22 Jan What is ‘Ban the Box’?
The box is as much mental as legal.
Background checks are increasingly central to the hiring process, but not everyone is happy about that. Among them are protesters rallying around a specific cry: “Ban the box.” What does this mean, for employers and for applicants?
What Is “The Box?”
The box in question is a simple checkbox on many job application forms that asks the applicant if they have ever been convicted of a crime. It’s a common entry on all sorts of job applications, and you’ve likely seen it a few times and glossed over it completely.
But some argue that for ex-convicts who are seeking employment and to reform their lives that this checkbox is an enormous problem. Some believe that checking it off disqualifies them from employment immediately, while others argue that even fair-handed employers will be biased just by seeing this one check mark. One study claims that 50% of employers simply discard any application that it’s been checked off.
It’s true that ex-convicts struggle in America. Beyond the stigma of a criminal conviction, convicts have less time in the workforce, fewer employer references, and in some cases fewer skills, depending on the rehabilitation programs available in the state prison system. It’s estimated that two-thirds of prisoners will return to the system at some point in their lives as a result.
Employers also have liability issues to struggle with. Negligent hiring cases are a very real problem that’s only increasing. One bad moment in the workplace or with a customer might cost a company millions in liability. So what should employers, between a box and a hard place, do?
Thinking Inside The Box
Don’t let the box define your applicants.
Fundamentally, any business needs to know the character of who they’re hiring. Beyond safety and liability issues, it’s just common-sense hiring policy. So, if you see a check in the box, ask yourself a few questions.
Was the applicant up front about the issue? If they’re demonstrating honesty even at relative trouble to themselves, that’s a good mark of character.
What was the nature of their offense? It’s estimated that half of prison inmates are in jail on non-violent offenses, with drug and immigration charges being the most common offenses. Similarly, if they served a short term for a non-violent offense, it’s reasonable to ask whether this is relevant to their ability to do the job.
How long ago was the offense? If an applicant made a mistake decades ago, is it really a factor in your hiring decisions?
What are their connections to the community? Ex-convicts who have a strong support network, such as family, church, and support groups are less likely to reoffend.
How did the rest of the process go? If you have an applicant who has a drugs offense on their record, but passes a drug screen with no issue, and did well on the interview, then you may want to set this information aside.
The best way to approach the box is not to think inside of it. You should know an applicant’s history and character, and a background check is crucial to a good hire, but it’s also just a starting point. Request a free background check trial and we’ll show you how the box can be an effective tool, not a drawback.