“Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”

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“Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” That’s the big question many American employers are now banned from asking – on initial job applications, at least – but should HR have all the information from the outset? HRM investigates.

Employers who opt to “ban the box” remove the closed question from all initial job applications – but that doesn’t mean they’re powerless to perform checks. At any point, an employer can still request the information – the movement simply aims to stop immediate, often inadvertent, discrimination based on criminal history.

The “Ban the Box” movement has already convinced legislators from over 45 cities and counties to ditch the question on initial applications. Participating regions include New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Seattle and San Francisco – to name but a few.

More than 3 million Canadians currently carry a criminal record and a ban like the one sweeping America could see unemployment rates among ex-offenders fall dramatically.

Bob Lane heads up the HR department at Saskatchewan based consulting firm Solvera – he says a record of criminal activity doesn’t necessarily impact his hiring decision.

“All of our employees have to go through a criminal check procedure but the results don’t necessarily drive the employment decision,” he said. “It depends what it was.”

“If employers are looking for financial acumen and ethical behaviour, I’m not sure a driving while intoxicated charge from years ago is relevant to that,” he said.
While Lane says criminal past doesn’t automatically rule an applicant out, he did say the box played an important part; “It’s there for us to probe and find out and what the crime was,” he said. “Just the yes no isn’t enough information for us.”

HR manager Ilka Bene agrees – “Frankly, how a candidate responds to questions about their past – about their past employment or about their past criminal record – it’s almost more important how they deal with that question than the answer itself.”

Would you be happy to “ban the box” from initial job applications? Share your thoughts below.

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