business leaders, employees, and 1,228 SHRM members to obtain insights into experience with and attitudes towards hiring individuals with criminal records.

Responses from HR professionals indicate that a significant majority of the businesses surveyed are already hiring individuals with criminal records. 77 percent  of the HR segment of those surveyed indicated that their organizations have hired workers with a criminal history. Substance-related felonies and misdemeanors represented over 70 percent of the criminal histories reported by the HR professionals, with only 20 percent reporting that their companies had hired individuals convicted of violent crimes. 67 percent of HR professionals and 74 percent of managers rate the “quality of hire” as about the same as that of workers without records.


Attitude toward criminal background graph

Attitudes are Mostly Positive?

dillinger hired posterThere’s a general willingness to hire or work with individuals with criminal records among the respondents. 55 percent of managers and 51 percent of non-managers reported positively, with 29 percent and 36 percent (respectively) expressing a neutral opinion. Among HR professionals, 37 percent reported a willingness to hire candidates with a previous record. 47 percent were neither willing nor unwilling. 55% of the HR segment reported that they want to hire the best candidate, regardless of criminal history.

Among the concerns expressed, customer reactions and potential legal liability were indicated as potentially problematic with less concern about behavior, effectiveness, or the impact on other employees.

With many employers seeking new workforce sources as the U.S. reaches full employment, the SHRM/Koch Institute report concludes that “workers with criminal records may be a viable source of employees for many organizations.” Only a third of the HR professionals reported that their companies have a formal policy in place for hiring workers with previous convictions. The report encourages employers to plan and develop fair and consistent policies for hiring workers with criminal records and to communicate policies and practices clearly to employees.

The full report is available for download on the Charles Koch Institute website.


Survey: Workers With Criminal Records, SHRM and Charles Koch Institute, May 2018.