Recruiters’ decisions must not be governed by fear

The subject of employing so-called ‘core jobless’ people is always an emotive one. There is still extreme reluctance among organisations to recruit people who have done something bad in the past, and it is becoming far harder for people to shake off their ‘homeless’, ‘criminal’ or ‘alcoholic/drug abuser’ tags.

The latest Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development report says that more than 60% of employers will not consider recruiting anyone from the core jobless groups (page 1) and, with a predicted slowdown in hiring trends, it looks like it will be tougher than ever for the government to reach its targets for getting people off benefits and back into the workforce.

Unable to see beyond the ex-con stereotypes, employers assume that criminals will re-offend, so they avoid hiring them in case their business gets damaged when things go wrong. They fear the risks far outweigh the benefits, and this stops organisations taking what they consider to be a major leap of faith.

The government needs to think more creatively about how it addresses these issues. As the UK’s largest employer, perhaps it could practise what it preaches and start publicising some case studies of how former offenders have made positive contributions to public sector organisations. This might convince more employers to make that leap.

Admittedly, it takes a progressive HR professional to look beyond the past and focus instead on the talent and ability that an individual might bring to an organisation. But with the right training and support, the core jobless may be able to fill the considerable skills gaps in some industry sectors.

We are not suggesting that HR departments should suddenly start embracing every applicant with a criminal record who knocks on their door, as in some contexts this just may not be appropriate. But neither should they let fear and prejudice govern their recruitment decisions.

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